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Chester Himes

The meanest cop in the World

How he got there, and how long he had been there, Jack didn't know: but there he was, sitting on the steps of the Administration building. He had some books under his arm and a little red cap perched on the back of his head, and he knew that he would not have suffered these ignominies had he not been a freshman.

A couple of girls hove into view from the direction of the Chemistry Building and attracted Jack's attention. They were pretty girls and Jack uncurled his long, slim frame and bowed to them with his cap in his hand and his dark hair glinting in the sunshine. There was a touch of hesitancy in his actions, a hint of shyness in the corners of his infectious grin, that counteracted the offense of his boldness.

The girl on the inside, a brunette with a tinge of gold in the bronze of her skin and nice curves beneath her simple little dress, nodded to Jack and smiled a dimpled, wide-mouthed smile. She found something strangely appealing about Jack's incongruous mixture of shyness and boldness. And then she looked into Jack's eyes and knew with the subtle intuition of a woman's heart that Jack was only lonely.

Jack's heart did a little flip-flop and his eyes sparkled with delight as his mind registered the warmness of her smile. For a moment he seemed enraptured, and all by a mere smile from a common co-ed, That seemed very peculiar, for a young man as handsome as Jack should have known and been admired by many pretty girls.

The girl felt well repaid for her nod and little smile: and little wonder, for the heart of any girl would have been warmed by the patent delight in Jack's brown eyes.

The next day at the same time Jack met the girl again as she came out of the Chemistry Building. It was a little after noon and he screwed up his courage and asked her to lunch with him. She accepted, as he should have known that she would, but he hadn't?he was that dumb in the ways of modern maids. He took her to one of those cosy, intimate little cafes which seniors and part-time instructors usually avoid.

She smiled across the table at him and told him that her name was Violet: and she ate a dollar and sixty cents' worth of tit-bits. And Jack then understood why under paid instructors and economic seniors avoided such nice little cafes. He couldn't eat a thing himself after he had looked into her eyes and felt the glow of her smile: and he felt emptier still when the waiter presented him the bill.

But he smiled and paid it like more money was the least of his worries. He and Violet left the cafe and sauntered down the lazy, tree-shaded college lane, and the first thing they knew, they were holding hands in the darkened mezzanine of the University Circle Theatre. The picture was Southern romance, and the warm intimate darkness of the interior seemed to draw them together. They stole a precious, fleeting kiss in the darkness that marked the end of the feature picture, and a subtle understanding was created between them.

When they left the theatre the gentle gray of twilight had descended upon the land leaving a faint touch of rose in the Western sky. Jack knew that he had lost his job in the bookstore where he worked as a clerk in the afternoons, but he didn't care. He was drunk, they were both drunk, with youth and understanding and the mellow wine of first love. They walked the streets 'til late that night: and he whispered in her ear those things that lovers have whispered since time immemorial: and they looked at the moon and dreamed: and she stored way in that deep fastness of her woman's heart his stammered love words?so meaningless, so worthless to the rest of the world?but to her, they were priceless.

Jack awoke the next morning to a world of realities, and things such as money and jobs once more attained their right importance. He realized that he was very poor and that a job was vital to the continuance of his education; and what was more important than that, the continuation of his relationship with Violet. But jobs were very scarce that year, even such jobs as clerking in bookstores.

But he continued to take Violet to lunch, even though he owed two weeks' room rent and hadn't been able to find any kind of employment. Violet loved him, he loved her: and what else under the sun mattered to them except their love? But he was to learn that food mattered, for he had spent his scant savings treating and entertaining Violet, and now only the Lord knew where his next meal was coming from.

And then, to top it off, Violet invited him to a formal dance given by the pledges of her sorority. Jack didn't have any money, and he didn't have a tuxedo, and he didn't see how he could possibly make it?until his eyes lighted upon his portable typewriter, his one outstanding asset.

So he took his typewriter to a pawnshop and returned with a rented tuxedo, rented dance pumps, rented silk topper and cane?all slightly the worse for wear?and ninety cents in his pocket which he had wrangled from Abie, the pawnbroker, by virtually out-talking him. He bought a pint of gin and a package of mints with the ninety cents and swaggered down to the sorority house like a millionaire playboy on an afternoon stroll.

He and Violet had a swell time that night?he ceased to think of his predicament: and what did she have to think of, other than him, when she was in his arms? They had such a grand and noisy time of it that the other Kappa girls, or Omega girls, or whatever girls they were, began to take notice of the handsome freshman that Violet had in tow.

It was late when Jack got back to his room in a somewhat dilapidated rooming house over back of the stadium: and Jack was pretty drunk and not nearly so quiet about it as he should have been, knowing that he owed two weeks' room rent. The landlady, a devout church sister of Amazonian proportions, awoke from pleasant dreams of the coming of Gabriel the third time that Jack yelled: 'Who-o-o-p-e-ee!' She promptly stalked out into the hall with her faded pink kimono drawn closely about her ample body and asked Jack for his room right then, that very minute.

If Jack showed a slight reluctance at granting her rather abrupt request, you can't much blame him, for he didn't have a place in the whole wide world to go. But still, you can't blame the landlady much either for tossing Jack out on the posterior end of his anatomy, for Jack's yelling was annoying, to say the least, and doubly so in light of the fact that he owed two weeks' back rent.

Jack got up from his semi-reclining position in the street and dusted his rented tuxedo with the palms of his hands, then he stumbled drunkenly down the street, his silk topper slanted on the back of his head, the collar of his rented tuxedo pulled up about his neck, and a maudlin grin upon his face. He didn't have a place in the world to go, and that's exactly where he went.

It was six weeks later, a few minutes before the beginning of the season's last football game, that Jack showed up again. He was all togged out in a well-fitting worsted with a camel's hair topcoat tossed across his shoulders, and he felt like the million dollars he looked, even if he did have only a dollar and ten cents to his name after he had bought a nine dollar and ninety cents box-seat ticket.

When he got to his seat he found that there were strangers all about him and even the game wasn't very interesting for the first three quarters. The ball was mostly in the air, one put after another?both teams were cautious, using a few power plays of simple variety and putting on the third down if they had more than three yards to go.

Jack drowsed a little, and then suddenly he sat up straight, as the half back of the opposing team got loose on an off-tackle play and was romping through the open field like a leaf in the wind. Jack stood up, one hand extended: his voice stuck in his throat as he tried to yell. But the safety man got the runner just a scant two yards before it was too late, and Jack sighed with relief and relaxed into his seat. But the ball was on his home team's two yard line and it was first down, two yards to go for a touch down and victory.

There was a tense moment of play, a power drive straight through center against a stonewall defense. A foot was gained and a player was hurt. The referee blew time out, the doctor scampered across the field with his bag to administer first aid. Finally the player got to his feet and limped to the sidelines with his arms about the shoulders of two of his teammates.

Down at the end of the stadium in the bleachers the whole section was cheering the hurt player at the tops of their voices, but the spectators about Jack were glum and silent. Jack looked about him with cool eyes and he noticed that the people in his section were downtown business people who had paid their ten bucks to see a winning team and not a hurt tackle. That made Jack angry. He jumped to his feet and yelled:

'Cheer, you lousy slobs, cheer! This ain't no horse race, this is college football!' And then he gave an Indian

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