Short Story: “Strong Arm of the Law”
“STRONG ARM OF THE LAW”
A Rett Bonneville Short Story
By Anne M. Freeman©
After leaving the judge’s chambers, I hurried to the ladies room where I could wipe away a few tears. I’d just thanked her for my community service requirement, a moment I would never have dreamed of happening when she handed it out to me. I shared with her a small story about loss and forgiveness.
The first time I met the judge was because of my “crime.” It started with my 1980 L82 Corvette, mink brown exterior, saddle interior, and a mirrored T-top. I adored that car, and spent many a day waxing is, wiping it down, and just plain staring at it. Cruising in it on a summer day with my I-POD blaring was heaven. That car was everything a 23-year-old babe could want. Then the car died and I didn’t have the funds to fix it, so it sat in my driveway for a good long while. Someday, I would get my Vette running again.
What happened, in fact, was I had to sell my Vette because a local cop lost out on a promotion he thought should have been his. His response to being passed-over was to go on a ticket-writing spree all over my town. My turn came one evening. There was a knock on my cottage door, and Officer Smith stood outside with a grim look. Of course, I thought someone I loved had died and I was frantic. Who wouldn’t be? But no, Office Smith was not there to deliver some bad news about an accident, he was there to ticket me for parking a car on my property with an expired registration. A car no one could see from the road, and which had a cover on it. I stood, dumbfounded. He had to have come onto my property one day when I wasn’t home and looked under the cover to discover that my car was no longer registered. What the … was going on here?!
Officer Smith ordered me to get my Vette inspected or get it garaged (I had none). I couldn’t afford to do either, and I told him so. He said I’d have to pay a fine for every day it sat there unregistered. I protested that no one could see the car – I lived in the woods. Why was he at my home, and why was he harassing me? And who cared about my car?! This was getting more bizarre by the minute. It was the town ordinance and he was just doing his job, was how he replied to all of my frantic protestations.
Now, I was enraged. The total unfairness of the situation boiled my blood. A one-sided screaming match ensued and escalated. What I recall coming out of mouth was something along these lines: “I pay your salary with my taxes! … a Nazi police state! … get your ass fired! … kick your ass right off my lawn! … It was that last blast that did it, and the only “ass” happening was my sorry ass getting arrested for making terroristic threats against an office of the peace. Turns out that I didn’t have to actually kick Officer Smith’s ass, I just had to say I would kick his ass to get arrested.
My attorney was the one who informed me about Officer Smith’s predicament. It didn’t make me feel one little bit better when he told me about the lost promotion. I did not like being Officer Smith’s dog that just got kicked. However, my attorney argued against doing anything other than making a deal because I was technically violating the town ordinance, and making a fuss would not endear me to the townies. And, he reminded me, terroristic threats could result in jail time. I was screwed and I knew it. I couldn’t afford to fix or garage the car. So, he made a deal with the prosecutor – first offence, upstanding citizen – and I agreed to sell my car within the next several weeks to avoid the fines. Oh, and I was “sentenced” to community service for the threats.
I sold my Vette to a friend of mine’s neighbor who’s retired father was moving out of the city to live with them here in the country, and they were looking for some project to keep him busy. His father’s dream was to restore an old Vette with his middle school grandson. I agreed to sell it, figuring that was about the only way I could possibly stomach losing my Vette. Thinking about the grandfather and his grandson gave me one tiny positive shred that I could cling to in the midst of my real despair over losing my Vette. What about MY dream of owning a Vette? Did no one care about that?
Once my Vette was sold, it was time for community service. I figured, what better way to mourn my loss than cleaning up litter around town? That’s about how I felt at that point, totally trashed. Not only did I lose my cherished Vette, I’d lost my faith in the fairness of our local police force. I arrived at the town park with my work gloves, trash bags and reflection vest. Before I began, a flock of little girl scouts descended on the park to pick up litter as part of some badge that they were trying to earn, so I made an agreement with the scout leader that I would clean the edge of the park by the road. There was plenty of litter to go around, sadly.
It was a hot day, and I was hot under the proverbial collar. With each piece of trash I picked up, the injustice of what had happened to me gurgled up and stuck in my throat. People I knew slowed down and beeped. They probably (hopefully) thought I was helping out the girl scouts. I never shared any of what happened because it just made me too damned angry.
Then, the worst thing that could happen, happened. Officer Smith drove by. He slowed down when he saw me. That God for the presence of the girl scouts, because I would have given him the bird right then and there, and had been arrested all over again. Instead, I stood in humiliation and glared at him.
A short time later, a pickup I didn’t recognize nosed in the park’s parking area behind me. Officer Smith got out. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! He wore jeans and a t-shirt. Was he here to help the girl scouts? It was too much. My heart started pounding. I knew I couldn’t keep a lid on it now.
He got out the truck without looking my way, opened the tailgate, and out a few six packs of bottled water and a box of lunch size chips on the tailgate. The girl scouts swarmed the truck, grabbed their snacks and water bottles, and then regrouped by the playground. Officer Smith offered me a bottle of water and chips, but I turned my back on him.
I heard him walk up beside me. He wore work gloves and held a large black trash bag. Tears began streaming, but I was so angry that I didn’t care. Office Smith shook open the bag, and stood there with his arms held out, waiting for me to put some litter in it. By now, I was trembling with rage. I didn’t dare open my mouth. As I continued to pick up trash, he followed me, holding out his bag. When I realized that he wasn’t going to leave, I managed to pull myself together and threw it in the bag. For the rest of the afternoon, Office Smith and I cleaned the entire roadside in silence.
Epilogue: It’s been a while since I lost my Vette and that day with Office Smith on the roadside by the park. Not long afterwards, I was waiting at a stoplight near town. My old Vette pulled up alongside of me and stopped in the left-hand lane. My heart contracted. The old man was in the driver’s seat, looking down at his grandson in the passenger seat, his face crinkled with joy.
I still miss the hell out of my Vette, but I was glad to see how happy it made the old man. Officer Smith and I wave to each other now when we pass. And my heart is just a little bit bigger.