A NEAR BUST • by John L. O’Quinn

He’s coming after me. He’s gonna turn around and come after me. Here he comes now. Why is he bothering me? I’m not speeding.

Maybe he’s not gonna stop me after all. He’s followed me for half a mile. My turn is just up the road. Maybe I’ll turn and he’ll keep on driving. Oh, shit. There go the lights. I’d better pull over to see what he wants.

What’s he waiting for? I’ve been sitting here with my license and registration in my hand for three minutes. All he’s doing is sitting there in his car and… here he comes. He’s looking over my car. So what if it’s old. It runs good and all the lights work, and the inspection and registration are up to date. Why didn’t he stop that Escalade that blew past me three miles back?

Just be cool. I haven’t done anything wrong. Maybe my old Buick is a little old and rusty, but it’s legal and I was driving safely. He has no cause to stop me. Here he comes. Try not to act nervous.

“Yes sir, I know how fast I was going. I was driving 45 miles an hour.”

“No sir, I didn’t realize that it was a 35 miles an hour zone.”

“No sir, I believe you. If you say there was a sign back there, then I believe you, only I didn’t see it.”

There he goes back to his car again with my license and registration. I drive this same road the same way every time I come to town. I guess I’ll have to learn to drive it a little slower. Now I’m gonna get a damned ticket. That’s no big deal. I haven’t had one in years. I guess I’ve been lucky, but I’m a good driver. Everybody speeds on this stretch anyway. What’s he bothering me for? Here he comes again.

“I was going home, sir.”

“No sir, well, I did have a beer with my lunch. I stopped at Applebee’s over near the hospital and had a burger and a beer…”

“Yes sir, I’ll take the test.”

Now I walk the line and touch my finger against my nose. This is embarrassing. Everybody’s looking when they drive by, smiling and smirking. Why didn’t he stop one of them?

“Yes sir, I’ll blow in your little machine.”

Why couldn’t I just do that in the first place? I know he’s got a job to do, but why did he make me jump through hoops before he brought out his little machine? Oh, shit; here comes another patrol car. He’s talking to him now. Why don’t he just give me the damned ticket? The other car’s driving away. I reckon this guy figures he can handle things on his own. No reason he can’t. He’s bigger and younger, and carrying a gun and other tools to hurt and injure people. No reason to think that I’ll give him any trouble, and he’s right.

“No sir, just one beer.”

There he goes again back to his car. I wonder if I can get back in mine. He might think I’m gonna drive off. I don’t wanna make him think that. He’s still got my license and registration anyway. That would be stupid, but I guess in his job he has to deal with a lot of stupid people. I should at least pretend to be smart.

I wonder how much more I’m gonna have to pay for my car insurance now with a ticket on my record? I bet the car insurance companies give the cops a bonus for every ticket they write. It’s an excuse to raise the rates every time they give out a ticket. I haven’t had a ticket in more than ten years. My rates are pretty good, but that’s gonna change now, at least for the next four years. I reckon that’s the price I’ll have to pay for a moment of carelessness, but next time, I’ll drive a little slower when I pass this way.

Here he comes again. He’s got the ticket all written out and ready for me. Good job, officer. You’re keeping the streets of America safe.

“Just a warning?”

“No sir, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s a real warning. I’ll make sure that I drive slower next time.”

“Yes sir, I’ll sign it right there, and thank you.”

What a relief. I’m gonna drive my ass home and park this car as soon as I fasten this seat belt. That was mighty nice of him to let me off with a warning; mighty nice. Thank God he didn’t look in the trunk.

John L. O’Quinn is a full-time worker and a part-time employee at a private college in Eastern North Carolina.   He enjoys reading good stories, real or fiction.

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