women. writers.

Creative Non-Fiction: Business as Usual by Jillian Shepard

She gets up at 0530, business as usual. She brushes her teeth, washes her face and puts her hair in a tight bun on top of her head. After the sports bra, T-shirt and shorts, she adds Kevlar, cargo polyester pants, and a polyester collared shirt. She then adds wool socks before pulling on her duty boots, making sure they're zipped up and tied tight. She grabs her belt and secures it in place. Her keys rattle, belt buckle snaps, and radio springs to life with the turn of a switch. She's preparing for the day. She has no idea what today has in store for her, so she kisses her husband goodbye, tells him she loves him, and walks out the door, business as usual.

She hears her number and her heart starts racing. Where is she going? What will be waiting for her? Who will be depending on her? When she arrives, the pitter-patter of little feet comes storming out of the front door on a run-down old house. They run to her crying, dirty and scared. They wrap their arms around her and tell her mommy is hurt because a man hit mommy and she won't get up. They tell her to save mommy. They tell her not to take them away because they left the house without permission. They hold onto her legs so tight. They're shaking. They keep saying "Mommy didn't listen. He was hungry, but mommy was making our favorite dinner." She looks closer and one of them has burn marks on her arm and dried macaroni and cheese in her hair. She stays with them until she's told to leave them. They cry and reach for her as they're pried from her legs. She tells them she'll visit. She tells them they will be okay. She doesn't tell them that mommy won't be back, but it's just business as usual.

She works twelve hour shifts, sometimes longer. She works all night long, driving down dark streets and alleys littered with houses. She works all day long, making sure kids get to and from school safely.  She works holidays, weekends, and special occasions. She works in the blistering heat and frigid cold. She works in the pouring rain, sleet, ice, and hail. She misses meals and bathroom breaks. She sees hate, greed, anger, death, happiness, and fear surrounding her everyday.  She becomes a parent, counselor, babysitter, fighter, runner, investigator, enemy, lawyer, doctor, vet, protector, navigator, tour guide, taxi, friend, and enemy every shift. She's a target because of the car she drives, the patch on her arm, and badge on her chest. She knows the next person she meets might want to end her life because she chose to do this. She goes where she's told without hesitation. She's called a whore, a bitch, a racist, a bigot, and a spoiled brat. She's told she's weak and can't protect herself. She's told she shouldn't be doing a man's job. She's told she'll never be good enough. She comes home covered in dirt and sweat, blood and tears. She's told not to be emotional and to remain unaffected by the horrors she experiences. She's told that what she deals with daily is just part of the job, and it's business as usual.

She goes home at the end of her day and wraps her arms around her husband. Sometimes she cries. Sometimes she laughs. Sometimes she just tells him about her day. He sits there and listens to every word, sometimes offering encouraging words of advice. After she's done releasing all the frustrations that've built up throughout the day, she unsnaps her belt, unlaces her boots, takes off the Kevlar and polyester, and pulls her hair from the tight and now messy bun. After she showers, washing the day away, she lays out her clothes for the next day. Then she lays her head down and closes her eyes. As she drifts, she hears the pitter-patter of little feet running towards her and sees arms stretched out for her embrace. All too soon, she wakes up at 0530, business as usual.
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