I take the elevator up to the 15th floor where they had found the device. I hate hostile devices. I have hated them since 1967 when I first started working them. Today is some time in January 1994.
I have been on the bomb squad since I got out of Nam in 1970. 24 years. I have never liked my work. I want to do something else. The only thing I fear even more than getting blown up is looking for a new career. I take bombs apart for a living but I am afraid to look for a better job. Yeah, that is it in a nutshell.
I push the grocery bag back, and then look at what seems to be pretty simple. I cut the blue wire. You usually cut one wire or another, you know. Then I cut the rest of them, and almost throw up on the carpet of the nice office I’m in. Fuck them, they should have been blown up. Why should I do this? I pull the dets out of the HE and put them in my basket. I pick up the basket and walk to the elevator. One man removes the detonators, one man carries the explosives to be destroyed.
I almost stop to piss on the carpet in the hall. I feel like I cannot hold it. But the feeling passes, and I get in the elevator and send it to the lobby. I get out and walk through a cordon of cops who are more afraid than I am. Patrolmen in their twenties who think maybe what I have in that basket will kill them. I know better. What I have in my soul might kill them, the dets could at best kill only me.
I walk past men who consider me a hero. They think I am doing something I truly believe in for the good of the common man. I don’t give a damn about the common man, my fellow officers, or even myself.
That is why I am doing this.
Someone has to make sure there is a clear way to the truck. These guys are really scared. I pass through them and put the basket inside and close the heavy steel door.
The truck pulls away and I sit in the back of a squad car. It is a choice I have made, but most of us do make it, that we do not drive after taking a bomb apart. I am so fucking scared I am almost impervious to reason. The driver smiles into the rearview. “Hey, Lt.,” he says “Can I have your autograph?”
“Sure” I say softly. “Just send up to the Squad and I will send it right on to you interdepartment.”
He is not pleased, as usually they are not. I have not told him that my hand is not steady enough to sign my name right now. I will never tell him that I will not sleep in the next 24 hours and probably throw up several times. Cops need their heroes too.
As I walk up the stairs to my house, I know that I will not tell the truth to my wife, Jennifer, either. I try to make her believe my only passion is for her. When the one that really lights me up is taking bombs apart. I stop at the top of the stairs to see if I will have to puke over the rail but it passes, and I put my key in the lock.
I open the door. “Hey, Jen, I’m home.”
She rushes to me. “I heard about the bomb scare.”
“Yeah, honey, that is a good thing, that they are mostly just scares.”
“I always worry that it will be the real thing.”
“Yeah, honey, but if it is, we will know what to do.” I stroke her hair as I realize that my days with this wonderful sweet, innocent woman are numbered. Because some day I will not be able to deny to her that her lover, her husband, works on a real explosive ordinance squad, and takes apart real bombs. And that he wants to keep on doing it.
Drake Koefoed was born in 1955 in California. He worked in Construction, High Technology, Commercial fishing, Electronics, Metallurgy, and once owned a small wholesale nursery. He has an AS in Physics, a BA in Philosophy, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence. He was a Criminal Defense lawyer in Oregon for five years. He has been a Grocery Manager, Prison Guard, Able Seaman, and an assembly language programmer.