Lily Rose Jones slowed to a stop on the shoulder of Highway 5, sixty miles out of Los Angeles heading North toward San Francisco. A florist by trade, automatically she noted spots of color on the hills surrounding her. Although it was the middle of February, the weather had been particularly mild; early-blooming mustard and California poppies shared the earth with pale green mountain grasses. For once, however, flowers failed to raise Lily Rose’s spirits.
Still flashing his red top lights, the CHP officer behind her stepped out of his car while speaking into a handheld device. No doubt, she thought glumly, he was checking whether or not she was suspect in a drive-by shooting.
Out of nowhere, a huge turkey vulture landed with a furious flapping of black feathers directly in front of her, so close she could see its red face, bald head, and hooked beak. Oh, no! What next?
At least, this police officer wasn’t wearing those mirrored sunglasses favored by rogue cops in the movies. She would not have to explain herself to invisible eyes. Although how exactly could she explain 95 mph? She didn’t dare deny it. She had no idea how long the cop had been in pursuit, flashing “red red red PULL OVER” and blasting “wah wah wah LADY, ARE YOU IN TROUBLE!”
She looked back and forth between the cop in her rear view mirror and the turkey vulture beadily eying her through her windshield. How bad was this going to get? Slumping in her seat belt, she lowered her forehead to the steering wheel and muttered, “Oh, God, please help me!”
God, in Her temporary manifestation as a turkey vulture, had not yet made a decision on that score. She unfolded Her magnificent wings to circle above and analyze the data.
On the one hand, this hard-driving Lily Rose was a highway disaster waiting to happen. Ninety-five mph! Unforgivable! Even God in Her Infinite Mercy had Her limits.
On the other hand, Lily Rose had just lost her job at a flower nursery, broken up with her boyfriend, at age 36 had a loudly ticking biological clock, could barely pay her next month’s rent, and was on her way home to Mommy. No wonder she was running amok.
Under the circumstances, even a saint… God flinched at the thought of Her own pantheon of fanatics and almost crashed into a bramble bush. Then She remembered what day it was: Valentine’s Day. And hadn’t that Saint Valentine, one of many of the same name, been known for helping engaged couples? A martyr, yes, it went without saying, but on the side of romance.
Well, at least Lily Rose was no saint. And Lily Rose, pink and cream and like a flower herself, loved flowers. Loved them, tended them, protected them. And flowers were God’s most benign creation. She Herself also loved them dearly.
All poor Lily Rose needed was a loving man, one capable of committing to wife and babies. And, yes, a plant nursery of her own, so no one could ever fire her again. And, God couldn’t ignore this, a new car with multiple airbags.
God glanced at the CHP officer. Ah-ha! Why not? He was close at hand, single himself, had a secure job with good benefits, lived in a town where plant nurseries were in short supply, and had never killed anyone, either in or out of the line of duty.
Why not indeed!
Taking a momentary pride in Her All-Forgiving Benevolence, God made a few minor air-to-ground adjustments. Should She stay on to observe the fruits of Her labor? Definitely not. Give them some privacy.
Tipping Her wings in a salute, God departed on a thermal updraft.
Lily Rose lifted her head from the wheel. Thank God, the vulture had flown off.
The cop appeared at her window. Standing well back, he asked Lily Rose for her driver’s license. Reaching out the window with both hands, so he could see that she was not holding a gun, she offered it up.
His fingers touched hers as he took it. A two-way electrical message, perfect conductivity, zero resistivity.
He blinked, looked down at her license, murmured, “Lily Rose Jones.”
“Yes.” She looked at his badge, “Officer Cramer.”
His first name was Matthew. There’d been a Matthew in fifth grade… hmm… and this Matthew looked just as good. Even better.
He was studying her driver’s license with such intensity she thought he might be memorizing it. Were highway patrol officers required to do that? She didn’t think so. Look up, she thought. And he did, his blue eyes widening and warming and seemingly unable to look away.
She could feel herself blushing. Good. She’d forgotten to put on make-up this morning. The air smelled like tea roses. The ticket would be expensive. Oh, well. She smiled up at him, waiting for him to speak.
He shook his head, like he was trying to shake off a spell. “Lily Rose… uh, Ms. Jones, I mean, I’m not going to write you up. I’ve decided. It’s my prerogative. Not on Valentine’s Day. But, for God’s sake, did you have any idea how fast you were going?”
Lily Rose steeled herself. “I was going 100 miles an hour, I know, it’s horrible, I’m so sorry. It just crept up on me. But except for today I have an almost spotless driving record.”
“It was only 95 mph,” he said. Then, with a bewildered lost sigh, he added, “Okay, I guess you can go.”
Lily Rose extended her left hand for her driver’s license.
He looked down at her fingers, hesitated, stammered, “You’re not wearing a wedding ring,” and blushed deep red.
She gestured, sweeping her hand sideways, I’m not.
She thought, Help him out.
She said, “Officer Cramer… Matthew, I mean, would you know where I can get a good cup of coffee around here?”
Joanna Bressler has worked as a dancer, dance teacher, psychotherapist, epidemiological researcher, and psychology professor. Retired from all these professions, she now writes and does free lance editing. Her creative non-fiction has been published in national magazines, her short fiction has been/will be published in Every Day Fiction and Women in REDzine. She has yet to publish a novel but then again she has yet to finish writing one.