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Quiet Desperation

When death took a stranger, it claimed a much-needed friend


I didn’t know Zackari Parrish. Not at all.

I know I have needed men and women like him my entire life. Not because of the fact that he was a good deputy, but because he was someone with a good heart, and a bright light in a world that often goes deeply cruel on me.

(I’m writing this in first person for a reason.)

I read about the 5K run/walk at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, and saw a picture of Parrish’s wife and read what she said and sat there on the couch and cried.

By some design that I cannot explain, there have been just enough good examples in my life against the other kind, of which there are many (too many).

People do unthinkable things to people. Now and then, in the middle of it, someone appears, like Parrish, and reminds me that life is worth living.

There are times when I have thought otherwise. The morning I watched the Murrah Federal Building fall, and heard there was a daycare full of kids in it.

What happened in Los Angeles, my Los Angeles, after the Rodney King verdict.

The Turpin kids.

I have had my own moments with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Back in my own darker days. Every single man and woman I met was kind to me. “Jack,” wherever you are, thanks for being compassionate to a drunk.

In some countries, all I see is hate and evil and genocide, and there are no Parrishes, or if there are, they are swiftly punished or executed.

Syria now. Cambodia once. Uganda.

I wish there were more good people in America than there are. Our freedoms come with a gift card for the bad guys. I’ll take it over repression.

I read that Parrish “used humor to de-escalate tense situations.”

I do the same thing, only I am the tense situation. I don’t mean I am over here on pins and needles. I mean that life’s curve balls and sliders get to me, and that’s when I contact Mark, or watch W. C. Fields or read Steve Martin.

Mark can turn almost any word into something else, just like Groucho, or take a couple of words and turn them into a brilliant, surreal, non-sequitur, like Steven Wright.

I have a number of saved movies, and before I turn off the lights at night, I watch 10 minutes of one that I may have seen a hundred times.

I don’t want to go to sleep — or try to go to sleep —with the news of the day on my mind.

I watch the same scene in “Sullivan’s Travels” over and over.

Joel McCrea meets Veronica Lake in an “owl wagon” in Los Angeles at sunrise. I love that scene.

(Even though I know what later happened to Lake. She was only 50 when she died. I have the same disease.)

It sounds like Parrish had some of my father in him. Dad had a sense of humor, and he was my buffer, between my mother and me.

When I began to look at it objectively, I realized that Dad could have left our messy little family. His life would have improved.

He didn’t.

Thanks, Zackari Parrish. I didn’t know you, but I needed you.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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