The Cop and the Anthem
by O. Henry
(about 2300 words)
Winter is coming, and Soapy’s park bench has become too cold for a restful night’s sleep. He needs a place to stay–warm, dry, private, but not a charity home, oh no. Those places always come with some undesirable price. No, Soapy has his mind set on the island, and a nice little three month stay in prison to weather the cold snap. All he needs to do is commit a crime worthy of a short stint at Blackwell and he’s set. But try as he might, Soapy just can’t seem to get himself arrested. It’s as if some malicious, unfeeling entity has made him immune from arrest. No amount of law breaking–even in full view of the cops– seems to be enough to get him thrown in the slammer. It seems that Soapy is doomed to freeze to death out in the cold, unforgiving winter, but when he comes upon a church organ playing out an anthem that brings him back to younger, better days, he comes to realize that maybe his life doesn’t have to be lived on park benches and in jail cells. Maybe, just maybe, he can turn things around and make a new man of himself.
William Sydney Porter (O. Henry) was born on on September 11, 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina. After drifting through jobs for a time, he was arrested for embezzlement at his job as a bank teller in Texas. While technically his actions weren’t criminal so much as being disastrously bad at his job, Porter nonetheless fled his arrest and spent some time in Honduras. There he stayed until news of his wife’s illness forced him back to America where he was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison following her death. While imprisoned, Porter wrote many stories and continued to write in New York after his release, under the pseudonym O. Henry. His stories often contain dry humor, irony, surprising endings and sympathetic leanings to the poor. His most famous story, The Gift of the Magi is a good example of O. Henry’s characteristic writing style.