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Prison Narratives: ‘The Cop in the Car and the Ride in the Rain’ by S.K. Shaddix

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VOX Press‘ book, Prison Narratives, features personal stories written by prisoners at Parchman Farm. This story is from S.K. Shaddix who remembers the first time he rode in a police car. The book can be bought here.

S.K. Shaddix (#179638) is a screenwriter from California. He is currently serving a two year sentence for a concealed weapon charge.

The Cop in the Car and the Ride in the Rain

The first time I got in the back of a police car I was only nine years old. It would become a familiar experience as I grew older, but I didn’t know it then.

I had just left the Long Beach, MS Public Library, and my arms were filled with a heavy load of books. The library was my favorite place and my first place to go to after school, which was right across the street.

When the librarian noticed that I’d become bored with the children’s section she took my hand and led me to the aisles of the adult books. “Let me know if you find anything you like,” she told me. I like the first book I saw, “The Warren Commission Report,” and with it I walked to a table. The book was bigger and so were the chairs, and sitting there I felt bigger too. (I didn’t understand very much about that book, but one thing was crystal clear. There’s no such thing as a ‘Magic Bullet.’ I knew this first hand from digging them up in Virginia. Bullets went into a gun in a pristine condition, and when they came out they were marked and disfigured. I’d seen it countless times, and my collection of them was prized and special to me.)

My arms are loaded with books and I’m on my way back home. A bit late, but my mom was used to it. “Wait a minute, Mom,” I often told her.

The morning had begun warm and sunny, so I’d boarded the school bus that morning without a jacket or umbrella. The sun was still out when I went into the library, but when I came out it had grown dark and cloudy. That didn’t concern me because I had only a few blocks to go until I made it home. I almost made it.

I was coming up to the railroad tracks that ran parallel to the Gulf of Mexico, when the sky suddenly erupted with a downpour of rain, thunder and lightning. That didn’t bother me. I liked it. It was my books that I was concerned about. I’m a bookworm. I love books. Books fare poorly in the rain. I hunched over them as a parent would a child, and I quickened my pace. I’d reached the tracks when I heard a voice call out beside me, “Son! Hey there! Come over here!” It was a police man. “Yes, sir!” I said. “Where are you going, son?!” he said through the open passenger window of his patrol car. “Going home, sir. I live four blocks over on Nicholson.” The rain fell even heavier now, and I wanted to be on my way. However, my father was a Navy Chief, Construction Battalion, and I was raised to respect my elders, which at my age was most everyone.

“Nicholson, huh? That’s not far. You want a ride? Hop in. I’ll give you a ride.”

Immediately my desire to move on dissipated. A ride in a police car was irresistible, and impossible to refuse. I wouldn’t do so even if the day were sunny and bright. I could tell all my friends about this one.

“Yes, sir!! I exclaimed. “Uh, um, um…” He opened the front door for me and said, “Get in!” “Uh… can I ride in the back?” I asked quietly. He gave me a gentle smile. “Sure. Hop in the back. Just hurry up!” I jumped in the back before he could change his mind, congratulating myself for even asking. I almost didn’t. I looked around me. The only difference I could see was the metal screen that divided the car’s interior between the front seats and the back. He looked at me through the screen. “Be there in a minute.” We stopped at the red light, the only one in Long Beach, and another daring request came to mind. Emboldened by my previous success, I blurted out, “Can you turn on the siren?” He barked out a loud laugh and with a big smile said, “We can do that.” We, he said. We. That makes us a team! When the light turned green, he flipped a switch and I heard it scream. Cool, so cool, so very, very cool. The siren was loud, but not so loud as it sounded on the street. It stayed with us, though, and didn’t rise and fall away in sound. “This is way better than the roller-coaster!” I cried out, and he answered with that barking laugh again.

We turned on my street and I knew it was over. The ride of my life. “Wait till I tell Mom!” I thought, “I can’t wait!”

I didn’t have to wait long. I saw her getting into her car as we pulled up, and the siren startled her into dropping her keys. She rushed to the police car with a terrified look on her face. “Is he ok?! Oh, my God please tell me he’s…” “Yes ma’am,” the officer told her. “I gave him a ride because of the rain.” She looked in the front seat. “Where is he? You said you…” “Ma’am. He’s ok. He’s in the back.” “Whaa.. Why?! What’s he done?” My mother was not a calm woman, by nature. I reached out to the door for the handle, spilling books onto the floorboard. I couldn’t find the handle. Maybe it was broken. “Hey, mister. I can’t open the door. How do…” Once again, that bark, and this one louder and longer than before. “Hold on, son.” I heard a loud click. He got out of the car and came around the back to my door and opened it, smiling all the while.

“Thank you, mister!” I got out with my armful of books, and ran into my house. My first ride in a police car was over.

There would be many more rides to come in my life. None of them would have so happy an ending.

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