~ a story ~
I was surprised my phone’s GPS found the small building, one of only a half dozen on their Main St, a packed dirty path with probably more trees than people than inhabited this middle-of-nowhere town.
I parked out front, and stepped into the sticky heat of the August afternoon.
My 3pm summons to the Bell County Sheriff’s office was tucked into my purse. One speeding ticket one month previous during a warm July evening brought me back to this state, even though I lived hundreds of miles away. I didn’t want any points on my record or to pay the ridiculous fine the Sheriff gave me that evening, so here I was.
My shirt and skirt stuck to my skin from the immediate layer of sweat my body produced as soon as I exited my car. How anyone worked, let alone lived, in this heat was beyond me.
Stepping up onto the wooden porch of the Sheriff’s office had more of a home feel than an official legal building. It even looked like a home, with its big windows, mailbox screwed to the outside wall right next to the door, and a porch swing on the far side of the stoop. I guess things were just different in Bell County.
The front door was wide open, a screen door shielding the inside. The most notable feature was the abundance of fans. Stepping back, I saw there were no air conditioning units in the aforementioned windows. I resigned myself to swimming in the thick heat and sticky sweat for the rest of my afternoon.
Pushing the screen door open, I walked inside. Just to my left sat a small table with a book opened and a small plaque next to it. “Please sign in.” was etched in cursive calligraphy, the golden metal forming the words tarnished with age. I penned my name and the time, 2:50pm.
To the right of the entrance was an old wooden desk, large, lacquered, heavy, the one thing that had probably stayed constant with this office since its inception. Behind said monument on the wall was a yellowed map of the county, complete with the main interstate cutting through just inside the west border. I could pinpoint almost to the foot where I was pulled over.
In front of the desk were two chairs, also wooden but with a leather seat cushion and back. I sat in one and began waiting.
I hadn’t seen his desk when I walked in. Beside the sign-in table was a partition which had obstructed my view. He sat in the corner, desk shielded from the window and anyone who walked in, but at a perfect view to see anyone who ventured inside.
He gave me a smile, his teeth white and straight, his eyes kind.
“I guess Jethro has his afternoon entertainment then.”
“Jethro, that’s the Sheriff’s first name. You should probably call him Sheriff Douglass, though. He likes it when people refer to him by his title. Let me guess, traffic stop on the interstate?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“Yeah, that’s the Sheriff’s deal.”
The gentleman stood up from his desk and walked towards me.
“Deputy Johnson,” he said, placing his hand over his heart. “May I offer you some coffee?”
“In this heat?”
“Jethro doesn’t like to drink water, but the coffee is cool. Tastes horrible, but it’s better than nothing.”
As drops of sweat tickled my skin trailing down my back, I could see his point.
“Then I guess I’ll take it.”
He walked into another room, what looked like the break room, and returned with a cup that was indeed cool to the touch. The coffee tasted awful, but it was a small respite from the heat. I gave him a smile with my, “Thank you.”
“No sweat,” he replied.
We both huffed at his pun. He stepped away, as if walking back to his desk, but then stopped, turned, and stood next to me again.
“Let me give you some advice. Jethro pulls over people and gives them tickets because he, like most people in this town, are bored. We have very little to fill up our days.
“He’ll come in here shortly. He’s always exactly on time. Maybe he’ll bring a friend. They’ll talk for a while, probably in the break room with the refrigerator open for some cool air. Then his friend will leave.
“And Jethro will come back out, sit at his desk, probably put up his feet, and start talking to you. Be polite. Sweet. Sirs and thank yous. Yes Sheriffs. No Sheriffs. My apologies, Sir. He’ll keep you anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on the conversation. If he likes you, and you want him to like you, the ticket, fine and points both, will go away and you can be on with your day.”
In my shock, all I could manage was a “Um…Thank you.”
The deputy knelt down, resting an arm on my chair, bringing his face close to mine. “Open your blouse a little, just another button. Can’t hurt.”
He gave a quick glance down, and then returned my gaze, an even wider smile on his face, before rising and returning to his desk.
With his body gone, I could still smell faint wisps of his scent: sawdust and sweat.
Normally, one could’ve been offended by the deputy’s offhand comment. One could’ve protested, or called him a misogynist. One could have.
But there was something about him, something in his kind manner and easy grin, his velvety voice and the fact that he gave me advice at all, that made me like him.
No, more than like him. I wanted him.
And, frankly, he was right. Almost as much as I wanted to speak to the deputy without his clothes on, I also wanted to be out of this town as soon as possible, preferably not owing $300 or saddled with a point on my license. If showing a hint of cleavage would do that, I wasn’t going to pass it up.
Categorised as: Gen Fiction
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