This Great Society - Writing


Illustration: Joel Bentley

Vic Cavalli: Vic Cop's Wife
Illustration: Joel Bentley


             We were parked by Spanish Banks as the sun was slowly sinking behind the black-edged Rockies, tapering off into the darkness like the flat-black chrome air mouths on the sides of a Lamborghini that can’t legally be taken out of second gear on any road in Canada. The beach concession stand to our right was pulled into the darkness too except for a cheap 100-watt bulb that pushed back the night around the plywood sign tacked to its locked counter shields. The sign read: “Help wanted. Must be flexible for hours.” What was left of the sun looked like an extremely thin slice of Mortadella held up to a 5-watt indicator bulb. Behind us at a slant was Hope Way, a well-maintained two-lane road cutting along the edge of the ocean up to the boundary of the University of British Columbia. It was one of the quietest and wealthiest areas we patrolled. Vic Cop had never had to give out a ticket in the area, let alone shoot anyone. Every ten minutes or so, we could hear the gentle mechanical hum of a local upper-class resident returning from an evening at the symphony or dining at Luigi’s or something.

             Vic was watching what was left of the sun as he turned to me and pitched me a slider down and in by saying: “You know, Fort, this may sound weird but I sometimes long for tenderness. Like those cards. You know what I mean?” Vic passed me the Tim Horton’s dozen pack, and I nodded as I removed a maple glaze. He took a fierce mouthful of apple fritter, chewed, swallowed, and started to speak: “The rustic house on 2.5 acres in the country; birds salted throughout the trees, singing in the morning (robins, sparrows, tits, stellar jays), and the occasional peregrine falcon cutting in out of nowhere and creating silence; cool wind swaying the maples, hemlocks, cedars, firs and alders.”

             A stray chocolate lab cross ambled past our truck and into the darkness. Vic watched it disappear. “A small lawn around the house, but the rest of the land left wild for plants and creatures—land thick with radiant ferns, trilliums, wild strawberries, blackberries, salmonberries, huckleberries, foxglove and elderberries; and small piles of slash, each about the size of a Honda Civic, sheltering salamanders and snakes; and tiny birds’ nests peppered throughout the trees and berry thickets; frogs croaking in the fresh rainwater-fed ditch; raccoon tracks in the wet mud; deer tracks and rubs in the thick alder patch near the skunk cabbage in the low pockets of blacker earth; and in the clearing, healthy bear scat dense with wild berry seeds, not garbage.”

             Vic forced the final third of his fritter into his mouth, gnawed and washed it down with what was left of his medium double-double. The sun was gone now and the moon’s anemic rays lighted Vic’s keg of a belly wedged under our white Ram’s steering wheel. We both twitched our ears at the faint well-maintained sound of a sports car driving under the speed limit behind us, but neither of us moved our faces to look.

             “Yeah, and a simple country house set in the middle of it all. Not like some fake gemstone in a barely gold ring, but natural. You know what I mean?”

             I nodded as I took another bang of my brew and wiped the maple fill off my chin with my uniform’s blue sleeve. It still felt sticky around my Spartacus dimple, but what are you going to do without wet wipes, eh? I said to Vic: “Is there anyone else there with you? Who do you see?”

             He let out a controlled sigh and said: “What would it mean without a wife and children, Fort? She’s very pretty, she never wears makeup, she has long rusty brown hair, she has light blue eyes like the sky, she always wears either tight Levis and a T-shirt or a home-sewn floral spring dress that glows in the sun and silhouettes her form against our succulent land. Yeah, I get the bad guys and pay the bills, and she makes it all worthwhile.”

             The same dog returned towards us out of the dark sands of the beach. He planned on relieving himself on our left rear tire but Vic honked. The horn sounded strange. “And the marital tenderness we share—words can’t even describe it, Fort.” I was surprised at the softness in Vic’s voice, and I glanced over and saw the crest on his Police Department hat—that crest now facing directly at me while Vic looked ahead into a faint silver glow of pulsating monofilament veins, the moonlight trying to live on the waves beyond the sands. I don’t know, I guess the muscles in Vic’s face and skull were so flexed with emotion as he’d been speaking that his hat had twisted on its own and now it was making him look like a blingless cop rapper.

