The Diploma

it was the only thing he had up there

The patrol car bounced hard as we hit the intersection. Its been a long time since I did a search warrant. I had been teaching drug education for the past three years and working as an SRO. I was referred to by street officers as a kiddie cop or semi retired on duty. I was riding bitch with Ike, a public informations officer for the pd. The pair of us did not receive much respect from other officers. Our duties were not seen as being real police work.

Today we would be going in first, most of the other officers were narcotics officers and wore blue jeans and tee shirts. Uniforms go in first so if the bad guy is there he does not confuse the situation for a drug robbery. I fell like the red shirt from Star Trek, the guy that always bites it when the captain goes down to the planet or boards another ship.

"Be my luck we get in a gunfight today and I shoot someone", I told Ike with a laugh. "I've already got too much paper work to do". For a moment I pause and then say "I read a story about a guy who wanted to be a cop but in the interview he said he was not willing to shoot and kill someone. That does not make any sense to me."

"People like that don't have any business becoming cops" Ike replied. Responding I said "I am willing to do what it takes to go home at night. Its silly for me to feel bad, for doing my job. I used to think I would feel bad if I had to kill someone because society frowns on it. My feelings are clear on this".

The trip to the house was quick as the column of cars reached their target. Our stop was quick almost abrupt. I jumped out of the car followed by Ike. Approaching the front door I could see it was cracked open.

"I've never gone in first before", I tell Ike. My left eyelid began to twitch nervously as we waited outside the door. "You ready" Ike asked. My gun drawn I could feel my hands sweating, "Yes," I said.

Boom, boom, boom, the knock came. The screen door rattled as the heavy fist beat on its frame. "POLICE DEPARTMENT" and "SEARCH WARRANT" were yelled loudly into the house. From behind I heard someone say "Go, go", and we began to move. At a full run I leveled my gun and burst through the open door.

The sound of police officers announcing their presence rang out repeatedly. My heart had been beating through my chest at the offset and my breathing difficult. Clearing each room individually I made my way to the back of the house. It appeared no one was home. I found a doorway to the basement.

Stepping into the darkness of the basement I was hit with the damp smell of mold. I retrieved my flashlight and scanned the basement as I stepped down step by step. I reached the basement floor and located a light at the center of the room. Light.

In the house above me I heard the heavy quick paced footsteps of my fellow officers. Screams errupted from upstairs, loud even through the floor above me. Satisfying my curiosity I found nothing and returned to the main floor, following the sounds of screams and weeping.

Ike was standing in the hallway a look of frustration and sadness on his face. I asked "Who'd you find in there". "Just a bunch of kids," Ike replied. A smile brightened his face "I opened that door with my gun leveled and they began to scream, bout scared me to death".

From the bedroom the sobbing continued and I heard the voice of the narcs trying to soothe the children. A voice I recognized spoke up amongst the many sounds coming from the room. It was a deep and gravelly voice that sounded like it belonged to an old man. Entering the room I saw one of my former students, the source of the voice.

He was only in the sixth grade, short and small compared to the other boys in his grade. I remembered him, not for his unique voice but because of his demeanor in class. He did not act like a boy in the sixth grade. The questions he asked were more worldly than a young man should be able to formulate. Some days he gave me problems and I had to scold him in class. Other days he was a model student who participated in the lessons.

My job as an instructor of drug education was harder than I initially thought. I got to know many students and I would get to see them grow up. Some students strove for perfection and others did not seem to care at all. Often I would worry about those who did not care. Sadness was an emotion I often felt when I worked with these students. He was one of these.

Me presnce in the room brought more screams and crying from the four or five young girls. Huddled into a mass on the bed, the young girls hid their faces in fear. He turned to me as I tried to calm the children. Looking up at me he said "You're the one that gave me that". He pointed to a diploma on the wall. The walls of his room were bare except for this single diploma. It was attached to the wall with four brightly colored push pins.

I left the room. Finding Ike, I motioned that we should head for the door. Our return to the car could not come quick enough. "The boy was one of my students" I said. "He had his diploma pinned to the wall, it was the only thing he had up there". Ike replied "Yeah dude, it sucks when that happens". Sadness boiled inside me, I could not resign these feelings. We returned to the station and I went home.

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