Kids Will be Kids
Phone calls to the Mesa Verde Police Department were normally about a cat up a tree, so two emergency calls in a row to night dispatcher Diana Sanchez were atypical.
The first call was a gravelly male voice. “The baby killers are beating people at Cottonwood!”
Diana Sanchez, dispatcher extraordinaire listened incredulously. “The women’s clinic is called Women’s Safe House and they are closed now.”
“No, you stupid bimbo, the assisted living center.”
Now Diana was confused. She saw the ads about baby seals being clubbed in Canada and was outraged about that. Babies at Cottonwood?
Sir, there are no babies in Cottonwood, unless they are brought to see their relatives who are residents.”
“It is hard enough for me calling the police, the oppressors of the people, especially Chief Morris, who I have had run-ins with over the years. I do not need your ignorance.”
Now Diana’s back went up like her cat Abuela. “”I’ll have you know sir, I am a trained dispatcher.”
“Trained like a running lap dog.”
“Sir, I am tracking this call and will tell Chief Morris about your behavior.”
“You do that,” and he clicked off..
The second call was waiting in queue. The voice was that of a breathless woman with a cigarette husky voice.
Diana’s professionalism kept her from reacting when the call from Cottonwood administrator came.
“There is a riot at Cottonwood Assisted Living.”
Riots, baby killers, what in the world was going on?
“Ms. Walker, calm down.” Diana’s calm voice that calmed many a disturbed caller continued in its even tone.
“How can I calm down, my outfit is ruined!”
I am concerned now, she thought.
“Ma’am were you sexually assaulted?”
“Not yet by the man I want to undress me!”
Diana looked at the calendar. “It is not Halloween or April Fools Day.”
“Ma’am who is assaulting whom?”
“The inmates, I mean residents.”
“Ms. Walker, what kind of weapons are being used?
The only response was a male voice. “You need to eat this,” then muffled screams.
“She then called her boss. “Chief,” “Please respond to a fight at Cottonwood Assisted Living.”
Chief Harold Morris had seen a lot, after a twenty year career on the Tucson Police Force. As Chief of the Mesa Verde Police Department, lecturing kids was the high point of the week. His sense of humor was always helpful in a crisis.
“”Diana did I hear you right? A fight at Cottonwood? With what, walkers at ten paces? Dentures marching in formation?
“The administrator and one of the residents, a Professor David Zemansky, called in. They both seemed agitated.”
Chief Morris rolled his eyes. “Professor Zemansky never met a protest he didn’t like, he was the last old style Marxist Professor at the University of Arizona. For him, calling the police and not having the police called on him is a first. As for Glenda Walker, the administrator. Remember when she called saying she saw a monster. It was a monster all right, a Gila Monster. Well, I guess I better take it seriously.
“Oh yes, Chief, I remember the Gila Monster. Sonia, Patrol Officer Martinez pepper sprayed it and it died and Ms. Walker was angry for having the body.”
“Do you think I need the siren?”
“That’s why they pay you the big bucks, Chief.”
“Very funny, Madame Dispatcher, call Martinez, but tell her not to unholster anything, until I tell her otherwise.” The Chief could not contain his laughter. “I can’t wait to listen to the 911 tapes later. Maybe we can use them for training. Maybe Patrol Officer Martinez can control the gawkers, 10/4 Diana over and out.
Peter Paul Mullins was a senior at Mesa Verde High School and a star on the baseball team and also in American Legion Ball.
He and his teammates volunteered at Cottonwood, because they liked Pete’s grandfather, John “Black Jack” Mullins. Black Jack was a decorated sniper in Vietnam. Peter wanted to grow up to be his grandfather, much to the horror of his pacifist mother.
The group of boys were greeted one Friday after practice by Glenda Walker. Glenda flirted with them, but saw them as inferiors. They are entertaining but I have my eyes on a larger prize.
“Hello boys, it is always a pleasure to see y’all. Stay out of trouble.”
There was a murmured chorus of yes, Ma’am’s as they went in.
As they walked down the main hall, an angry voice called out. It was Professor Zemansky. The boys were accustomed to his comments. They greeted Black Jack in the hall.
“Hey boys, I’d like to shut the good Professor up.”
“Shh Grandpa, let’s take a walk outside.” All of them headed outside to the park area. The ladies enjoyed when the baseball team came and greeted them with smiles.
They deliberately walked by Professor Zemansky who didn’t smile. Then again, he never smiled. To him, the world is a serious place with no room for frivolity.
“The baby killer and his acolytes,” he grumbled.
Most of the women glared, but there were some who supported the Professor who glared back. Tension had been building between the vets and people who supported that long ago war.
Black Jack motioned the other vets to follow them to the park area. When they got there, Black Jack asked in a growl, “What do you have in mind, boy?”