             He was deadly serious and continued. “Fort, imagine the absolute loyalty, beauty, pleasure, tastes, sounds, caresses, juices; imagine the knowledge of each other, the desire to drive each other into ecstasy; imagine praying together before sex (I know you believe in God, Fort, think about this), praying silently internally during sex, and together again after sex! And imagine God pouring out His blessing upon our nerves like cool rain upon the dusty leaves and dry roots of peach trees in the Okanagan when the power lines are down and the orchards are in drought. We’d be sucking up the juice! Sucking up the juice! And after making love we’d always have a nap. And when we woke up we’d feel like we’d been hit by a soft truck.”

             As I watched Vic speak it occurred to me that I’d never seen him so relaxed. His uniquely intense position as the only police officer in Canada who was legally allowed to act on his impulses and natural instincts seemed to have seeped out of him like fat out of a microwaved cheese sandwich. There, by Spanish Banks, we were alone in complete silence and calm. “And children, Fort, beautiful little cheerful faces, gifts of hope for the future. Boys in denim overalls with bright-coloured T-shirts and—”

             ZZZZZOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!! Out of nowhere behind us a speeder in a glossy metallic black blown-out Honda Accord shot up the road, roaring. His angry woodpecker mufflers rasped like a continuous muzzle blast competing with his outrageous boom-box system which was hammering out some gangsta narrative of the hood. As he flashed by, the only word I could make out was “lollipop” as Vic fired up the Ram and squealed us out in a cloud of rubber smoke after him—our high beams scorching the road and our full bells-and-whistles light system twisting and slashing colours around us like broken glass. Within 30 seconds we’d chased him over the ridge and onto the UBC campus.

             Vic’s hat was still twisted rapper style, but now every blood vessel in his face was pushed to the surface like house wiring before the wallboard crew arrives. The speeder was now only 50 yards in front of us. He tried to lose us by weaving through the student traffic exiting the football game, flying past car after car, sniffing one rear end after the other.

             For years Vic had depended solely on his Glock knee shots as his trademark justice, but on his recent vacation he’d spent the full two weeks installing a high-tech whaler’s cannon on the roof of our white Ram. He’d personally done all of the welding and this baby was something to see. Manufactured by Finally Sum Justice Enterprises, she was all chrome and aluminum with a massive 70-kilogram spear capable of minute-of-angle accuracy at 900 feet per second all the way out to 100 yards—the length of a football field. And this masterpiece of law enforcement technology was hooked up to a sighting monitor on the dash just in front of Vic’s steering wheel. Vic had placed a tiny yellow happy face sticker in the center of its crosshairs.

             When Vic got to within 20 yards of the speeder he shot forward in a final attempt at escape, but Vic hit the gas too and held tight to his rear end. The little happy face was between the criminal’s shoulder blades when Vic hit the switch and then the brakes. The massive sterile chrome spear hammered through his rear window and pinned the driver to his custom dash as he crashed into a light pole, spun and wildly rolled at least four times before resting in the soft green grass glowing in the lights along the broad university median. As we approached the stopped vehicle—sparkling glass salted all around it in the night lights’ glare—there was a strange beauty about the scene. The young cleanly shaved Caucasian male driver in his early twenties was dressed completely in black, and the thick chrome spear through his spine glistened like a designer piercing. His boom box was silent now.

             Vic phoned in for the clean-up crew. As we departed along Marine Drive, in our mirrors we could see them dragging the Accord with tow hooks until it crashed upright again, their blade-like emergency lights cutting soft wide circles in the darkness. The destroyed Accord looked like a scintillating piece of cheap jewelry as it became increasingly distant. I could see Vic was slowly relaxing; his veins were gradually moving back into his flesh, and as we patiently worked our way towards the pay window of the Timmy’s drive- through line, Vic looked at me, his hat now on straight, with what seemed to be the swelling of a child’s tear in his left eye, the eye nearest the neon lights of the drive-through, and said, “Fort, imagine going home to a perfect wife in the country right now.”

            “Yeah,” I said; I didn’t know what else to say. “Imagine.”


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