A Brady Heights Christmas Story

by Ivan Pickard

12/18/2011

I am sitting on my bed against the second-story back windows of my home. I am reading a book about furniture design when I am startled to hear a woman say, “Put your hands on the ceiling.” I look at my nine-foot ceiling. I am six feet six inches tall, but it would be hard to put my hands on the ceiling. She says it again with urgency.

I jump off my bed and look out the blinds. Behind my house, just north of downtown Tulsa, are eight squad cars blocking off the Tisdale southbound highway. The police have assault rifles and pistols aimed at a driver and two passengers in a car 100 feet away. The woman is on a loudspeaker.

“Driver, put your hands out the window.”

I remember reading in my criminal justice course that women are wonderful assets to police departments. They are superior at talking people off ledges and bargaining in hostage situations. This lady, though very sincere, has a mother’s loving voice that peeks through.

“Driver, open your door using the outside handle.”

I see eight fellow city employees in the cold night. After almost five years of employment with the city, I am supposed to despise the police department. City employees believe the police use their power to secure raises each year while the rest of the departments take cuts to make up for the police budget.

“Driver, come out with your hands on your head and walk backwards to us.”

The driver complies. “Everyone else in the car keep your hands on the ceiling.”

I look over at my wife who lies sleeping on the bed. She is exhausted in her fifth month of pregnancy. She is working full time as a physician assistant. She cares for cancer patients. We have noticed cancer is more aggressive around the Christmas holiday. She is also exhausted because we hosted three parties within the last five days.

“Now, back-seat passenger, open your door from the outside.”

We had 40 neighbors in our home for one of the three parties. We all share a strong love for this area of town.

“Put your hands on your head and walk backwards to us.”

I look over at my wife again and think about our soon-to-be-born baby boy. I almost want to apologize for bringing him into a world of cancer and squad cars in the night. These feelings are mixed with hope that he will care for this city and be a force for good.

“Front seat passenger, keep your hands on the ceiling.”

I am wide awake at 5:30 in the morning thinking how festive the eight police cars look with their Christmas lights aglow.

“Front seat passenger, open your door from the outside.”

I prepare my bicycle for the ride to City Hall. It is the last day of work before the Christmas holiday. I put my facemask on and my windproof jacket, bracing myself for the cold.

“Put your hands on your head and walk backwards to us.”

The girl begins to walk backwards and then turns.

“Walk backwards with your hands on your head, hon.”

I think about the night before. We were cleaning up our china after a party when a woman from the party knocked on our door and told us there were two women who needed help. She looked at me solemnly as if to confess and said, “I am from suburbia and don’t know how to handle situations like this.” The two women were released from jail at 9:30 p.m. wearing only t-shirts. One lady was an old black lady and one was a young white girl. They were both released from jail at the same time.

As we were driving them north, I asked why they were in jail. The old lady blamed many different people while the young woman laughed as if she understood some unknown humor in the situation. The young woman only said, “Things are going to be better now.” We wished them a Merry Christmas as we dropped them off at the house and car they described to us. But they just kept walking right on by the house and car—right on into the freezing cold night. My wife and I looked at each other in disbelief.

After the front-seat passenger is cuffed, four officers rush to the car with stiff arms pointing pistols.

I wish for just a moment that I could be right there with them. I want that adrenaline at this hour of night and that sense of right and wrong, black and white, cops and robbers.

Once the officers determine no one else is in the car, they holster their weapons.

I ride my bicycle past the Tulsa jail on my way to work at six in the morning. It is 28 degrees and so dark I can barely dodge the potholes. I think about the three kids now sleeping in warm beds in their jail cells—maybe dreaming about a better way to spend Christmas.