The morning was crisp and cold, but the air was unusually calm downtown. On Main Street the sun hid behind the clouds. Across the street from a dying bookstore store, two cops with an hour to kill before court lumbered into a restaurant. They kept their coats on; cold air poured in through a back door that had been propped open to accept the morning grocery deliveries.
“Are you getting coffee?” the shorter cop asked, placing his hat upside down on the sticky table.
“The coffee here stinks, but sure,” the taller cop said as he sat down.
“Can we get two coffees?” the short one asked a girl who was rolling silverware in paper napkins up front.
“I hope it’s at least hot this time,” the taller cop groused as he placed his hat on the table. He rubbed his eyes, tilting his head to the right to meet his hand; he yawned and stretched back.
“The coffee’s free. What else matters?”
“Enjoying it matters.”
“Hey, beggars can’t be choosers,” replied the shorter cop.
“Who’s begging? I’m more than willing to pay for a hot cup of coffee.”
The girl brought two coffees and took their food order. She put a newspaper down on the table before heading back to the front.
“There’s another protest today,” said the shorter cop, taking a sip of his coffee. “Hopefully the cold weather thins out the crowd.”
The tall one tilted his head back. “I can’t take another recall.” He closed his eyes and put his hands in his coat pockets. “I feel like a stranger at home.”
“Yeah, that last one wasn’t much fun.”
“Did you hear what the mayor said?”
“He said he feels their pain and he’s angry like they are. And that they should have faith in the system.”
The tall cop leveled his head and took a sip of his coffee. “You know what that means.”
“It’s hot, thank God,” announced the taller cop as he put his coffee down.
“Oh, well; the overtime will be nice.”
They sat for some time in silence, letting the coffee warm them, and took turns thinking of something interesting to say. The girl served their food and placed a courtesy spit cup next to the taller cop.
“I didn’t know you dipped,” said the short one.
“Only when I try to quit smoking.”
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Only when I try to quit dipping.”
They ate their breakfast quietly and watched the morning rush file in. The sun tried to cast its morning shadows over the city but everything remained gray.
A middle aged woman with small, square rimmed glasses approached the officers as they ate. “Excuse me,” she said as she unbuttoned the top of her coat. “I don’t mean to bother you two during your breakfast, but I just wanted you to know that I appreciate everything you guys do,” she said.
“Well, we appreciate that. Thank you,” said the tall cop.
The short cop turned around in his chair. “Yeah, thanks ma’am. That’s always nice to hear.”
“You’re very welcome,” said the woman. She stepped closer and bent her head down slightly. “We support you guys. Just hang in there,” she whispered.
The tall cop politely smiled and went back to eating his food.
“Well, God Bless you,” said the short cop over his shoulder as the woman walked away. “Isn’t that nice?” he said outloud to himself as he placed his fork on the empty plate. He looked at his watch, and yawned. “My wife wants me to work more overtime and side jobs,” he said idly; he sat back and placed an arm on the empty chair next to him. “For vacation and some other stuff around the house.”
“Did you tell her to go fuck herself?”
“Ha,” he chuckled. “I should.”
The tall cop packed his can and threw in a dip, stinging his cheek. “I don’t get how everyone pretends that everything is okay,” he said and spat in his cup. “That everything is just fine, just pretending that nothing is upsidedown.”
“I don’t know,” said the short one. “Things could be worse.”
The tall cop leaned forward and stared toward the front door. “Everything is fine until it isn’t you know, and then it all starts over again; especially the pretending.” He gazed toward the line of customers. “I feel like we’re playing in a game we can’t win.”
“I think you’re working too much,” said the short one. He stood up and pulled his wallet out from his back pocket. “I got breakfast,” he said, and walked to the counter and cashed out.
They peeled their hats from the table, put them on, and walked toward the front door. They passed two younger cops seated near the front whom they’ve never seen before. Both were staring at their phones, not saying anything to each other.
When they got outside it was raining heavily. They walked toward the courthouse and didn’t say anything about the rain. They stopped at the crosswalk waiting for the light to change, and as traffic passed by them, they stood next to each other in complete silence, with their hands in their pockets, very still, like two statues without a memorial.