Ear to the Ground

Story by Derek Pena, Featured Illustration from Pinterest

As the police cruiser pulled away from where I sat on a bench, I observed the bedlam of a neighborhood around me in the early morning gloom. There was a group of children racing across the street, kicking a dented can amongst each other. The house across from me was riddled with moss and termites eating away at its decaying walls. From within its shattered windows, I could feel eyes piercing my jacket with cold revulsion. One of the children kicked the can into a bush on the house’s lawn and dove in to get it. I thought back to the contentious car ride, wondering what I could have said to convince our boss. Turns out, a tenacious police chief bickers twice as much when the subordinate officer he’s arguing with is his own daughter. 

“Sophie, you’re a smart girl. But these routes have served the station well for decades!” he explained to me.

“Dad, with these optimizations we can more efficiently spread out our force to the more problematic districts. We’ll weed out those miscreants and preserve the sanctity of this city,” I rebutted.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose and traced his fingers across his eyebrows until they rested atop his temples. “I understand you don’t wanna patrol this district because of last week’s ‘incident.’ So, please understand that the rest of the officers don’t wanna change up their whole flow to suit your tastes.”

“This isn’t about that Dad! Can you please just listen to me for once?”

“Watch your tone with me. It’s a no. Final answer. Now get out of the car. We need you on these streets keeping these people safe, not cooped up in this car giving me lip,” He ordered, handing me my windbreaker.

This doesn’t make any sense. I thought to myself. The guys at the station all guffawed in my face. My own father thinks this is all due to me being some anxiety ridden officer. Even my own best friend waved me off, saying I need to ‘chillax.’ What does that even mean?

I was then interrupted by a voice shouting out from the house behind me. The ears of the children in the street perked up and they all rushed inside, their insatiable maws dripping from excessive salivation. I would have thought it somewhat endearing had one of them not catapulted a glob of spit onto my left cheek and chortled mockingly. Even those impolite little demons don’t respect me.

The sun began to unveil itself on the horizon when I noticed the child that jumped into the bus spring out and look around for her siblings. Our eyes locked, she beamed brightly, and marched triumphantly towards me. She plopped herself beside me and gestured at the folder on my lap.

“Uh…” I stammered, unsure of what to do. “Hi, I’m Officer Sophia. How can I help you honey?” She didn’t flinch, still staring intently at my lap. “The folder? Sorry, you can’t have that. Important police stuff!” She continued to look, her gaze frozen on my collection of documents and maps. 

I put my hand on her shoulder and shook her lightly in hopes of getting a response out of her. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a fine-tip marker. She scribbled on her hand ‘I am Daisy’ and passed me the writing instrument with an encouraging grin. “Are you deaf?” I questioned, blushing at the instantaneous realization of how idiotic it was of me to ask that. I circled my name on the cover of the folder and she bounced in her seat with glee. She waved hello and signed the name “Sophia.” I waved hello back and attempted to sign her name back, struggling to recall my limited sign language knowledge from elementary school. 

The little girl applauded and gestured at my folder. “Eh, why not?” I conceded and handed it to her. She scanned the pages with the intensity of a hawk, absorbing every detail and tracing every mark. I knew she couldn’t understand what was written on those pages, but she seemed to resonate with my ideas somehow. She dug into her pocket once more and pulled out another utensil, this time a black pen, and transcribed another message.

I eagerly pulled her transcription closer to my face. She wrote the word ‘pretty’ and drew a flower across the header of the page. I snorted and wrote ‘Thank you. Nobody else seems to like it’ and drew a little sad face. She replied with ‘I like it!’ and began to write something else when her older brother bolted out of the house. He took her hand and signed what I believed was ‘eat’ or ‘food.’ Daisy waved farewell and vanished into the decrepit abode.  The morning sun highlighted her adorable little flower on my paper. I read her short phrases over and over again, smiling softly at her pure heartedness. Maybe she’ll take compassion for others and become a police officer. Then I’ll have someone that will listen to me!

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