OFFICER Krupke, was walking his beat the day after the law was passed making it a crime to burn the American flag. He stopped at Green's deli for a roast beef sub and a cream soda. As of that morning, burning of the American flag or desecrating it in any form would get you five to 10 driving a sledge in the big house. Officer Krupke was alert to crime wherever it happened. His district was full of wise guys, gang members, thugs, and hooligans. These kids today! Chasing them all day made a man hungry. A nice fresh roast beef sub....
Suddenly his ever-alert nose sniffed smoke. Was it? Yes! Flag smoke! When you had been on the force as long as he had, you could tell. He ran to the corner, his trusty .38 drawn and ready. There they were!
``Freeze!'' he shouted to the group of thugs standing around the conflagration.
``For what, flatfoot?''
``Burning the American flag. You have the right to remain silent, you.... ''
``What flag?'' said one of the hoodlums. ``This ain't the American flag.''
``Of course that's the American flag!''
``No, it ain't. Look close, kindly Sergeant Krupke, this piece of fabric only has 49 stars. Ergo, it ain't an American flag.''
Peering through the flames, he couldn't see clearly. But what if they were right? Was there any law against burning an almost American flag? He didn't know.
``Oh, wise guys, eh?'' said Officer Krupke.
``It's just our bringin'-upke,'' they said. ``But we're legal.''
More smoke drifted around the corner. Krupke leaped forward.
More creepy types were burning a flag! They dumped kerosene on the beloved symbol.
``Reach!'' Krupke barked. ``You are under arrest! You have the right.... ''
``For what, copper? This is a fireproof flag. The kerosene is burning, but the flag ain't. So?''
Sure enough, although the flames licked and crackled, the flag itself remained untouched. Was this constitutional or not? Had our forefathers foreseen asbestos flags? Krupke was starting to feel a mild Scalia-like doubt about due process.
``Look!'' one of the creeps pointed across the street. A woman was stuffing a real flag into an incinerator. Krupke raced up, his Smith & Wesson cocked.
``Ah, hah!'' he chortled. ``You are under arr....''
``For what?'' she asked.
``For burning an American flag! For desecrating the....''
``For your information, Elliot Ness, this is an old flag which I fly every day. It is threadbare and dirty. According to the regulations it is not supposed to be laundered, but rather disposed of in a respectful manner, preferably by burning. Don't you read government publications?''
``Absolutely. Now put that thing away, Batman, before you hurt somebody.''
Poor Officer Krupke. He holstered his gun and walked dejectedly back to Green's deli. Constitutional law certainly was a puzzlement. No wonder they paid judges and presidents so much.
All this thinking made him hungry. At least his roast beef submarine and cream soda was waiting. He neared the deli.
``Krupke! Where were you?'' Mr. Green shouted at him from behind the meat case.
``What happened? What happened, he says! I was robbed! Cleaned out! Cash! Checks! Pastrami! Cappacola! Turkey breast!''
``Roast beef?'' Officer Krupke's heart skipped a beat.
``Roast beef, too! Where are the cops when you need one?'' Mr. Green sunk into a funk.
Officer Krupke was about to tell him, but then thought better of it. He headed for the nearest Dunkin' Donuts.