#thesideshow July 10th 2015 Under the Unholy Banner by Vlad Teodor Petcu
July 10, 2015
#thesideshow July 13th 2015 Untitled III by Bekah Steimel
July 13, 2015

#thesideshow July 11th 2015 Smitty by Thomas Mundt

Smitty is just Smitty to the other guys on The Force but he’s Officer Smitty to my kids.  He comes in once a year to talk to the fourth-graders about staying off street drugs and passes out tiny vials of powders and crystals so they can familiarize themselves with the trendy product being pushed on the corners and behind the malls.  He also brings in nunchaku and throwing stars and the gang gets a real kick out of that.

***

The best is when Smitty is accompanied by Officer Scamper, the bomb-sniffing dog.  The Force rescued her as a pup from a mill in Tennessee and she’s missing a left ear.  I have personally seen Office Scamper jump the hood of a Crown Victoria with only a meager running start.  She is sweet and doesn’t seem to mind when some of the rougher kids pet her too hard on the ribcage.  It’s like she knows they don’t know that’s where the shrapnel got her when The Force did that simulated dirty bomb detonation across from the AutoZone last spring.

***

Smitty can still get rim.  When classes let out he likes to remind the faculty of this fact in the gymnasium.  In his uniform, no less he points out.  He was All-Conference in the late-‘70s and there is a picture of him with a perm and very-white leather Converse in our school’s Hall Of Winners, the portion closest to the cafeteria.  You can barely see the pig snout and curly tail some anonymous wiseguy Sharpie’d last semester.  It’s a testament to the diligence of our custodial staff.

***

The road of drugs and lawlessness is a dark and directionless one.  Smitty hammers home this point with a very-personal anecdote regarding his brother Kyle, who is dead.  I’ve heard the story several times but it’s new to my kids.  Kyle didn’t die of an overdose but drugs landed him in Stateville and he was thrown over a railing on the way back from breakfast.  He landed face-down on a rowing machine the warden had just bought at an estate sale the week before to boost morale.  Smitty’s voice used to break a little when he first shared with the group but now the pendulum has swung and he gets so loud and angry when talking about bath salts that Officer Scamper begins to whimper and pace and none of us know if we should let her out to use the potty or comfort her.

***

Last year, a student of mine named Charles switched seats with one of my poor vision kids so he could sit in the front row for Smitty’s presentation.  Once Smitty was done running through the bullet points of his curriculum vitae Charles unzipped his hoodie and there was a black-and-white photo of someone named Dominion on his shirt.  I asked Charles after class if he needed glasses and he said he didn’t.  Dominion was his cousin and he died in a high-speed chase in Mississippi last summer.  Charles repeated cops need to know a bunch of times and then said he was sorry and would he get detentions for not asking permission to move.  I told him thank you, and no.

***

Smitty said one time he got a call about a naked man that kept tapdancing outside a taco restaurant even though many customers near the windows went outside to tell him to stop.  The manager had to tackle him and bind his wrists with an extension cord until Smitty and his partner could help.  When they arrived on the scene Smitty said the naked dancing man spit on his eyeball and that’s when all heck broke loose.  He told my kids that all it took was one kick to the back of the knee and the perp was on the sidewalk.  Smitty thought that maybe the man had his jaw broken on a toilet seat by another inmate but admitted it had been a long time.

***

There were badge-shaped cookies for Smitty’s final visit.  He told my kids The Force had been good, no, great to him for thirty-plus years but it was time to sail off into the sunset.  Smitty already bought the houseboat and told my class to keep their minds open when it came to living arrangements, that standard brick-and-mortar homes weren’t for everyone.  There were pamphlets on my desk if any of them wished to look into careers in law enforcement.  The floor was then opened up for questions but the lion’s share of them dealt with salary and were answered quickly.


Thomas Mundt is the author of the short story collection You Have Until Noon To Unlock The Secrets Of The Universe (Lady Lazarus Press, 2011).  More stories and Twitter tomfoolery can be found at www.jonathantaylorthomasnathanmundtdds.com and @Jheri_Seinfeld, respectively.