Hey everyone! Here’s a little scenelette I wrote as I was investigating Chief Snowiks (from A Book Without Dragons) and how he feels about his job. I felt like there was a lot there, and I wanted his struggle to be more than a one-dimensional “I’m burned out” kind of thing. I also decided to write it in first person, since that’s his POV style in the book.
I glanced in the mirror and straightened his already perfect uniform. These used to be my favorite days, and they still were, but now they were simultaneously my least favorite as well. I was glad that I don’t need to justify this dichotomy to a therapist.
There were three new recruits this time, all eager and ready to begin their careers. Every time I see recruits they seem younger, but I know this is just because I’m getting older; older and delivering the same speech over and over again.
As much as I hate this landmark of another year having passed, I don’t know how I could continue without his periodic reminder of what genuine excitement looked liked.
He saw it in each of the young men and woman as they joined the force; that true and unhindered belief that they were about to perform a desperately needed service to the world. And maybe they would, how should I know?
When I entered the room, the three recruits were sitting at the table with blank notebooks and fresh pens and uniforms so new I could smell the plastic that had previously hugged them. They weren’t talking when I entered, but that didn’t stop them from being quieter when they saw me.
Their mouths twitched like they wanted to smile, but not nearly as much as they wanted me think of them as serious and worthy. Silly children; I already thought that without them trying.
They tripped over each other in voices that would have sounded magnificent if they had been speaking the same thing. I think one of them said, “Yes, sir.” And other said, “Good morning, Chief.” The third also started to say good morning, but stalled because he didn’t seem sure what to call me.
“I’d like to start off by congratulating you on graduating at the top of your class,” I began. I tried some years to move the wording of the speech around, but ended slipping back into this one anyway, every time. “I cannot emphasize enough what a great service you are doing by pursuing a career in upholding the law.
“This role in society is not always an easy one, or a safe one, and you will not always be well loved. But whether they appreciate it or not, these people will come to owe their way of life to men and women like you. You will be challenged daily with making decisions that effect lives – sometimes hundreds of lives, and sometimes only one.”
They watched me, drinking in my words and storing them as camels might. I knew the speech so well that I hardly heard myself giving it anymore. I didn’t notice until their faces turned from attentive to concerned that I had stopped speaking.
“Chief Snowiks?” The boldest one asked. “Is something wrong, sir?”
I smiled for him, and sat down at the table instead of standing at the head. After all, who was I kidding, really? “No. Nothing’s wrong. But I don’t want to start off your career by building it up to be something it’s not.”
They glanced at each other, only the barest flicker of the eyes beneath eyelashes, and then they were watching me again.
“Here’s what being a cop is really like,” I told them. “It’s filling out parking tickets, and writing fines when you catch someone urinating on a public building. It’s paperwork, and reports, and patrolling. It’s not glamorous and it’s very seldom heroic.” I shrugged. “Honestly? Being a cop is a job. And there are going to be things you like about it, and things you don’t.
“There will be times when you are bored out of your wits. You’re going to wake up some mornings wishing you could just stay in bed, and afternoons where you can’t stop counting the minutes until quitting time. Yes: it’ll happen. And it’s okay.
“You probably won’t feel like you saved the world. But it’s a job, and it’s as useful and necessary as any other. No more, and no less. As long as you keep that in mind, you’re going to be fine.”
But, of course, that isn’t want I said to them. That’s only what I wanted to say; what I wished someone had said to me so very long ago. No, these three were too happy, and I wasn’t going to be the one to take that moment from that. Let them at least have this, and maybe they’ll have something more than I did. I wanted that for them.
“Chief Snowiks? Is something wrong?”
I cleared my throat and smiled. “Not at all. As I was saying…”
Thanks for reading! I really enjoyed this piece because it let me see a softer side of him, and a glimpse of his well-buried optimism.
As a side note – I just wanted to say that I don’t mean this in any way to be a commentary on police officers in general. This is just one specific character and his personal journey as it relates to the job.
Happy new year to all!