“Beat the professor in a food fight. It is not an assault, but silly and funny like him.”
Evil smiles crossed the vets’ faces. “Boy you think like I do. How we gonna get the pies?”
“Simple Grandpa. Today is Friday; we will set it for suppertime next Saturday. This gives us time to prepare. We can get friends in on this. We will prepare the pies, plus there will be the other food with dinner.”
“Oh I like it, boy. The Wicked Witch of the West, I mean Glenda has a date with a high roller. This will stir things up. When the good professor mouths off, that will be the signal. This will be a riot!” The other veterans nodded.
All through the week, pies were smuggled into Cottonwood, in bags to deliver pizza and brought to the veterans’ rooms. The vets were able to keep the anticipation down, as to not give it all away.
The Following Saturday.
Glenda had been excited all week long. Jack Rubin, the major developer was taking her, Glenda Walker out. My goodness, from a poor Texas childhood to this. I worked so hard to get to this point. Thank goodness for the charity dinner for Habitat for Humanity. I would rather he not pick me up here, but he insisted.
She sang various country tunes as she got ready in the expensive outfit she splurged on. My goodness, he was taking her to dinner at the Arizona Inn. That would be the talk of the town.
Her cell phone rang. It was Jack. “I will be there in a half hour.” “Ohhh,” Glenda sighed. Someone with money and class.
Then she went downstairs. After dinner, there was the usual activity, tonight a movie to keep the residents occupied. She left that to her part-time activities director.
Nora McAllister, is the Activities Director and coming in to show the movie. She thought it might be fun for a discussion to occur. She figured a comedy about the era. Robin Williams’ Good Morning Vietnam. She got a younger friend of hers from the University of Arizona, Associate Professor, and Joyce McNeely to help with the discussions. Professor McNeely specialized in studying all angles of that conflict. Nora thought she had a great idea.
She and Professor McNeely arrived together and had the DVD. They would set up during supper
Glenda greeted Jack in the lobby. “Oh Jack, I am so glad to see you, but I still don’t understand why you wanted to pick me up here.”
“I wanted to see where you work and meet some of the residents.”
“Can’t we do that later?”
Patrol Officer Martinez.
Sonia Martinez was a compassionate and gung ho officer. She had only been on the force three months having just received her degree in Criminal Justice from Pima Community College. Sonia was cruising Verde Mesa’s streets mainly looking for drag racers, but all was quiet. Too quiet, it seemed.
She heard Diana call the Chief. Sonia called in. “Am I hearing this right? A riot at Cottonwood. I am on my way!”
“She turned on the siren and went flying over there. Chief Morris was just barely behind her and followed her into the front lobby.
There was no one at reception. Sonia already had her mace out. Chief Morris laughed. “Ms. Walker is still annoyed about the Gila Monster. I know she won’t be pleased about spraying or resident. Or her.”
“Good point, Chief.” She put the mace away.
“That’s better, Sonia.” Chief Morris was still chuckling.
The discussions were already beginning in the dining room. The movie was posted on the bulletin board.
The comments began immediately. “I disapprove of the movie! There is nothing funny about that!” Others nodded in approval.
“Well professor, y’all can go play with yourselves!”
“I expect such talk from ignorant baby killers.”
The vets reached under their tables for their pies. “ BOMBS AWAY!”
Black Jack’s rhubarb pie hit Professor Zemansky squarely in the face. The other vets aimed for the former protestors from long ago. People all over the dining room had faces full of pies. Some licked the pie off and ate them, others sat in shock.
After what seemed like an eternity, the fur, I mean the food flew. Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and all sorts of other food types. One old leftist cried, “Such a waste of food that could feed the starving.”
“Here, lady, I’ll feed you. A chocolate rum pie found its target. She failed to see the humor.
The weekend server, a student named Denise was in the middle and was covered with food. She ran out the door to be greeted by Glenda and Jack.
“Denise, you are supposed to serve the food, not wear it. This will come out of your wages.”
“Oh Glenda lighten up!” Jack could barely conceal a smile. “What is going on young lady? It seems loud.”
“Ma’am, Sir the residents are fighting with the food!”
Glenda grabbed Jack and pulled him past the stunned Denise. “Oooh, we’ll see about this outrage!”
Glenda flung open the dining room door. “What is this madness?”
“Have some pie, doll,” one of the vets known as Philadelphia Harry said with a smile. The chocolate crème pie hit her and another pie hit Jack Rubin.
“Key Lime, my favorite! He licked some of the pie off and immediately got in the spirit and threw the rest back. He looked over at Glenda who called 911 and was gasping into the phone. “Oh Glenda, give it up.
