November 09, 2008

Song and dance deputy

  Gene is fresh off the dispatcher's desk when the sheriff assigns him to ride with Heath, a veteran of the road patrol. Their first call puts them in the front yard at a farm house talking to a woman whose husband has just left home after a bad argument.

  "He took his gun and said he was going to shoot hisself," the woman says.

  Heath is driving as Gene, the rookie, puts the report on the radio, saying the man "threatened suicide."

  Town police are quick to respond. "Not to worry," they say, "we just this minute put him in jail for drunk driving."

  Heath makes a quick U-turn. "His old lady will be glad to know he's all right," he says. As the patrol car pulls into the yard, the woman runs out onto the porch. She's already hysterical. "He's dead, ain't he? I know he's dead!"

  Heath tries to explain what happened, but the woman won't be quiet. Again and again Heath tries to explain that her husband is safe and in jail, but the woman is absolutely certain the deputies are there for a "death notification." She will not be quiet.

  Frustrated, young Gene backs up, and with his broad brimmed hat in one hand and his police baton in the other, he breaks into his version of an old-time song-and-dance man's routine, singing:

  "Your husband Don is dead,

  he took a gun and off-ed his head,

  now he's stretched out on the road,

  lying dead as a toad,

  ta da, ta da, ta da, ta dum.........."

  The woman is stunned into silence, staring at the two deputies with her mouth wide open.

  Deputy Heath returns to the car, then turns and says, "He was just kidding, lady. Your old man is fine. Town cops got him in jail for drunk driving. You can bail him out in a couple hours."

  The next day the sheriff calls the two deputies into his office, saying he got a complaint about a "singing death notice."

  "Why would anybody do a thing like that?" Heath says. "He's not dead! She must be as nutty as her old man."

  "Undoubtedly," the sheriff says, shaking his head. "You boys get back out on the road — and be careful — lots of crazies out there."

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