Frog Phelan he came on the job when Truman was President. I’m like twenty-one, twenty-two and we get a call. Lafayette Houses, there’s a kid screaming in an apartment, door’s locked. The elevator’s broke so Frog sends me up alone, he ain’t gonna jog up six stories, he’s blotto anyhow. I get up there, Housing’s just popped the lock. We go in, there’s a three-year-old kid handcuffed to a burning hot radiator, nobody else in the house. The handcuff’s metal, right? Metal conducts heat? I don’t know how long the kid was hooked up like that, but he had a ring of cooked flesh around his wrist, OK?

We call the ambulance, cut the cuff, they take the kid to Christ the King. Housing leaves, but I just stay in the room by the radiator. Sit there on the windowsill. Sitting there forty fucking minutes, and finally in comes the mother. That’s forty more minutes the kid would have cooked if we didn’t get in, OK? She walks in, she’s fuckin’ got them half-mast heroin eyes, right? Went out to cop? She walks in, no kid there. She looks at me. I look at her. There’s like this moment, you know? All of a sudden she tears ass. I chase that fucking bitch down six flights of stairs. She makes it into the lobby, runs right into Phelan, he grabs her but here I’m coming like the avenging angel, ninety miles an hour. Frog throws his shoulder into me. Boom, I go right into the mailboxes. I’m looking at him like, What the fuck? He takes her out, gives her over to another cruiser, they take her in. He comes, gets me. We’re sitting in the car, he says to me, “Rocco, that lady you were gonna brain? Twenty years ago when she was a little girl I arrested her father for beating her baby brother to death. The father was a real piece of shit. Now that she’s all grown up? She’s a real piece of shit. That kid you saved tonight. If he lives that long, if he grows up? He’s gonna be a real piece of shit. Rocco,” Frog says to me, “It’s the cycle of shit and you can’t do nothing about it. So take it easy and just do your job.

Richard Price, Clockers, p.96


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