“Divebombing” is This Thing I Do With Camera One-Twelve on Forney Towers Where I Focus on the Wide Horizon of Trees and Electric Windmills and Then Begin a Slow Simulated Suicide by Zooming-in and Arcing the Angle Patiently Downward Until Rooftops, then Windows, Doors, Bushes, a Street, and a Sidewalk Pass Overhead, and Finally the 10x Digital Zoom Fuzzes Everything About a Slab of Concrete Forty Stories Down

My boss pronounces “corgi” with a soft “g.” My boss knows the city’s every intersection and pothole. He prefers the term “criminal” over “crook” and thinks the Safety Coalition has an image problem. My boss makes awkward, unwarranted admissions about his personal life. He’s fifty-four but comes off ageless, immortal, like he  was born out of an ancient magic lamp.

My boss talks to the monitors, has a name for every camera, and it sounds like some are named the same as his cats. He says things like, “You’re swimming in the biggest river in Africa—Denial—It’s an old AA thing.” My boss laughs mostly through his nose. My boss zooms in on citizen’s faces and calls each one by name. Sometimes it’s like he’s looking for his son.

My boss jogs up the hill on Chesapeake. He stresses we’re instrumental in arrests. Day One my boss showed me a video he keeps on the desktop of a wild deer prancing through King Square, and I asked how that could happen. My boss says things like, “I’ll tell you this: It’s the wild west we’re watching.”

My boss gets coffee with the cops. My boss hopes I’m the next him. My boss says things like, “having a domestic.” He’s been here since they built Linear park, manned the cameras since the grant in ‘02, and it’s hard to tell, but I’d guess it’s been five years he’s been divorced.

He’s not easy to read. My boss wears glasses with one temple missing, a faint, almost-moustache, and he’s bald. My boss never cleans the Keurig. My boss lives on Locust near Missen Park and files complaints about the congregants of O’Malley’s Pub. He recites city ordinance codes like an epic poem.

My boss is the only full-time employee at the Coalition. He wonders what the world could be doing if it tried harder. My boss says things like, “I’ll tell you this: my counselor’s going to need counseling when she’s finished with me.” My boss loves the parade. He bought a police scanner for his bedroom.

My boss reminds me of my firefighter father: good at something no one likes to think about. My boss hasn’t ordered me a Safety Coalition polo yet, because, I think, he’s waiting me out, to see if I quit from the boredom or the horror of seeing someone shot. My boss says to call him anytime I have a problem except for Thursday nights from eight to eight-thirty due to the new Big Bang Theory.

My boss doesn’t know that when I’m on overnights I blast rap music through the computer speakers. He doesn’t know I work out and clip my toenails and take my shirt off if I’m bored and sometimes turn all eighteen monitors to camera one-twelve and divebomb.

My boss calls me at five a.m. to repeat what I just heard over the scanner: the police believe the suspect in last week’s smash-and-grab at the Stop & Go was loitering near the corner of Vine and Forney between 18:00 and 18:30 last night. I can do the review myself, but my boss tells me to bring up playback for cameras one hundred, thirty-three, and one-twelve. He’ll be there in ten.

In the early morning, my boss and I watch recorded footage at 8x speed, and it’s disorienting and shows us nothing of a suspect with ponytail and a red jersey. My boss says our best bet is camera one-twelve. While I bring up the feed and wonder where I’ll find my next job, my boss reminds me of all you can see from the top of Forney Towers: half the city, hawks, the wildflower preserve, windmills on Turkey Hill, seagulls somehow, and almost the Susquehanna river. My boss’s jaw hangs open as I play for us nineteen minutes of divebombs. He waits it out in silence.

“I’ll tell you this,” my boss says, “that’s beautiful.”


© Tyler Barton
[This piece was originally published in now-defunct Knee Jerk Magazine, selected by Valerie O’Riordan]