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12

Twelve Days, Twelve Nights

 

The drops of water hit him like bombs of cold. Shivering, he consummates his shower precisely at the five-minute mark. He grasps his towel, wiping the contours of his face with a certain degree of finesse, savoring the reality he has known for so long, and will never know again. They are sure to come for him, and perhaps his battle is at an end. To have lost fighting for the cause he believes in is a triumph in itself.

 

 

Hell, no, we won't go!” one man cries. 

“Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?!” shouts another.

The calls do not cease, even as the police begin to fire. The protesters do not surrender; their principles are impervious to the rubber bullets. In other parts, both factions hold their ground, not even slightly discouraged by the deathly silent cold air.

A company of protesters guards the draft board. The police, with orders to secure the area, are unsure of their course of action. A man leaves the protesters’ ranks and strolls into the foreground. The police halt their fire.

“Greetings, officer. Can I help you?” he asks, with an undeniable nonchalance about the whole affair. His chiseled cheekbones are as sharp as his penetrating glare. The wind pushes his chestnut locks behind his shoulders, and even with his short stature and flared pants it seems that commandeering respect is a simple task for him.

“You’re going to have to leave the premises...” the police lieutenant begins. He is young, presumably under the age of thirty-five. The protester can only feel pity for the bullish thing in front of him. Well-built with broad shoulders, the officer’s uncertainty makes for a comical sight. A clean-shaven face and freshly pressed white shirt are as unmarked as is his experience.

“Well, that’s going to be a problem.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t take orders from women.”

The police lieutenant, fuming, orders his men to move in. The apparent chief of the protesters motions to retreat, but he and those most committed to the outcry do not leave. Only a few men remain in the bitter cold, their dark trench coats the blemishes in the pristine snow.

“I hope you’ll be the last ones leaving,” the lieutenant says.

The counter: “Don’t mistake a last stand for that which it ain’t.”

The end of the confrontation sees all the remaining protesters arrested and thrown behind bars for, as the judge in his dreary Southern drawl says it: “Twelve days and twelve nights.”

            Despite the overwhelming stench of the cells, the dissenters are not in low moods; no, they are not! Their heads are held high, for every night served is a medal, every wound an honour.

            The lieutenant removes his adversary from his cell, and takes him to the station registrar.

            “Name?” inquires the registrar with a tiredness in his voice.

            “Morrison McGovern.”

            The registrar yawns, exits the room and returns with a cup of coffee, which will presumably join the eleven others on his desk.

            “Age?”

            “Listen, asshole. I don’t have time for this, so cut the crap will you?”

            The registrar’s eyes shoot to his book.

            “Age?”

            “Forty-two.”

            “Place of residence?”

            “53 Christopher Street.”

            “Next to Stonewall Inn? Greenwich Village?”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Relations?”

            “None.”

            And so on and so forth, until the registrar is satisfied. Morrison, with a parched throat, asks for a glass of water. The lieutenant returns with a cup, and lowers his towering figure to the ground. Morrison’s eyes dart to the cup, wondering what it is that the lieutenant is doing. That is when the lieutenant surges forward, crushing the plastic cup as he does. Morrison is sprayed with the water, and as if in spite of this humiliation, he says, “That the most you can lift?”

The officer’s face burns to a bright red; his comrades stare, and promptly burst into laughter. In the heat of the moment, the lieutenant loses his composure, and punches Morrison squarely in the nose. Blood ripples across his face.

Morrison looks at the blood as it trickles down his shirt. He recedes quietly to his cell, and though he has made up his mind to deny any care, none is offered.

 

 

At first, the days go by with relative ease, for this is an experience Morrison is well accustomed to. A dull pain still emanates from his nose, but in time it fades.

The same cannot be said of the lieutenant’s bitterness. On the last night, Morrison wakes up with water dripping from his hair. His ankles are tied, and his head aches. He is hanging by his feet from the ceiling. 

He is plunged into a barrel of frigid water. He does his best to raise his head, but he is forced further into the water. At last, he is pulled out.

“And how’d you find that?”

Morrison hesitates.

An officer strides up and slams him in the gut.

“Answer the lieutenant!”

Morrison murmurs incomprehensibly.

“Screw it. Send him back to his cell.”

The next morning, Morrison is released. His clothes are returned, and a signature later Morrison leaves the station as though nothing had happened at all. Unsure of what he is to do with his newfound freedom, he decides to indulge himself.

 

 

The bar has a distinct smell to it. It is some combination of alcohol’s aromas and oak’s woodiness. The place had once been splendid; Morrison recalls marble walls, gleaming white pillars with touches of gold, and carnations flowing from ornate vases. Somehow the bar had slipped into oblivion, and was now a favourite rendezvous point of his. The owner is Morrison’s friend, of course.

Men of all walks of life are dispersed throughout the hall. The pathetic beginnings of a beard have formed on Morrison’s face, but the self-confidence he exudes earns only approving looks. He’s settled down in a corner with another man, and the two are engaged in a hushed conversation.

It is at this time that the wooden doors fall. Uniformed men march in, enveloped by white light. The main body is five men abreast, three deep. They stand behind their commanding officer. He is young, presumably under the age of thirty-five. Well-built with broad shoulders, his uncertainty makes for a comical sight.

The officer’s eyes scan the frightened crowd. They stop briefly as they pass over a dimly lit corner, long enough to betray the officer’s intentions. The officer inevitably orders his men forward. The police strain to contain the seething mass of humanity ensnared in the bar. In the ensuing chaos, Morrison slips out through a rear exit, a gateway only he is aware of.  

He trudges in the snow, wrapping himself in his overcoat. He knows these parts well, and he passes through many an avenue and alley to make his way home.

 

 

After bathing solemnly as though he partook in a ritual before death, Morrison paces nervously back and forth across the room. The police know, he thinks. It is only a matter of time until everyone knows. The Bible forbids it, they’ll say. The lieutenant will proudly proclaim that the movement was led by a...he can no longer entertain the thought.

He knows that the lieutenant will find him. There was a flaming fury in his eyes, one that Morrison has never encountered. Morrison begins to inhale deeply; his vision is somehow monochromatic. He steadies himself, and lies on the floor. The cold tiling does little to slow his sweating.

Someone is knocking the door. Now, he’s banging at it. Morrison can feel his heartbeat rapidly accelerating. He hears the door come crashing down. He sees a figure racing towards him. His eyes start to close. There is a blinding white, followed by darkness.

 

 

Morrison painfully pries his eyelids apart. He is unsure if he’s come to God’s abode. The bed he is in, the window overlooking the city, and the light dancing on the steel utensils say otherwise. The police lieutenant enters the room, and Morrison feels an electric shock of fear pass through him.

“Didn’t fancy seeing you here,” Morrison manages.

The officer replies, “You owe me.”

“What happened to me?”

“Not quite sure. I brought you here.”

Morrison is astounded.

“You’ll bring me to ‘justice’ too, won’t you?”

“Well, surprisingly enough, I won’t.”

“What?”

“I, too, am like you. You’re a good man.”’

            “That’s it?”

            The officer starts to leave, but just before exiting, he stops momentarily. “I hope it isn’t.”

State
Ontario