“You need to eat,” someone said and shoved cranberry sauce in Glenda’s face cutting off the 911 call.
Jack Rubin turned to Philadelphia Harry who had another rhubarb pie. “May I?”
“You bet pal.”
Jack grabbed the pie and walked up to Professor Zemansky. “The nutritionist tells me you need iron and some humor.” Jack shoved the pie in the professors’ face.
Glenda recovered for now. “My dress my dream date, all ruined!”
“”No, it isn’t. This is now our date and we have just begun to fight!
Sandra Wilson Mesa Verde blogger and photographer.
Sandra always followed the police scanner. My goodness, a fight at Cottonwood? This I have to see.
Chief Morris and Sonia walked in the door to be greeted by pies on their uniforms. Right behind them was Sandra taking photographs. She was happily snapping away when Glenda noticed her. “Put that camera away! Don’t you DARE put anything about this unfortunate incident on your disgusting Internet scandal sheet!”
Glenda tried to run toward Sandra, but with all the mess on the floor and her fancy high heels she slid across the dining room floor.
“Safe!” Black Jack threw his arms out like an umpire giving the signal.
The only problem was with his left arm, he hit Professor Zemansky in the gut. The professor for once was speechless. He exhaled hard and dropped to the floor.
Chief Morris stopped laughing. It was time to crash this party.
“Folks we hate to break up the party but we are. Take your seats please.”
Everyone sat down, the Chief stood behind Professor Zemansky, and Sonia helped Glenda up.
“For now, we ask the questions. Who started the fight?”
“Professor Zemansky pointed his long bony right index finger at Black Jack. “The baby killer and his baby killer friends!”
Chief Morris and Sonia exchanged knowing glances. “So that’s where the baby killer reference came from but Chief, how does he know he is a baby killer?”
“Folks, my patrol officer and I need to talk please be patient.”
“Chief Morris pulled Sonia over to the side. “The accuser protested against the Vietnam War, the accused, like me served in the war.
“Why baby killer?”
We were accused of murdering non combatants.”
“That’s a terrible thing to accuse someone of without proof.”
“Sadly enough on rare occasions those accusations were true. None of this has any bearing but now you know. Let’s go back and sort this literal mess out.” He chuckled at his own joke as they walked back to the middle of the room.”
“Plotting to plant false evidence and beat people,” Professor Zemansky snarled.
“There will be no setup, sir.”
“Amazing, the enemy of the people restrained, the white boss man and his Chicana running lackey dog!”
“Put the mace away, Martinez. There may yet be time for that.”
“There is nothing about the oppression of the state on the people!”
“I shall paraphrase John Paul Jones, I have not begun to oppress.”
That brought laughter from all except Professor Zemansky and Glenda who were still glowering.
Chief Morris pointed to Black Jack. “Jack is this true? Did you throw the first punch, I mean pie?”
Black Jack smiled. “Yes, I did. The professor picks on us vets every day. He and his friends. We are refighting the Vietnam War here every day.”
“Where did the pies come from?”
“My grandson and his friends on the Mesa Verde baseball team. It was their idea. We could hit people but in a fun away.”
Chief Morris smiled. “It looked like fun, but someone could have been hurt.”
“I was hurt!”
“Glenda, do you need me to call paramedics?”
“The only thing hurt is her pride.”
Chief Morris looked over at Jack Rubin. “Sir you are a pretty high level visitor for Mesa Verde.”
“I am taking Glenda, Ms. Walker out, or was. I must add though, the food fight was fun and a great emotional release. I also have a confession to make. I bought the pies.”
“Why Mr. Rubin?”
“Those boys have helped me with Habitat for Humanity projects. Pete talks about his grandfather. I heard about the tension and it was Pete’s idea, but I liked the idea of breaking the tension. The boys told me about how tense it was between the former vets and protesters.”
“So, that’s why you wanted to meet me here! You knew all along!”
“That’s right Glenda. I like you, but you need to learn some humility Don’t worry, I will pay for the cleanup and for other activities and a carnival. I enjoyed myself.”
Chief Morris smiled. “Mr. Rubin, that is very generous of you.”
“Call me Jack. I can be White Jack as opposed to Black Jack.”
Chief Morris looked at all assembled. “Does anyone seriously want to press charges? Silence is golden. Hearing none, I bid you all a good night.
The janitorial staff was called to clean up the mess. The residents returned to their apartments, laughter was heard except for the Professor and Glenda. Order was restored to Cottonwood and Mesa Verde.
Chief Morris and Sonia went out to their respective patrol cars. “See, police work is about understanding people. You don’t win friends and influence people by charging in, you can also get hurt.”
“Yes, and you are right Chief. Ms. Walker would have been displeased.
They rode off into the peaceful rural Arizona night.