Early Ro (nine): Year 10 – “Be a cop”

This post recalls when Ro was in fifth grade, just a few months before her eleventh birthday, and first announced she wanted to become a cop when she grew up. Readers might recognize it as a verbatim excerpt from Chapter Two of “Ro’s Handle.” I am including it here to place the story in its proper historical context with the other prophetic incidents from Ro’s tenth year. In this scene Ro is in her apartment’s bedroom about to dress for the first time in her new Fort Armstrong County deputy sheriff’s uniform, but is recalling what happened in Mr. Singer’s fifth grade language arts class a little over ten years ago:

The class was about to read Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn,” and Mr. Singer was introducing to the class the concept of symbols in literature. As examples, he showed overheads of the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of opportunity to millions of immigrants, and of a cross, a Star of David, and a crescent and star as symbols for three of the world’s major religions.

Then he’d asked the class if they could think of any other kinds of everyday symbols.

After a few seconds of silence, somebody tentatively mumbled, “A stop sign?”

“Yes,” Mr. Singer had said with enthusiasm, hoping to encourage more responses. “That’s definitely a symbol for traffic laws. But you’re missing a really big one right here in this room.” After another few seconds of silence, he added, “I’ll give you a hint: It’s known around the world as a symbol of freedom.”

“The flag!” came several overlapping responses, everyone glancing up at the American flag hanging from a short pole in a back corner of the classroom.

“Right!” he affirmed. “But come on, I’ve given you some easy ones. There are lots more if you just use your imaginations a little.”

After another short silence, Ro raised her hand and Mr. Singer nodded, “Ro?”

“A police car,” she’d said. She was picturing in her mind the black and white Lee’s Landing squad cars she frequently saw around town.

“Cops! All they do is hassle people,” someone muttered sarcastically from the back of the room. There were several snickers of agreement.

“No, no…,” Mr. Singer said, gesturing with his hand to quell any further snarky remarks. “Why do you say that, Ro?”

“Whenever I see a police car it makes me feel better, like someone’s there to…to….” She frowned, struggling for the right words. “To be there when there’s trouble…like stopping bad people, or helping in a disaster.”

Mr. Singer looked at her for a second or two and just nodded, like he understood completely but didn’t have to say it.

And then, without ever having consciously thought about it before, Ro straightened up in her chair, squared her shoulders, and added with a self-assurance that surprised even her, “I’m going to be a cop someday.”

And over the ten years since then she had never once strayed from that aspiration.

(C) 2017 Dave Lager