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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: Training Day
By Steve Uppendahl


First day jitters. My stomach is rolling over on itself, confirming an earlier suspicion that my breakfast may have indeed been a mistake. But, I’m officially a cop now. I thought it was required. Cop. Doughnuts. It’s the law.

Not being allowed to drive isn’t helping matters. I haven’t been carsick in years, but I’m making up for it in spades.

Chuckling, “You doing okay over there, Sorenson? You look a little green around the gills.”

I stare for a moment at my new partner, Danny Costigan. Late forties, thinning jet-black hair slicked straight gives him the appearance of a foot long forehead. Large brown eyes and an overly loud voice make him seem perpetually angry. He shakes his head, but keeps his eyes on the road, even when speaking.

“Yo, Sorenson! You awake?”

I shake my head, “Sorry, Sir. Daydreaming.”

I push down another wave of nausea as he brakes late and hard for a red light. He shakes his head again and watches a group of pedestrians cross in front of our squad car.

“Understandable, I guess. Your first day and all. Your mind’s working a mile a minute, worrying about screwing up, saying the wrong thing, praying you don’t embarrass yourself. Worried about things you shouldn’t worry about, because you can’t control‘em anyway.”

After a few moments, he shakes his head again, “Rookies.”

Something about his demeanor irks me. “If what I’m feeling is so common, why do you seem so ticked? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“You haven’t done anything right either.”

“What the hell does that mean? We haven’t even responded to a call. We haven’t even gotten out of the car. What am I supposed to be doing? Reading your mind?”

Instantly Costigan flips on the siren, scaring people on both sides of the street. He hits the gas, throwing us both into the backs of our seats.
Twenty screeching seconds later we’re parked in front of a deli, Caffeine High.

Costigan turns on me viciously, brown eyes and neck veins bulging, “You’re not doing your job. You’re not reading.”

I feel my own eyes bulge while I try to grasp for the right words, “Not doing my? Not reading? What are you?”

Costigan closes his eyes and clenches a fist, seemingly trying to regain control. Several seconds pass, both of our chests rising and falling in unison.

“At the light, how many people crossed in front of our car?”

“I don’t know, a dozen?”

“Try nineteen. How many men? How many women? How many were armed?”

“How am I?”

“You count, Sorenson! You pay attention. You learn the area, you know who lives nearby, who doesn’t feel right-“

“How am I supposed to know that? It’s my first day.”

Clenching and opening both fists, “You still aren’t listening. You missed my most valuable question. You let anger and emotion push it aside. Think for a minute.”

I don’t want to, but I do. My eyes widen.

“You asked how many were armed. Why would I know that without frisking everyone in the street?”

“You read. Read how people walk. Are they walking heavy on one ankle? Are they wearing a jacket when it’s ninety degrees? Are they walking confident when they might normally not?

“By the way, the man in blue jeans and a beige jacket was carrying a pistol in his back waistband.”
Shocked, “Then why didn’t we arrest him, or at least question him?”

“Because he has a permit.”

He holds up a hand and continues, “I know because I’ve done it before. He has a legal permit. He’s a P.I.

“Take a look at this deli here. Which of those walking by would be the most likely to cause us a problem? Read them.”

Feeling under the gun, I narrow my eyes and watch. Three females. Two business women, African American, talking at a speed that matches their brisk pace. One teenager, goth, head down, slow pace carrying a blue apron. Two males, not together, one Hispanic, late teens, blue jeans, oversized black t-shirt, listening to an I-pod. Boy, early teens, Caucasian, looking over his shoulder every few steps, hands deep in pockets, blue jeans, oversized white hooded sweatshirt hood pulled over his head.


“The boy.”

Audible smirk, “Why?”

Undaunted, I push on, “It’s 9:30 on a Monday, he should be at school. He’s nervous about something. He hasn’t done this before, too jittery.”

Nodding, “Not bad, Sorenson. Let’s go talk to him, then grab some doughnuts.”

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This article has been read 833 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/01/07
This was a creative way to use "reading." It was informative and interesting. I loved the humor and the "audible smirk."
Jan Ackerson 02/02/07
Very realistic characters, and an interesting "teaching" session. I don't think it would suffer if you lost the mild cuss word, and you might want to think of another title if you are looking to publish it (there's a cop movie with the same title). I really liked your use of the topic word.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/03/07
Nice job. Typical cop story, with older officer always forgetting that he was a Rookie once himself. But very impressive, well written and intrituing, educational and enlightening. Enjoyed the ride and the read. Good job.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/03/07
Sorry, "intriguing"
Jacquelyn Horne02/04/07
Enjoyed this. It's an approach I hadn't thought about. I usually think of "reading people" as a pastime. Here it was a useful tool.
william price02/05/07
Training Days is one of my favorite movies and now its one of my favorite short stories. Excellent discriptions, very close to realistic. A very creative take on READING and so vital to law enforcement. Enjoyed your entry very much. God bless.