By Matthew Wallenstein
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Ckris spelled his name with a K not an H. He started doing that when he went to get a vanity plate and CHRIS with an H was taken. So he got a plate made that spelled it with a K. From then on it was Ckris. He grew up in the same town I did but was born 40 years prior.
When I was a teenager our school cop was named Officer Wimpy. The last name provided some pretty obvious jokes. When Chris was a teenager the town had officer D, who was a sort of court jester.
Officer D was short. Officer D, by almost all accounts, was stupid. Officer D had a plump Irish face and thinning hair the color of hay. He was an easy punchline, like the fool from an old film.
There was one story where he was chasing a suspect. He ran down Main Street firing his gun into the air wildly and yelling stop, yelling halt. Between words he wheezed, sweat dripping off his chin, off his nose. He yelled police, he yelled get back here. He punctuated each phrase with shots from his gun until it was empty. The onlookers standing on the crowded street watched the person being chased move further and further as Officer D slowed and slowed. They shouted insults and laughed. He leaned forward, hands on knees, and desperately gulped at the air.
One afternoon around 3 p.m. Ckris was driving his girlfriend home from school. He planned to drive back down to Sears on Main Street where he worked after dropping her off. Not far from the police station he stopped at a red light. A beautiful young lady was walking down the sidewalk to his right.
Ckris looked in the rearview mirror and saw Officer D barreling down the street. He was in his old army jeep but still wearing his police uniform. He had evidently just gotten off of his shift. Officer D had his head turned, watching the young lady swinging her hips down Centre Street. He crashed right into the back of Ckris’ ’56 Pontiac without slowing down. He jumped out of his jeep and ran over to Ckris. He was upset and apologizing.
“I have no idea what happened. Something must have locked up or somethin.’ The brakes, I don’t know. I need to get it checked out. Anyway, sorry.”
“I’m a police officer so there is no need to call the police. I can pay you whatever the damages are. No need to make any phone calls, nothing like that.”
Ckris’ car was rugged and there wasn’t much damage. He mostly just wanted to get out of there and go on with his day.
“Look, I don’t have time to talk, I have things to do. Watch where you’re going, officer,” he said.
With that, Ckris put his car in gear and drove off.
“He lives a building over from me in the same complex,” his girlfriend said. “He is nice enough, I guess, but he is a pretty lousy neighbor.”
One weekend, not long after, Ckris picked his girlfriend up from her house. She lived in the part of town known as the heights. This was before the mall was put up and all those fast food places and vacuum shops and convenience stores. Back then there was just farmland, forest and fields. He knew a good place to park. There was a big open space with woods all around it. He drove in through a gap in the stone wall, turned the car around and backed into a spot near the trees. He was facing the road so he’d be able to see if anyone else drove in.
A few minutes later headlights shone onto his car. They sat up. She began buttoning up her shirt. The other car pulled right up in front of them, the bright lights pointing right on them. A figure got out of the car. By the silhouette it was apparent that it was a policeman. He knocked on Ckris’ window and shined a flashlight into his eyes. Ckris rolled the window down.
“What are you doing here boy?” He moved his flashlight onto the face of Ckris’ girlfriend. “And you. Do your parents know where you are? Do they know you are parked out here with this guy? Doing whatever it is you’re doing?”
He held the light on her face. As he did Ckris’ eyes began to adjust to the dark and the features of the policeman’s face started to form, the plump round cheeks, the Irish nose, all of it.
“Excuse me.” Ckris said.
“Aren’t you the officer who rear-ended me on Centre Street?”
“Oh gosh, ummm. Hey, well, sorry about that.”
He turned right around and waddled quickly back to his car and turned it around and drove back out through the gap in the stone wall. They could hear the police car speeding down the road.
Later on that year Ckris was walking into the Sears warehouse on Main Street. A truck pulled up and stopped at a light not far from him. Painted on the side of the truck were the words plumbing and heating. Officer D, no longer an officer, was driving. He and the law had parted ways. But for the right price you could see his butt crack while he bent over to fix your pipes.