Saturday, December 22, 2012
A New York Christmas Tale
Walt Kowalski held his policeman's cap in front of him and slowly revolved it in his hands as he contemplated 30 years service with the NYPD. He looked at the badge which, when he was on the beat would ordinarily cover his spiritual eye, then inverted the cap so that the brim pointed upwards, walked over to the stove, where a pot of coffee stood coldly from the day before and poured the contents into the cap as far as the brim, then went over to the fish tank situated beside the doorway and, taking out the smallest goldfish, put it in the coffee-filled cap. He considered which method would work best; should he bend forward, as though to touch his toes, and then, transferring the full weight of his body onto his hands and arms, lower his head into the cap, and slowly raise his legs until they were perpendicular to the floor, pointing to the heavens? This would allow him to press down on the cap as he stood up and minimise the loss of coffee, but some of the advantages of this method would be offset by the fact that he hadn't been anywhere near being able to touch his toes for nearly twenty five years - his rotund bulk rendering the likelihood of this ever happening nigh on impossible, and even if he had been capable of getting into that position, he wasn't sure if he had enough strength in his arms to complete the whole cycle of the manoeuvre. Spending a working day on the streets of New York City with a cap full of coffee and a goldfish swimming around inside it was a powerful thought and sufficiently enticing to almost shift the mechanisms in Kowalski's mind from the planning stage to intent and then actualisation, but too many pastrami sandwiches, donuts, hot dogs and an unending river of cheap, black coffee were the chain that anchored his thought to the reality seabed. He knew all too well that the alternative was a non-starter: by the time he he had flipped the cap and wedged it onto his head, all of the coffee and the fish, of course, would be splashed out on the floor and drenching his shoulders, neck and scalp - and what remained of a once proud body of hair. He scooped the fish out of the cap with a plastic beaker that still contained a few drops of the vodka he had drunk alone to celebrate his 30th Christmas as a serving officer, plopped it back into the tank - along with slightly more drops of coffee than he had intended, and placed the wet cap on his head. A fair amount of coffee trickled over his ears, down his neck and a few drops made it as far as his eyes - and even his mouth (which he licked away with his tongue), confirming that plan B would not have worked. He glanced at this portly outline reflected by the light of the Christmas tree in the glass of the fish tank and, adjusting the cap more securely on his head, walked over to the front door, where his coat was hanging. This Christmas night would be one where the snow-covered New York City streets would not see a cop controlling traffic with an icey halo of fish-filled coffee under his badge of office after all.