by David Dean
The title of this posting should give you a clue as to where I live, though I fear it may also induce acute nausea in those of you who have been exposed to the reality television version of this area. It can get bad here during the heady summer months, but perhaps not that bad. In any event, there are those of us who find the Shore (not beach or coast or seaside) a very fine place to live. It also gave me a career, after the army, of rounding up and knuckling down on the hi-jinks and high spirits of such as the "Jersey Shore" crowd when they crossed the line. This could be satisfying.
I didn't start out to be policeman; it just worked out that way. In fact, I'm not even from the Garden State, but from that very close relative somewhat to the south, Georgia. However, the die was cast when I met and married my own Jersey Girl, who could not be less like... Pookie, is it? Honestly...Pookie? I ask ya? Had that unlikely scenario occurred; instead of writing this today I would probably be serving a very long sentence in a very small room. However, I struck lucky, and Robin and I have been together for most of our lives. But it was she that got me here.
For nearly seven years I dragged her and the kids across the states and over to Europe as part of my stint in the army. For those of you who have spent any time in the military with a family, you'll know what I mean when I say it was hard...very hard. So with the kids still young we made the decision to get out and I further agreed to her wish to be close to her parents. It seemed the least I could do.
But even that I couldn't quite get right--I couldn't find work in the area where her parents lived and we were fast running out of money! A friend of mine who lived in South Jersey (the natives make a very big deal about the distinction between north and south here) called me and invited me to visit and look for work at the 'Shore'. I did, and walked into a job as a cop. I say walked in, but in reality I competed against a pool of several hundred (mostly locals) and came out as one of two who were sent on to the Police Academy. It was a miracle--the last of my army paychecks had just run out and we were saved! And it was more of a miracle than I even realized at the time. I found I loved police work and that I had somehow landed in just the right place for me and my family. We even bought a house (a very tiny house, but a house); life was getting good.
The police profession treated me well, and Robin went on to get a full time position as a kindergarten teacher, where she still is. To this day I have little kids run up to me, point, and say, "You're Mrs. Dean's husband!" Like that's some big deal. Before my retirement I would point at my badge and answer, "Oh yeah, well I'm also the police chief around here!" This usually elicited a second and more emphatic exclamation of, "You're Mrs. Dean's husband!" Alright already...I get it...don't you have parents?
Somewhere along the road I was taking some college courses and found myself in an arts appreciation class (mandatory, don't you know) and my final project was to produce a work of art. "Art?" says I. "I can't draw." "What can you do?" says the professor with a small challenging smile. He had seen my kind before. "Uh..." thinking hard...thinking very hard. "Maybe I could write something," I offer. His expression shifted over to one of subtle doubt. "Okay," says he. I did, and produced my first story. Not surprisingly, it was about a patrolman at the Jersey Shore, and in this tale, one attempting to apprehend a particularly violent burglar. I drew the details from a case I had worked. The prof liked it and said I should submit it to a magazine, which I did, and "The See-Through Man" (1990) became my first published story with Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and also the beginning of a long and satisfying relationship with that august publication...except for the fact that sometimes my stories are turned down. I don't like to say 'rejected' because that sounds so unsatisfying. But I don't want to dwell on that here...maybe later...in a more tearful posting (bring hankies).
So now I am retired, and find myself joining the assembled company of SleuthSayers and friends. Some of the staff writers here I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting through Criminal Brief; others I have met while out and about in our small world. I hope to provide some useful service by my scribblings, if only to amuse you ("What...I amuse you?") or at the very least, not to embarrass myself or others. But if I don't manage it, just turn the page (figuratively in this case) and move on, as this is the judgement and sentencing that all writers must bear if they fail to keep up their end of the bargain.
So with that, "I'll catch youse later (as they say around here)."