October 22, 2012
"You been away long?," the merchant marine standing next to him at the rail asked.
"Four years," Gleason told him as the merchant marine lit a cigarette.
"Looks like you didn't spend all that time in the Military Police in Japan," the merchant marine said as he looked at the Combat Infantry Badge on the Corporals Ike jacket.
"I came in at the end of the war and got some trigger time in the battle for Okinawa," Gleason said before excusing himself. He needed to go below to pick up his gear, before the ship landed.
Walt Gleason had been overseas for four years. He re-enlisted after the war for three more years and spent that time in Japan, during the occupation. He thought about staying in the Army, but things were getting hot in Korea and he just wanted to go home. He told himself that he was never leaving California again, once he got back.
One month after he came home he was working as a stevedore at the Oakland docks. He wasn't fond of the heavy labor, but the pay was good, especially compared to Army pay.
After a few years on the job, he broke his collarbone one day at work. He met his future wife at the hospital, while he was getting patched up. They dated for several months before he popped the question to her.
It was 1955, and he decided that he needed to find a job that was less physical than working at the docks. He drove over to the Delta and took the entrance test for the Stockton Police Department.
Being an ex-GI and former Military Policeman put him close to the top of the list and he went to work in the patrol division. It didn't take him long to start putting on the pounds. By the time his five-year anniversary came around he was over two hundred and fifty pounds.
He applied for motorcycle duty but the Captain told him no, stating "If I put you on a motor, you'll be eating dough-nuts all day and in no time you will be over three hundred pounds. Puts too much weight on the machine and your uniform doesn't fit properly. You already look like three hundred pounds of steer manure in a two hundred pound sack."
Gleason wasn't going to argue with the Captain. He told himself that if he was going to be nothing more than a harness bull, he was going to retire early on the job as he walked out of the Captain's office.
Both Gleason and his wife liked to drink and they were both hitting the bottle fairly hard by the time Gleason was assigned to the night shift. Being a nurse, it wasn't difficult for his wife to transfer to the night shift either. They didn't want any children, so they had plenty of time to spend together, usually drinking.
He had never been a very good police officer and now he was getting worse. Other officers considered him insufferable and didn't want to work around him. Most of his shift was spent orbiting the district in the patrol car, missing calls and waiting to go home. He was in the habit of getting at least one hour of sleep on duty every night.
Most officers would never consider taking a nap in the patrol car, unless they had a partner that would stay awake. He was able to work alone because no one wanted to work with Gleason, as every officer that knew him considered him to be useless.
He carried a little .25 auto pistol in an empty handcuff case and would place the pistol under his left arm when he got ready for his nap. It never occurred to him that he might shoot himself accidentally one night while the little gun was under his flabby arm and his hand was always on the pistol, but safety was not an issue to him. He needed his naps.
At dinner one night, Gleason and his wife were watching the late news on their day off. The newscaster reported on a Viet Nam war protest in nearby Oakland. The year was 1968 and Gleason told his wife, "I'd like to kill a commie for you, mommy."
She replied, "You are so sweet Walt. Now eat your pork chop."
Two days later, Gleason was heading back to the station after a long night in the field. It was early in the morning as he rounded a corner and spotted a teenage boy spray painting a block wall with orange paint.
Normally he would have figured out a way to avoid the boy, but this little turd had written "STOP THE WAR" in big block letters on the wall. The kid was not a real criminal because he didn't even try to run when the fat cop yelled for him to drop the paint and put his hands on his head.
No one at the station could tell you when Gleason had last made an arrest or written a report. He got out of his car, looked at the boy and said, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
The sixteen year old boy knew better than to try to answer the big brute, so he kept his mouth shut. Gleason said, "Well, we can do this the hard way, or we can do this the easy way."
When he asked the kid, "How do you want to do this?" the kid asked him what was the easy way. Gleason told him to drop his jeans and underwear and stand still.
"Now pick up your pecker and don't move," Gleason told him as he picked up the can of spray paint and began to spray the kid's testicles with the orange paint.
It didn't hurt at first and Gleason figured that the incident had been handled without any paperwork. After he left the station, he went home and fixed a highball while he waited for his wife to come home. She had been held over on her shift for two hours.
When she got home, Mrs. Gleason was extremely mad.
"Guess what, Mr. Harness Bull?" she said as she fixed her highball.
"What?" Gleason wanted to know.
"Your Lieutenant is at the hospital right now taking a statement from a sixteen year old kid with orange painted balls the size of grapefruits."
"Oh, shit," was all Gleason had to say before the phone rang.
Mrs. Gleason could hear every word the Lieutenant was saying from the other side of the room as Gleason took a severe ass chewing over the phone.
Gleason was fired two days after the spray paint incident. The Chief told him that he was getting off lucky. The kid's parents agreed not to pursue a criminal complaint with the City attorney, or to not sue the City if the Chief agreed to terminate Gleason.
Gleason was like a lost child now. He didn't know what to do with himself. There wasn't a police department in California that would hire him after that stunt. He could not sleep at night or in the daytime when his wife was at home.
They had several highballs each. Mrs. Gleason needed to get some sleep before her midnight shift started. Walt tossed and turned as he lay in the bed trying to go to sleep. His wife knew that he never had any problem sleeping in his patrol car parked down by the waterfront and she got an idea.
She opened the bedroom window before going out to their car and starting the engine. She left the engine running and went back into the bedroom to find Walt Gleason sound asleep as the engine purred next to the window.
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Image at top via sxc.hu.
Posted by Benjamin Sobieck at 5:00 AM