The wagon of Martin Preib’s title will be commonplace to any city inhabitant: an encased truck, marginally greater than a van, with “Police” on its sides and back. The wagon in Chicago, where Preib has been a cop for quite a while, is painted white, with a blue stripe and the motto “Save and Protect” on the two entryways of the taxi. It’s frequently used to transport recently captured suspects to the police headquarters for addressing or lockup. It’s likewise used to convey dead bodies to the funeral home. The initial three expositions in Preib’s fine book – the title paper, “Body Bags,” and one called “Studio Apartments” – are about this independently uncongenial undertaking and the incidental amazements it yields.
Preib was two decades out of school – he never completed, in huge part since he was all the more intriguing in perusing what he needed to than what his teachers doled out – when he left his place of employment as an inn porter and joined the police constrain. He needed to expound on Chicago:
“I never sought to pull the dead from their passing spots. I just needed to be an author, a Chicago essayist, yet now I am getting dead bodies on the North Side of Chicago. The incongruity is a horrible weight. I glance back at how I have battled in this city, working each modest administration work the city offers by the thousands: server, custodian; the a great many packs I have conveyed, the train rides downtown searching for work with just five dollars in my pocket, applying for occupations so I can pay lease while I complete a story that won’t get distributed and hear the staff administrator ask, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ I recollect long days in studio lofts pondering what I was fouling up. Here in the city where my folks were brought up and my family started, I see them seeing me, my dad’s nauseate at my declaration that I needed to wind up an author, that I needed to end up a cop as a methods for seeing the city all things considered, as a methods for giving me the time and cash to compose without anyone else. I take a gander at myself in a storm cellar opening a body sack, and see an incredible detachment from my most extraordinary interests, and I can feel a weight dive upon me and overflow me.”
As that looking entry recommends, Preib’s is a voice that has never been heard in American composition: not only the voice of a customary policeman, which is sufficiently uncommon, yet the voice of somebody whose working life has been spent in the administration business, “the place for jumbled perspectives, misty aspirations, blunted wants, and other individuals who just never got it, or thought they had it yet didn’t: the separated, drunkards, the new age scholars, dopers, the slothful, the criminal.” That’s a stern perspective of the life in which Preib put in two decades – longer, in the event that one considers the police constrain as a component of the “benefit business” – yet it is tempered by a profound sensitivity for the manners by which these imperceptible, or, best case scenario semi-unmistakable, individuals are abused and hurled aside by the framework for which they work. Preib is no sentimentalist – a long way from it – yet he trusts that “the occupied existence of the administration laborer is the most genuine in the city.”
When he joined the police constrain, Preib “envisioned the most wonderful parts of the activity.” As he says, “Everybody does. You are loaded up with this symbolism in the police institute: getting killers and gangbangers, cooperating with different units in stings, turning into an investigator, getting advancements. Pulling dead bodies was once in a while specified.” Yet that is exactly what he ended up doing, entering “the universe of the dead” as an inevitable piece of the activity. That it frequently caused repugnance is not really astonishing, given that a large portion of those whose bodies he was called upon to expel were inhabitants of “the unadorned city,” the Chicago that is once in a while seen from the shorelines of Lake Michigan or the condos and extravagance stores of Lake Shore Drive.
As Preib pulled these unfortunates to the funeral home, his feelings extended from aversion to feel sorry for with different focuses in the middle of, however in one particularly moving section he depicts something of a revelation, the instance of a “lady, in her forties, fairly overwhelming with dim hair, who passed on in the bath, folding into it in the fits of a heart failure.” The scene as Preib portrays it is awful – very much excessively so to be cited advance in this daily paper – yet as the cops stick around to make their reports they find tragic proof of “a family torn separated, her youngsters and kin never again in contact with her,” and on the dividers they discover “cites from the New Testament, notices of the intensity of God and supplication, of extreme absolution and harmony.” Preib composes:
“We feel as though this loft has been changed into a holy place as the blurring harvest time sun lights up it. The foulness and debasement of her body in the washroom shows up sic courageous from her battle to ascend. A tenderness, a humankind, and a truthfulness wait in the flat in the statements of the New Testament on the divider, proclamations about continuance, confidence, and love, the sort of conviction that radiates and supports a profound mankind. There is none of the judgment, resentment, or judgment of the Old Testament, nothing in the condo that is left to denounce the offended family, no harshness at a real existence finished too soon, no fierceness at the remorselessness of the business or the chilliness of the inability safety net providers, or the disappointments of the therapeutic individuals to spare her. In the things present and the things missing, the components of a living religion wait about the body: perseverance, confidence, pardoning, virtue of heart.”
That is an amazing section, yet there are numerous others of practically identical power in the pages of “The Wagon.” Mostly Preib is thoughtful, however he likewise can be clever or potentially furious. One particularly striking section happens when he and his accomplice see “three elitists on the walkway” badgering “the African driver” of the taxi that has conveyed them from Lincoln Square to Clark Street. The elitists – two young ladies and a young fellow, all straightforwardly alcoholic – are declining to pay the admission since they guarantee, mistakenly, that the driver deceived them. The ladies are terrible and harsh. One of them says to Preib, “I’m not paying anything. . . . I have more instruction in my finger than you’ll ever have.” Preib at last gets the young fellow to yield to common sense, they pay the taxi driver and the showdown closes, yet Preib permits himself a most satisfying dream in which he captures the three, binds them, takes them to the preparing room and sends them to the feared area imprison. Too awful he didn’t.
Aside from expounding on police work – bringing the peruser into a world few of us are probably going to know – Preib additionally expounds on the writing he cherishes and the composition he’s been working without end at for quite a long time. He’s an enthusiast of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville: “What calls me to them is their solid conviction, a confidence in their composition, a religious sense.” For himself, “there is a sort of confidence that waits in authenticity, a conviction that realizing the city will lead some place past the city.” He has supported and understood that confidence in “The Wagon,” a very striking book that is significantly bigger than its thin measurements.