| |

Dying for a Bad Man

Drooping spray of pink double roses, probably ...
Image via Wikipedia

“OK, Grandpa, why the h … heck are we here again?” The words were polite enough as the 17-year-old addressed his grandfather. The tone wasn’t.

“Because you enjoy driving other people around in your car, and I’m paying for your gas.” The grandfather’s words were equally sharp and direct. It was how their relationship worked, much to the embarrassment of the boy’s parents.

“OK, first point goes to you. But you know what I mean. I’d take you anywhere in the city and you know it. You could be looking out over the ocean. You could be in the park with green grass and trees. But you’re here in this run-down alley, messing around with those–what are they?–wanna-be roses?”

“I am.”

“But why?”

“I like it here. I feel peace here. I feel life here.”

“But why?”

“What’s gotten into you today? You’d usually be in your car with the stereo turned up. Why do you care?”

“It just seems strange. Every month or so you have me bring you here and you tend those roses. Why nobody has just dug them up, I don’t know. It’s just weird.”

“You see that cross there, painted on the wall?”


“What does it say?”

“It says some dude died here, 40 years ago.”

“Thanks for the translation. Frank Baczkowski was my partner. He died right there.” He pointed to the middle of the alley.

“You’re coming to the place where your partner died? Forty years ago?”


“You feel peace?”




“Grandpa, we need to get you checked out. You’re going senile.”

He chuckled. “There are worse things than dying.”

“So he was a cop, right? Was he shot?”

“Yes. He stepped out into the path of a bullet …”


“… to stop one man from shooting another.”

“Oh. Was that you?”

“No. I was right over there.” He pointed further down the alley. “There were some garbage cans between me and the shooter.”

“But this Frank whatever dude, he saved someone’s life.”

“Yes.” The old man went on tending the rose bushes.

“Was it someone important?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Was he a good person?”



“He ended up spending the rest of his life in jail.”

“Sounds awful. I wouldn’t want to be here.”


“OK. I can tell you’re in a mood. When you’re happy, you’re sarcastic. When you’re pissed at me, you go all quiet.”

“Do you really want to know what happened?”

“Yes. Yes, I think I do.”

“It’s fairly simple. Frank and I were partners.  We were in the alley checking something out. I don’t even remember what it was. There was junk and garbage cans all over the place. Suddenly a man jumps out further down the alley and starts running, and another just appears in that end and starts shooting at him. Frank says to me, ‘I’ll distract him, you shoot him.’ I say ‘OK.’ So how does Frank distract him? He steps into the middle of the alley and he stops the next bullet. He yelled at the shooter, I assume to identify himself as a cop and to tell him to stop, but the bullet hit him before he got very far. Then I shot the bad guy. It turned out later they were rival criminals having a dispute.”

He paused for a few moments. “There was a lot of debate about what Frank did. Some said he shouldn’t have given his life for such scum. Some said he couldn’t have known. Others said he should have found a way to stop the shooting without dying as he did it. I don’t know. There were only a few seconds. It happened. Frank was dead.”

“But why do you find peace here?”

“Because for all the reasons that shooting was a bad idea, it was pure Frank. He wouldn’t have cared whose life he saved. He wouldn’t have cared about the debates over how he did it. I know exactly what he would have said. He’d say, ‘It was the only way to be sure.'”

“But at least you killed the bad guy.”

“No, actually, I didn’t.”

“You missed?”

“I shot him, but he survived.”

“What happened to him?”

“Oh, he was executed for the murder.”

“OK, but I still don’t see why you like this place.”

“Frank and I had been going down hill. We were both drinking heavily, and I was neglecting my family. Your dad will remember those times. I was always at work, but sometimes when I was ‘at work’ I was at the bar. After what Frank did, I decided I’d been given a new chance at life, and I took it.”

“But you never were rich. You never had it easy. Dad says he made all the money.”

“He’s right. I stayed a cop until I retired. It wasn’t easy. Your grandmother worried every day about whether I’d come home. But I had an example to follow. Things got better.”

“It still seems a waste. Things should be easier.”

“I know you feel that way. You’ve gotten everything free. You don’t understand what it means to work hard for something to go through despair, and then come out alive on the other side. I do. Your father does. You don’t. It’s like when Jesus died. The disciples went through despair, they had to wait, but when Easter Sunday morning came, there was a new power, something they wouldn’t have had if they didn’t go through the dark times.”

“I like it easy! And besides, I don’t go to church.”

“But consider this one thing,” said the old man, as he finished with the rose bushes, then watched as the afternoon sun reached them. It was the one place in the alley that got enough, almost enough, sunlight. “Which of us is happier?”

(This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of the events and persons to those in the real world is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2011 Henry E. Neufeld.)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *