8:43 AM. She was running late. Not terribly late, but
later than she liked. She wasn’t even in the car yet! It took
Cindy’s PT Cruiser exactly 22 minutes to drive the 12 miles from
Port Charlotte to Venice. But it was tourist season and there were tons
of New Yorkers on the West Coast of Florida, many of whom drove by feel.
She’d go the back way to work. It was Wednesday and she needed
to make copies for her 9:30 am LIT 2000 class. Getting there by 9 am
assured her time to deal with a particularly cranky printer while tuning
out assorted mailroom chat.
By 8:50 she was on Cochran. Cindy rolled up to the 4 way
stop just past where the locals fished. No one coming; she gunned it.
This was the stretch to make time. No heavy equipment ahead of her meant
55 for the next 6 miles. It was still Old Florida around here, no houses
yet. An ex-armadillo and some buzzards took up the tiny shoulder and
a nasty ditch yawned just behind them. A huge bald eagle flew directly
over the centerline and Cindy stuck her head out the window to watch
it. Beautiful. She pulled her head back into the car just in time to
catch the flashing red lights in her rearview mirror. Shit. Not today.
The squad car flashed its lights. “Yes, today,” Cindy sighed
and pulled the car as far off the road as she could, putting the window
down. She fumbled for her registration and driver’s license, glancing
in the rear view mirror. A youngish policeman (did khakis mean a sheriff?)
got out of the vehicle, sandy haired and paunchy. “Balding,”
she corrected herself, and caught the image of her car in his mirrored
shades as he walked up to her window. Was this guy local or state? “Step
out of the vehicle,” he advised her. She was already reaching
to hand him her license and registration through the window. This is
weird, she thought, remembering the last time she had a speeding ticket.
He stepped away from her as she got out of the car, offering him her
paperwork. Instead of reaching for it, he leaned in and closed the door
behind her. “Do you know how fast you were speeding?” he
asked. Oh no, she thought, that is the oldest one in the book. There
was no right answer. On the inside she pleaded, “Just give me
the ticket” and on the outside she smiled and said what she thought
he wanted to hear. “I’m sorry officer. . .,” Cindy
paused, looking for his name tag. There wasn’t one. She glanced
back at his car, the angle was wrong to read the writing on the side.
But didn’t they put letters on the front, as well? “Over
here, sugar,” Officer Baldy said, turning her chin to face him.
“Now we both know you were speeding and going way more than ten
miles over the limit. That’s a $225 dollar fine and do you see
that little sign over there?” He pointed back down the road where
a tipped over “Construction” triangle sat partway in the
ditch. “That doubles your fine, young lady.” Cindy started
to cry, just a little bit. She wasn’t doing it for effect; she
was starting to get freaked out. This guy felt wrong, didn’t cops
wear hats? He had a gun in a holster on one hip and some kind of heavy
baton on the other hip, but his shoes didn’t fit the uniform.
A little part of her snapped. The left heel of her new
black pumps to be exact. Cindy felt herself falling backward toward
the ditch and stood up, trying to gain her balance. Her arms pin wheeling,
she clocked Officer Baldy under the chin with the top of her head, cracking
him righteously under the jaw. His head snapped back and those stupid
mirrored shades flew off into the road. Worse still, he must have had
his mouth open, as there was a little pink nubbit of tongue on his chin
and red frothy dribble was gathering at the corners of his mouth. Hopping
on the broken heel, she moved toward the car door. He lunged at her,
his eyes shifting from surprise and pain to rage. “Students have
left by now,” floated through Cindy’s head and she failed
to suppress a snorting giggle.
Officer Baldy was not amused. He put one hand on his pistol and the other reached for the baton at his opposite hip. Sadly this caused his undone fly to pouch open and an awkward swath of flesh and Captain America fabric caught the breeze. A line from Aphra Behn popped into Cindy’s head, “But oh, what envious Gods conspire/To snatch his Pow’r” and she outright cackled. It was, she later admitted, the wrong time to laugh. He sputtered something that sounded like “Throng Doove” which Cindy translated to “Wrong Move” as he closed the distance between them. Officer Baldy let go of his gun and grabbed her shoulder, dragging her up the side of the car and pulled back the hand holding the baton.
Cindy’s knees gave way and the baton missed her head, bouncing off the car’s roof. He hauled her to her feet again and stepped back, powering up for the next blow. Cindy closed her eyes and felt the woosh of air and heard the thump as an SUV (New York plates) caught the policeman’s raised baton and flung him over itself and onto the small patch of green, weedy road shoulder. By the time she opened her eyes, the SUV had sped up and run the hidden intersection’s stop sign. It was long gone.
Officer Baldy lay in the far left lane. His head, like
his fly, gaping open and promising no good. Cindy slid down the side
of car again, caught her breath, “Screw the copies,” she
said, “I’m gonna be late.”
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