“Nice work, Dubber,” Chet said between chomps on an apple fritter. The partners were celebrating Cant’s return to active duty at Zygmut’s Bakery.
“I like the way you made that dickweed roll over and admit you to that godforsaken ivory tower.”
“Well, I gotta earn my way from now on in,” Can’t replied.
He looked up from a copy of Thomas Szasz’ The Manufacture of Madness. “Between readings, research papers, class lectures, independent research and all the other happy horse shit that they want, I’m gonna be straight out for the next few of years.”
“I know you’re a friggin’ genius and all,” Chet belched. “But how you gonna manage this working full-time?” It ain’t like the rats are gonna quit doin’ crime just to accommodate your academic schedule.”
Can’t shrugged. “I dunno. I’ll just try to do the best I can. What else can I do?”
Chet struck a contemplative pose. “Look, if this shit means that much to you, I’ll take the wheel from now on so you can get your book time in.”
“Really? You’d do that?” Can’t said.
“Why not? It isn’t every flat foot got a genius for a partner.”
With the matter settled, Chet motioned to Zygmut and said, “Now let’s get McCracken his sinker so he can have sex with himself.”
Chet turned out to be a remarkable wheel man. He didn’t recognize red lights, had no idea what the word “yield” implied and when it came to high-speed pursuits, never exceeded thirty-five miles per hour. Better still, he knew every back alley, short cut, pigeon coop and dead air spot in the district.
“Don’t worry, Dubber,” he’d say. “If they really need us, they’ll find us.”
Can’t nodded appreciatively and took full advantage of the freedom afforded by his co-pilot seat. He read voluminously, underlined ferociously and annotated unceasingly.
“Freud was such a fraud,” he concluded one night to Chet.
“How so, Dubber?” Chet yawned.
“His main thesis on the source on human anxiety rests solely upon the unresolved conflict between children and their mothers. Good Lord, even Piaget recognizes that the development of the human psyche is predicated upon the successful navigation of the stages of growth.”
“Indubitably,” Chet intoned, underscoring his concurrence with a loud fart.
“Lemme ask you this, Dubber. In all of this shit you’re reading, does anyone have an answer to what it’s all about?”
Can’t gazed out toward the dumpster they were parked behind and replied, “I think that the Existentialists have the most definitive answer.”
“Oh, yeah? What might that be?”
“That there is no answer.”
“Dubber,” Chet asked. “How much are you paying these mopes at Harvard?”
In spite of Chet’s misgivings, Can’t was enthralled by his education at Harvard. The academic rigor, exposure to such psychological luminaries as B.F. Skinner, Eric Fromm, Carl Jung, W.B. Mason and Pink Floyd, stimulated his frontal lobes and challenged his constipated world view beyond the polluted banks of Chelsea Creek.
It was around this time that The Mets got a new Superintendent – Bill Bratton, later of NYPD fame. This super wanted to change the staid image of the force. Out went the classic green and white cruisers with “M.D.C. Police” stenciled on the door. In came flashy, new, white and blue rides with Metro Police emblazoned along the entire side of the cruiser. The two-tone uniform shirts were replaced with standard dark blue worn by big city cops. Chet liked this change, claiming the darker uniforms gave his chunky figure a svelte contour. Worst of all though; a new radio system eliminated all dead spots, stripping the partner’s of their hitherto pockets of cozy radio silence.
Can’t also learned that his father was now in failing health. The two hadn’t spoken since the wedding debacle with his sister and Can’t still carried a trunk full of resentment toward his old man. However, now older and a little wiser himself, Can’t decided to see his father and set the record straight between them.
On a gloomy Monday morning, Can’t walked into the sterile nursing home where his father lay staring out at the empty parking lot. The visit was awkward at first, with Can’t pointing the finger of infidelity at Rabbit. Cant’s father nodded thoughtfully, acknowledging the hurt that he had caused his family.
“Well son,” Rabbit began. “It was lonely in The Berkshires without you and your mother. One fine spring day I was tooling around on the Indian when I noticed a woman weeding in an onion field. We got to talking and she told me her name was Violet.” Rabbit swallowed hard as he continued, “Well, we kept on seeing each other and one thing led to another and before we knew it, Violet was in bloom.”
