The Short Humour Site

Home : Writers' Showcase : Submission Guidelines : A Man of a Few More Words : Links

Writers' Showcase

Murphy's Beat
by Marvin Pinkis

The scene played like an Edward Hopper painting - the one called "Nighthawks." The setting was an all-night coffee shop, just three customers, sitting stools apart from each other at the long counter, the counterman in white cap and apron, pouring coffee and solving the world's problems with the patrons. You could tell it was a dated painting. Some of them were smoking. Must have been before they enforced the smoking ban in art. Some illicit art was still produced showing smokers but those were destined to be exhibited in after-hour or subterranean smoking sections of certain galleries or museums. But who knows how long even that would last.

Well, as desolate as the Hopper depiction was, it was worse outside where it rained buckets. Even in the gloom, a man huddled in the shop doorway could be made out, trying to light a cigarette from soggy matches. There, he got it. His face was faintly illumined. Sharp features, up close a distinct jagged scar on his right cheek, raincoat collar turned up, hat slouched down on his forehead, a desperate air. It was nobody we knew.

Officer ("I never forget a face, even in dim light") Murphy, nightstick swinging, sauntered around the corner. Even with his oilskin slicker, the relentless rain and biting chill of the November night pierced through to his aching bones.

The man in the doorway spotted Murphy. The man, even after more than twenty years on the bum or in the hoosegow, recognized Murphy from long before. In that same neighborhood the man had swiped a head of lettuce from the old green grocer and had run smack into Murphy, then a rookie cop who had been on the same beat since.

Murphy had a unique method of apprehending the bad guys and had no necessity to be armed. Instead, he resorted to ear-splitting, terribly shrill, imitations of birds, notably owls. His reputation was widely known. Many a felon had been stopped in his tracks, totally incapable of enduring another blast.

The doorway lurker knew Murphy would question him and not hear credible answers for certain questions. The lurker, launched into his larcenous life with the lifting of the lettuce, made a break for it. Murphy, even with failing vision in the night gloom, saw him and shouted, "Halt, halt or I'll hoot."