The Cop and the Anthem (Henry)

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The Cop and the Anthem
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «The Four Million»
Microsummary: A homeless man sought winter shelter in jail by attempting various petty crimes but failed repeatedly. Moved by church music, he resolved to change his life, only to be arrested moments later.

On a bench in Madison Square, a homeless man named Soapy felt uneasy as winter approached. He decided that he needed to find a way to spend the winter months in jail, where he would have a warm place to sleep and regular meals. Soapy had spent previous winters in jail and found it preferable to the charity offered by the city's institutions, which he believed came with too many strings attached.

Soapy — homeless man seeking winter shelter in jail; shaven, wears a decent coat and a black tie; cunning, desperate, resourceful.

Soapy began his quest to get arrested by attempting to dine at an expensive restaurant without any money. However, the head waiter noticed his shabby appearance and escorted him out before he could even sit down. Next, Soapy tried to get arrested by breaking a shop window, but the police officer who responded to the scene did not suspect him and chased after another man instead.

Undeterred, Soapy went to a modest restaurant and ate a full meal, only to reveal afterward that he had no money to pay for it. Instead of calling the police, the waiters threw him out onto the street. Soapy then tried to get arrested for flirting with a young woman in front of a police officer, but the woman mistook him for an acquaintance and walked away with him, leaving the officer uninterested.

Growing increasingly desperate, Soapy stole an umbrella from a well-dressed man, hoping to be arrested for theft. However, the man hesitated to call the police, and the officer nearby did not intervene. Soapy then tried to get arrested for disorderly conduct by yelling and causing a scene on the street, but a police officer dismissed his behavior as a college student's celebration and did not arrest him.

Feeling defeated, Soapy walked toward Madison Square, where he came across an old church with beautiful organ music playing inside. The music stirred something within him, and he suddenly felt a strong desire to turn his life around. He resolved to find a job the next day and make a fresh start.

An instantaneous and strong impulse moved him to battle with his desperate fate. He would pull himself out of the mire; he would make a man of himself again; he would conquer the evil that had taken possession of him.

However, just as Soapy was filled with hope and determination, a police officer approached him and asked what he was doing there. Soapy replied that he was doing nothing, but the officer arrested him anyway. The next morning, a magistrate sentenced Soapy to three months in jail, ironically granting him the winter shelter he had initially sought but no longer desired.