Chapter no 8

Anxious People

In the staProom of the police station the young policeman bumps into an older officer. The young man is fetching water, the older man is drinking coPee. Their relationship is complicated, as is often the case between police officers of diPerent generations. At the end of your career you’re trying to 1nd a point to it all, and at the start of it you’re looking for a purpose.

“Morning!” the older man exclaims.

“Hi,” the younger man says, slightly dismissively.

“I’d oPer you some coPee, but I suppose you’re still not a coPee drinker?” the old officer says, as if it were some sort of disability.

“No,” the younger man replies, like someone turning down an oPer of human Aesh.

The older and younger men have little in common when it comes to food and drink, or anything else, for that matter, which is a cause of ongoing conAict whenever they’re stuck in the same police car at lunchtime. The older officer’s favorite food is a service station hot dog with instant mashed potatoes, and whenever the staP in the local restaurant try to take his plate away on buPet Fridays, he always snatches it back in horror and exclaims: “Finished? This is a buPet! You’ll know when I’m 1nished because I’ll be lying curled up under the table!” The younger man’s favorite food, if you were to ask the older officer, is “that made-up stuP, algae and seaweed and raw 1sh, he thinks he’s some sort of damn hermit crab.” One likes coPee, the other tea. One looks at his watch while they’re working to see if it will soon be lunchtime, the other looks at his watch during lunch to see if he can get back to work soon. The older man thinks the most important thing is for a police officer to do the right thing, the younger thinks it’s more important to do things correctly.

“Sure? You can have one of those Frappuccinos or whatever they’re called. I’ve even bought some of that soy milk, not that I want to know what the heck they milked to get hold of it!” the older man says, chuckling loudly, but glancing anxiously toward the younger man at the same time.

“Mmm,” the younger man murmurs, not bothering to listen.

“Getting on okay with interviewing that damn real estate agent?” the older man asks, in a tone that suggests he’s joking, to cover up the fact that he’s asking out of consideration.

“Fine!” the younger man declares, 1nding it increasingly difficult to conceal his irritation now, and attempting to move toward the door.

“And you’re okay?” the older officer asks. “Yes, yes, I’m okay,” the younger man groans.

“I just mean after what happened, if you ever need to…” “I’m 1ne,” the younger man insists.



“How’s…?” the older man asks, nodding toward the bump on the younger man’s forehead.

“Fine, no problem. I’ve got to go now.”

“Okay. Well. Would you like a hand questioning the real estate agent, then?” the older man asks, and tries to smile rather than just stare anxiously at the younger officer’s shoes.

“I can manage on my own.” “I’d be happy to help.” “No—thanks!”

“Sure?” the older man calls, but gets nothing but a very sure silence in response.


When the younger officer has gone, the older man sits alone in the staProom drinking his coPee. Older men rarely know what to say to younger men to let

them know that they care. It’s so hard to 1nd the words when all you really want to say is: “I can see you’re hurting.”

There are red marks on the Aoor where the younger man was standing. He still has blood on his shoes, but he hasn’t noticed yet. The older officer wets a cloth and carefully wipes the Aoor. His 1ngers are trembling. Maybe the younger man isn’t lying, maybe he really is okay. But the older man de1nitely isn’t, not yet.

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