Long Bright River

Long Bright River

Liz Moore

What can be said of the Kensington of to-day, with her long line of business streets, her palatial residences and beautiful homes, that we do not know? A City within a City, nestling upon the bosom of the placid Delaware. Filled to the brim with enterprise, dotted with factories so numerous that the rising smoke obscures the sky. The hum of industry is heard in every corner of its broad expanse. A happy and contented people, enjoying plenty in a land of plenty. Populated by brave men, fair women and a hardy generation of young blood that will take the reins when the fathers have passed away. All hail, Kensington! A credit to the Continent—a crowning glory to the City.

—From Kensington; a City Within a City (1891) Is there confusion in the little isle?

Let what is broken so remain.

The Gods are hard to reconcile:

’Tis hard to settle order once again.

There is confusion worse than death, Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,

Long labour unto aged breath,

Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.

But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly, How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly) With half-dropt eyelid still,

Beneath a heaven dark and holy,

To watch the long bright river drawing slowly His waters from the purple hill— To hear the dewy echoes calling

From cave to cave thro’ the thick-twined vine— To watch the emerald-colour’d water falling Thro’ many a wov’n acanthus-wreath divine!

Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine, Only to hear were sweet, stretch’d out beneath the pine.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from “The Lotos-Eaters”


Sean Geoghehan; Kimberly Gummer; Kimberly Brewer, Kimberly Brewer’s mother and uncle; Britt-Anne Conover; Jeremy Haskill; two of the younger DiPaolantonio boys; Chuck Bierce; Maureen Howard; Kaylee Zanella; Chris Carter and John Marks (one day apart, victims of the same bad batch, someone said); Carlo, whose last name I can never remember; Taylor Bowes’s boyfriend, and then Taylor Bowes a year later; Pete Stockton; the granddaughter of our former neighbors; Hayley Driscoll; Shayna Pietrewski; Dooney Jacobs and his mother; Melissa Gill; Meghan Morrow; Meghan Hanover; Meghan Chisholm; Meghan Greene; Hank Chambliss; Tim and Paul Flores; Robby Symons; Ricky Todd; Brian Aldrich; Mike Ashman; Cheryl Sokol; Sandra Broach; Ken and Chris Lowery; Lisa Morales; Mary Lynch; Mary Bridges and her niece, who was her age, and her friend; Jim; Mikey Hughes’s father and uncle; two great-uncles we rarely see. Our former teacher Mr. Paules. Sergeant Davies in the 23rd. Our cousin Tracy. Our cousin Shannon. Our father. Our mother.


There’s a body on the Gurney Street tracks. Female, age unclear, probable overdose, says the dispatcher.

Kacey, I think. This is a twitch, a reflex, something sharp and subconscious that lives inside me and sends the same message racing to the same base part of my brain every time a female is reported. Then the more rational part of me comes plodding along, lethargic, uninspired, a dutiful dull soldier here to remind me about odds and statistics: nine hundred overdose victims in Kensington last year. Not one of them Kacey. Furthermore, this sentry reproves me, you seem to have forgotten the importance of being a professional. Straighten your shoulders. Smile a little. Keep your face relaxed, your eyebrows unfurrowed, your chin untucked. Do your job.

All day, I’ve been having Lafferty respond to calls for us for further practice. Now, I nod to him, and he clears his throat and wipes his mouth. Nervous.

—2613, he says.

Our vehicle number. Correct.

Dispatch continues. The RP is anonymous. The call came in from a payphone, one of several that still line Kensington Avenue and, as far as I know, the only one of those that still works.

Lafferty looks at me. I look at him. I gesture to him. More. Ask for more.

—Got it, says Lafferty into his radio. Over.

Incorrect. I raise mine to my mouth. I speak clearly.

—Any further information on location? I say.

* * *

    After I end the call, I give Lafferty a few pointers, reminding him not to be afraid to speak plainly to Dispatch—many rookie officers have the habit of speaking in a kind of stilted, masculine manner they have most likely picked up from films or television—and reminding him, too, to extract from Dispatch as many details as he can.

But before I’ve finished speaking, Lafferty says, again, Got it.

I look at him. Excellent, I say. I’m glad.

I’ve only known him an hour, but I’m getting a sense for him. He likes to talk—already I know more about him than he’ll ever know about me—and he’s a pretender. An aspirant. In other words, a phony. Someone so terrified of being called poor, or weak, or stupid, that he won’t even admit to what deficits he does have in those regards. I, on the other hand, am well aware that I’m poor. More so than ever now that Simon’s checks have stopped coming. Am I weak? Probably in some ways: stubborn, maybe, obstinate, mulish, reluctant to accept help even when it would serve me to. Physically afraid, too: not the first officer to throw herself in front of a bullet for a friend, not the first officer to throw herself into traffic in the pursuit of some vanishing perpetrator. Poor: yes. Weak: yes. Stupid: no. I’m not stupid.

I was late to roll call this morning. Again. I am ashamed to admit it was the third time in a month, and I despise being late. A good police officer is punctual if she is nothing else. When I walked into the common area—a drab, bright space, devoid of furniture, adorned only by peeling policy posters on the wall—Sergeant Ahearn was waiting for me, arms crossed.

—Fitzpatrick, he said. Welcome to the party. You’re with Lafferty today in 2613.

—Who’s Lafferty, I said, before I thought better of it. I really didn’t intend to be funny. Szebowski, in the corner, laughed aloud once.

Ahearn said, That’s Lafferty. Pointing.

There he was, Eddie Lafferty, second day in the district. He was busying himself across the room, looking at his blank activity log. He glanced at me quickly and apprehensively. Then he bent down, as if noticing something on his shoes, which were freshly polished, somehow glistening. He pursed his lips. Whistled lowly. At the time, I almost felt sorry for him.

Then he got into the passenger’s seat.

* * *

Facts I have learned about Eddie Lafferty in the first hour of our acquaintance: He is forty-three, which makes him eleven years my senior. A late entrant into the PPD. He worked construction until last year, when he took the test. (My back, says Eddie Lafferty. It still bothers me sometimes. Don’t tell anyone.) He’s just rolled off his field training. He has three ex-wives and three almost-grown children. He has a home in the Poconos. He lifts. (I’m a gym rat, says Eddie Lafferty.) He has GERD. Occasionally, he suffers from constipation. He grew up in South Philadelphia and now lives in Mayfair. He splits Eagles season tickets with six friends. His most recent ex-wife was in her twenties. (Maybe that was the problem, says Lafferty, her being immature.) He golfs. He has two rescued pit mixes named Jimbo and Jennie. He played baseball in high school. One of his teammates then was, in fact, our platoon’s sergeant, Kevin Ahearn, and it was Sergeant Ahearn who suggested he consider police work. (Something about this makes sense to me.) Facts Eddie Lafferty has learned about me in the first hour of our acquaintance: I like pistachio ice cream.

* * *

previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ..71 next