SoHumBorn Sunday (Finally!): The Ride (Conclusion)
This is the conclusion of the Ride for earlier parts see
This is beyond fear. This feeling is so far past any other she’s ever had. This isn’t how you feel when the mall security cop stops you because you stole a pair of sunglasses on a dare. It isn’t how you feel when the music teacher comes in the bathroom where you and your friends are smoking a joint. It’s not like when your boyfriend convinces you to give just a little more, & you hear your Dad’s keys in the door. It’s not even like riding in your drunk buddy’s truck on a makeshift jump track at a riverbar party and… sky – ground – sky – ground -sky – ground… pain. This is so much worse.
Her eyes are hot, & she’s not sure how air is getting around the lump in her throat, but it feels like any moment it may cease too. She knows what this means. Her whole life she’s watched as parents, neighbors, friends, even the check out lady from her grocery store were raided, stopped, searched, investigated… arrested. The bogey men of her childhood, CAMP, FBI, IRS, CHP, DEA, an alphabet of terror. She’s not a minor. She’s going to JAIL. Possession, possession with intent to distribute, transporting, she’s heard them before. She can hope to be RORed but more likely her parents will have to post bond, unless of course, this stop leads to a raid at her home address. That thought releases a snake to roll & twist in her bowels.
With the young man safely cuffed and locked in his cruiser, he is walking back toward the Toyota and the girls inside. His mind can’t help itself & it drifts to his own teenage daughter, and he wonders (not for the first time) why God would make them so pretty… before they grew a brain.
The little girl who’d adored him and walked beside him with her entire hand wrapped around just one of his fingers had disappeared one day, only to be replaced by a beautiful girl who made it so very clear she thought he was an idiot, without ever coming right out and saying so. She was so full of air sounds… sighs, huffs, and his favorite the long “Tssssssss,,,” In exasperation, he had once told her that unless she’d sprung a God Damn leak he didn’t want to hear it any more. That had won him a flash of angry eyes as she flipped her hair and stormed off to her room, she didn’t slam the door though. Sick of that particular antic, he had removed her bedroom door entirely for a week. After that, (even once the door was returned) his home had been blessedly free of the wall shaking punctuation of her exits. “Too bad he couldn’t confiscate her lungs,” he thought with a grin.
He forces himself back into the now. To these little twits, who had undoubtedly been cautioned by their own parents against picking up strange men. He pulls on his sternest face and strides to the truck’ s driver side window.
When Anne arrives, they’d explain what the evidence points towards & the two mothers began a desperate series of phone calls to every parent and friend they could think of. It wasn’t long before their worst fears were confirmed. The girls had taken it upon themselves to engage in a drug deal with some un-named and un-known player. More people arrive, neighbors, other parents, kids, all sick with the possibilities. It takes on the air of a death watch hospital room.
He is pleased by the fear he sees in their faces.
“Your little buddy there has a warrant for violating probation,” he pauses for effect “stemming from an assault case & violation of a restraining order.” This news shocks them both and turns Em’s mouth into a little O of surprise. He goes on. “You girls druggies?”
“You girls druggies?”
The snake rolls again and it’s tongue flicks out, not with a tickle, but with a sharp stabbing pain that leaves a slow burn behind.
“No Sir…” Em follows Kaitlin’s statment but wonders if lying at this point is a good idea. After all as they say “the jig is up” he’s got them. Maybe lying now will only make things worse.
“Well your little buddy is. I could smell the weed on him three feet from the truck.” He tilts his head to the left and lets his eyes move slowly from one girl to the other and back again.
Kaitlin sees that somehow, by some miracle, there may be safe ground on the other side of this conversation. This cop isn’t looking at them the way grown ups do when you really blow it. He’s got that “have you learned your lesson” tone. She knows this game. All she needs is to find the right answers, the properly contrite tone. She visualizes a narrow glass bridge across the Grand Canyon. Stay on the invisible path and live to see the other side, but don’t take even one wrong step.
“Oh God…” Em’s voice is weak and full of defeat. The sound of it terrifies Kaitlin & she jumps in before Em can apologize, or worse yet confess.
“Sir, we had no idea, we just picked him up ’cause we felt sorry for him. He didn’t look like a freak.” She pulls her eyebrows together & then up. A face she’d practiced many times for her own parents. It says “I’m worried and a little scared now. I’m listening & thinking hard about what you are saying”.
“Do you ladies think that was a good idea?” Em just shook her head but Kaitlin felt a slight conflict before she answered, because even though it had been his failure to use the seatbelt that had them pulled over, it was obvious that he was acting with some chivalry in not declaring that the pot was theirs.
“No, sir. We never pick up hitch hikers. I don’t know what we were thinking.” Kaitlin kicks it up a notch. She hopes she hasn’t passed sincere and moved into cheese but she just has to wing it.
“Well, I would suggest you don’t pick up any more in the future. While I’m booking this young man, I hope you girls will be thinking about how this could have had a much worse ending. Now, buckle up and get out of here.”
Em’s astonishment was as deep as it was rapid and she felt herself being pulled under.
“Thank you.” was all she could get out.
The officer strode back to his patrol car and after one more brief radio conversation he pulled out and drove off past them. KC gave them a weak smile and a subtle peace sign, (or was it a “V” for victory?) from the back seat.
They looked at each other for a moment.
“Roll, just roll!” Kaitlin said before any conversation could start.
Em pulled the truck back onto the freeway and for a few minutes they are quiet as the CHP cruiser slides slowly out of sight ahead of them. Then, as though on cue they break out…
“Hallelujah, hallelujah, HALEH EH LU U JAH!” They burst out in a musical chorus of which they know only one word.
The triumph is short lived. Their taste for this deal, this whole trip has soured and each minute they are in the truck feels like a minute in front of a firing squad. They don’t even need to talk about it. It’s over. They just want to be home. By the time they pull into Ukiah they are both sweating & it has nothing to do with the warmth of late fall. Without a word, they pull into the row of motels across the street from Walmart and get a room.
When the phone rang for the umteenth time everyone in the house stared at it in quiet fear.
His heart filled with dread. Not wanting to, but because he had to, he picked it up.
Never in his life had he been so grateful to hear those words.
“Daddy, can you come get me?”