Homicide, the Wire, and being very gentle

Finally picked up David Simon’s Homicide. The book is a masterwork of journalism and compulsively readable, especially if you’re into The Wire or certainly the television adaptation of similar name. Or if you’re a reporter and non-fiction storyteller searching for strong examples of the work. And, of course, it is a personal delight for me to fish out the Wire references (or, I guess: it is retroactively a delight for me to fish the Homicide references out of The Wire).

There are the locations: Murphy Homes, the Western; there are the names: Landsman, Twigg, Butchie; there is the lingo: red balls, taxpayer. Portions of dialogue or conversations are there, too, with the best so far a clear runaway winner, a discussion at Kavanaugh’s (home to Cole’s wake, among other scenes) between Det. Sgt. Terrence Patrick McLarney and his mentor and former partner Bob McAllister.

I think you’ll recognize it immediately…

In the scene, McLarney is celebrating the closing of a case against a man who shot a police when his old partner McAllister — who has escaped the job and lives in the suburbs — arrives to hoist a drink. It’s gold on the show and plays well on the page, and is an interesting example of small yet significant alterations in writing a scene.

(Please open your books to chapter 3, “Friday, February 12,” page 157 in the copy above.)

******

On this February night, however, when McLarney’s very universe had been righted by a rare, precious victory, when the brotherhood of cops has once again been affirmed in McLarney’s mind, the arrival of McAllister at Kavanaugh’s is serendipity itself. Good old Mac. Miracles have been marked on the streets of Baltimore, and Mac, a true pilgrim, has no doubt traveled many dangerous leagues to pay proper homage at this, the true shrine of Celtic sheriffry. McLarney sidles down the bar to wrap a beefy arm around his old partner’s shoulder.

“Mac,” says McLarney.

“T.P.”

“Mac,” McLarney says again.

“Yes, T.P.”

“My partner.”

“Your partner.”

“My bunky.”

McAllister nods, wondering how long this can possibly go on.

“You know, when we were working together you taught me a lot of shit.”

“I did?”

“Yeah, all kinds of important shit.”

“Like what, T.P.?”

“You know, all kinds of shit.”

“Oh,” says McAllister, laughing. Nothing is so amusingly pathetic as when one cop tries to bond with another. Conversations descend into vague mutterings. Compliments are transformed into insults. Words of genuine affection become comically perverted.

“Really, you taught me a lot,” says McLarney. “But that’s not why I respect you. I respect you for one thing.”

“What’s that, Terry?”

“When it was time for you to fuck me,” says McLarney soberly, “you were very gentle.”

“Of course I was,” says McAllister without hesitation.

“You could have just bent me over the hood of the car and had your way, but you were very gentle with me. And very patient.”

“Well, I knew it was your first time,” says McAllister. “I wanted it to be special.”

“And it was, Mac.”

“I’m glad.”

The brotherhood understands, the tribe hears the words unsaid. And when the two detectives finally let go of their deadpan and begin to laugh, all of Kavanaugh’s laughs with them. Then they kill off what’s left in their cans and argue briefly over the next round, each pulling his wallet and take his money off the bar.

As old partners always should.

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