The little stories are the ones I remember the longest.
May 5, 2015
I NEVER KNEW what would happen, when it would happen, where it would happen, or if it would happen at all.
But if it did, I wanted to be there.
Nothing else mattered.
It still doesn’t.
I simply wander through life, going here and there, mostly there, wondering when the next story will cross my path.
I’m sure I miss a lot of good ones.
I just appreciate the ones I find.
And the little stories are the ones I remember most.
It was late at night on a Saturday.
I was working the police beat down at the cop shop when the call came in.
A woman was on the phone.
She sounded old, the dispatcher said.
She sounded frightened.
Her husband was mad.
He had hit her.
He had never hit her before.
The patrolman shuddered.
He hated domestic disturbance calls.
Family feuds were the worst of all.
Here is what usually happened.
Two people were fighting each other.
Police show up.
They both jump on the police.
I followed the police car out to a quiet, little, old-fashioned neighborhood.
I usually went along on a domestic disturbance problem.
It could spiral out of control in a hurry.
Sometimes shots were involved.
When they were, I had a front-page by-line.
We police reporters were always glad to duck a bullet or two for a front-page by-line in the newspaper.
We pulled to a stop in front of a pretty little cottage. It had a front-porch swing and white picket fence.
It could have been the cover of Better Homes and Gardens even in the moonlight.
A little lady answered the door.
She was trembling.
She was eighty-two, she said.
She had a bruise under her right eye.
It wasn’t bad.
It wasn’t even black.
Her husband was slouching on a sofa in the corner.
He looked older.
He was barefoot.
His eyes were downcast and staring at the floor.
“You shouldn’t have come,” the lady said.
“It’s over now.”
“What happened?” the sergeant wanted to know.
“He got mad. I got scared. That’s all,” she said.
“What caused the trouble?”
“It was my fault,” the husband said softly.
“She spends too much time on the phone,” he said.
“She keeps calling the next door neighbor.”
The pause was longer.
“He’s a man.”
The police didn’t say a word.
“He’s just a lonely old man,” the lady said.
“So am I,” her husband said.
She walked toward the far wall in the living room.
“He doesn’t have any reason to be jealous,” she said. “We’ve been married for fifty-eight years.”
“Fifty-eight good years,” he said.
He stood and walked to her side.
“I don’t want to lose her,” he said.
“You can’t do that,” she said. “We have a marriage license.”
She pointed to a gold frame on the wall.
“We didn’t just start living together like the young folks do today,” he said. “I went down and bought us a marriage license.”
She wrapped an arm around him.
She pointed proudly to the frame.
I looked close.
Behind the glass was a marriage license all right.
It had her name.
And his name.
No one – preacher, judge, or justice of the peace –had ever signed it.
It didn’t matter.
The license must have been valid.
It had lasted for a long time.
Caleb Pirtle III is the author of Little Lies.