Looking away, Rabbit lamented, “I’m not proud of how I behaved, Cantankerous. You and your mother deserved better from me.” Seeing Cant’s tear filled eyes, Rabbit said, “What I learned through all of it, I ain’t proud to say,” Rabbit lamented.
“I was a phony, Cantankerous. I tried to be someone I wasn’t. There I was, riding around on my loud motorcycle, thinking I was some kind of knight in shining armor, when my true self was an onion farmer from Danvers. A horny onion farmer perhaps, but an onion farmer nonetheless.”
“So what are you trying to say?” Can’t asked.
“You can only be yourself, Cantankerous. Anything else is beneath you.”
Can’t lowered his head as his father imparted the wisdom of the ages.
“I hear that you are going to Harvard now and feel ashamed to reveal your chosen profession to the others there. I say screw em’. Let it all hang out.”
The visit ended on a tender note with Rabbit telling his son, “Sorry about the mix up with your sister, Cantankerous. I guess you dodged a bullet on that one.”
“You’re telling me.”
So, a few more years passed, and in spite of the change in the department, the partners soldiered on in The Colony. Can’t was closing in on his degree and busily researching his graduate thesis. The front seat of the cruiser resembled a bookstore, with the latest tomes of Cant’s interest interspersed among index cards, research reports and wrappers from Sullivan’s Dog Stand.
One night, the partners were dispatched to a disturbance at an apartment off of Day Boulevard. Pulling up out front, Chet said, “Sit tight, Dubber. I’ll handle this. I see you got more genius work to do.”
“You sure?” Can’t asked.
“Yeah. Stick your nose back in that book. I’ll shout if I need ya.”
Can’t watched his partner lumber into the darkness. He returned to Fromm’s The Art of Being, After several minutes, Chet emerged back onto the sidewalk. Can’t looked up and saw his partner turn into an adjacent alley. Aroused, Can’t dropped Fromm on the floor just as the sound of several gunshots blasted the night stillness.
Can’t reached under the seat and grabbing the sawed-off, rushed from the cruiser to the sound of the gunshots.
Peering around the corner, Can’t saw shadows move in the darkness of the alleyway.
“Chet,” he whispered. “You all right?”
“Watch it Dubber,” Chet’s voice called from the darkness. “The fuckers at the end of the alley and he has a gun.’
Can’t cocked both barrels. “Come on out, you prick. Or I’ll blast you into next year,” Can’t yelled.
More shots rang out, missing Cant’s head by inches. He pointed the sawed-off down range and squeezed one off in the direction of the muzzle flash. But unfamiliar with the sensitivity of the deadly weapon, Can’t inadvertently jerked both triggers, creating a huge explosion of 12 gauge firepower.
Smoke filled the alleyway and the noise was deafening. Knocked on his ass by the recoil, Can’t low-crawled toward where he thought his partner was located.
More shots rang out, followed by the sound of someone running away. Can’t found Chet on the ground behind a pile of old crates.
“Chet. You Okay?” Can’t panted.
“I was, till you shot me in the ass, you moron.”
Bending over his wounded partner, Can’t checked Chet’s backside.
“Oh, no! I didn’t mean to. The sawed-off shot wide.”
“They do that, Dubber. That’s the reason that you don’t try to shoot over your partner. Now get me the hell out of here before I shoot you”
“I think the guy ran off,” Can’t said.
Grunting in pain, Chet replied, “Look Dubber, stick that sawed-off back in the cruiser before everyone gets here. Having one of those things is a felony. Hide it under the Boston Globe editorial page. No cop will go near that rag.”
As Can’t rose to return to the cruiser, Chat said, “Hold on. Pull your piece and let off a few rounds.”
“Well, genius, when the brass shows up, we can’t let on that you shot me in the ass with an illegal shotgun, can we? We’ll say that the bad guy got me with a ricochet as you shot it out with him.”
Seeing the wisdom of Chet’s analysis, Can’t pulled his .38 and fired at some trash cans stacked at the end of the alley. As he was holstering, he heard, “Uggghhh,” as someone stumbled from behind the cans and fell to the ground.
Chet said, “Oh shit. This won’t end well.”
The partners approached cautiously, the sound of a hundred police car sirens piecing the night air.
Can’t switched on his flashlight. Looking down at the lifeless form of a plug-ugly with a Browning Hi-Power clutched in his left hand, the partners exclaimed simultaneously, “Trigger Finger Finnegan!”
The decedent was a notorious enforcer of The Winter Hill Civic Improvement Society, who incidentally had been fingered for the murder of Poor Looser. Warrants for Murder One had been handed out years ago, but Trigger Finger had always managed to escape the grip of justice. Until now.
“Perfect, Dubber. Now you’re a hero instead of a murderer. Quick, put the sawed-off down next to Trigger Finger and grab that Browning.”
Can’t followed the beauty of his partner’s quick-witted wisdom. As hoards of back-up cops rushed into the alley eager to shoot anything that moved, he scooped the nine millimeter and placed the shotgun into Trigger Fingers rapidly cooling, dead hands. Chet called out, “Stand down boys, my partners taken care of everything.” Then Chet passed out from shock and fell to the ground.
The “Brass” was skeptical of the partner’s version of the event from the get-go. Chet told them that after clearing the disturbance call, they had been attracted to suspicious activity in the alley (Half true). Entering the alley, they announced their lawful presence only to be fired upon by Trigger Finger Finnegan; who, desperate not to be taken alive and armed with an illegal shotgun, had injured Chet (One quarter true). Can’t identified the location of the shooter and disregarding his own safety, left cover, charged forward and firing his puny thirty-eight, nailed Trigger Finger and saved his partners life (Total bullshit).
The Boston papers fell for the story hook, line and sinker. A photo of Chet convalescing at Mass General, his loyal partner at his side, created a public groundswell of support. This was enough to cower the Brass, who collectively pulled in their horns and joined the parade of hero-worshipers. Especially after a photo depicting Governor Dukakis and Senate President Bulger visiting the injured warrior ran nationwide. There was the Governor, grinning his toothy grin and presenting Chet with a plate of homemade Baklava to speed his recovery. The impish Senate President, cheeks polished to a hi-gloss finish, offered a gift on behalf of his appreciative family.
However, the back-story was, as always, the best part. As the Governor presented Chet with his pastry, Chet remarked, “For crissakes, Duke, I’m Polish. What the hell do you expect me to do with Greek twinkes?”
Giggling delightedly, Senator Bulger proffered an emerald-green envelope. “It’s a gift from Jimmy and myself,” he lilted.
“Is this a letter bomb?” Chet asked.
“Oh, that’s grand,” the Senator chimed as he deftly slipped behind the Governor while Chet tore open the envelope.
Inside was a get well card signed by the Brothers Bulger. Beneath the Senators florid expressions of concern and wishes for a speedy recovery, his brother had written, “Your partner almost nailed me with that shotgun. Trigger Finger was never quick on his feet. Better him than me. No hard feelings. Hope your ass gets better. J.B.”
Best of all, the card came with two five-dollar scratch tickets, “James and I shared the cost,” the Senator reminded Chet.
After the politicos had moved on to another worthwhile event, the partners relaxed in the comfort of each others familiar presence.
“Dubber, garb us a couple of Bud’s from the cooler in the closet, will ya?”
Enjoying the beer, Chet handed one of the scratch tickets to Can’t and said, “What do you say we scratch these baby’s.”
“Chet, you’re the one that got shot in the ass, they’re yours, you earned them,” Can’t said.
“We’re partners, Dubber. Share and share alike. Got any loose change?”
The partners scratched away. Chet crapped out, “Shit, not even a free ticket. I knew them Mick’s were cheap bastards,” he said.
“Maybe not, Chet.”
“What, you hit for five bucks or something?”
“More like six hundred thousand,” Can’t cried.
“Don’t yank my chain, Dubber. I’m in a weakened state here.”
“See for yourself,” said Can’t, handing the winning ticket to his partner.
Chet stared intently at the ticket, convinced that his partner was deluded by wishful thinking. After a solid minute, a wide grin spread across Chet’s even wider face.
Finally, he said, “Dubber, you know what?”
“For money like this, you can shoot me in the ass anytime!”
Thus ends Part Three of our hero’s adventurous life. I saw Can’t at the pumps the other day and he told me that he will be out of circulation for a couple of weeks. He will be participating in an AARP sponsored beer and sauerkraut tasting tour of the Rhine Valley. He expects to return in early October with more reflections and undoubtedly, more gas.