~ a story ~
I heard the Sheriff’s voice before I saw him. A boisterous baritone boomed through the summer heat, seeming to carry through the humidity in the air.
Next came the clack-clack of his boots on the wooden porch as he ascended to his domain. Sure enough, the picture in my mind was complete when he entered, a cowboy hat atop his head.
He had indeed brought a friend, a gentleman with only one arm who carried a chicken in his only hand. He wore overalls with no shirt, dirty worn boots, but no hat himself. He looked to be the Sheriff’s age, and the two talked taking no notice of me as I sat in my seat patiently.
Just as the deputy had foretold, the two men walked into the break room, shutting the door behind them, but their conversation still loud enough for me to hear.
As the farmer told the harrowing tale of his grandson trying to capture the chicken in his hand, a game apparently the two men had played when they were young, I waited. And waited. They laughed and howled, and I waited some more.
When finally their conversation had ended, the Sheriff opened the break room door, slapped his friend on the back, and assured the farmer he’d be by for dinner Sunday evening, and would be sure his wife baked the farmer’s favorite pie for the occasion.
As the farmer exited, the Sheriff finally took notice of the pretty lady sitting in the chair by his desk. He sauntered, yes sauntered, to his chair, sat down, and put up his feet.
“Good afternoon, Miss.”
“Good afternoon, Sheriff.”
“What brings you to our quaint little town this balmy afternoon?”
“A rather unfortunate circumstance, Sir.”
“Yes, Sir. A month ago, on a beautiful July night, taking in your fresh Bell County air with the top down on my car, I unfortunately made the mistake of not paying enough attention to my odometer.”
“Ah, yes. Seems to be a problem among your generation.”
“Unfortunately, Sir. For that I do greatly apologize.”
“Where were you heading that evening?”
“Up north. I was on vacation, visiting a few college friends who live up and down the coast. That evening I was heading to see my friend Erica. She lives about a hundred miles from here, near the state line. I’d left my friend Jackie that afternoon in hopes that I’d make it to Erica’s not too late.”
“I suppose my traffic stop ended that goal?”
“Oh no, Sir. I was to her place before midnight, which was all I wanted. There was no inconvenience at all. If anything, I’m glad you brought my error to my attention.”
“Miss Caroline. What do you do?”
“It’s kind of boring, Sir. I work in a museum in DC.”
“Well, my oh my, you are a far way from home.”
“What do you do at the museum?”
“A few things. Cataloging artifacts. Answering researchers questions or steering them to the person who can. My favorite part, though, are the tours. Once in a while I get to guide school groups around the museum. The looks on the kids’ faces are amazing.”
“Well, now, that sounds like a lot of fun. How long was your schooling to do that?”
“A long time, Sir.”
“And, I suppose, you had no fun during.”
“Not much, Sir. My friends Jacki and Erica were my roommates. Everyone made fun of us because you never saw us doing anything except studying, either by ourselves or together.”
“How’s your social life now?”
“More of the same. Jackie and Erica both went back home and started jobs and families, but I’ve been locked away in my museum. I love it, though. I always have so much work to do, so many new things to learn and pass on to others.”
“Well, we can’t have a scientist like you stuck in this town one moment longer than necessary. Here, let me find that original fine.”
The Sheriff opened a drawer and rifled through a few files.
“Ah ha,” he exclaimed, pulling the fine out with flourish, fanning it like one used to with Polaroid pictures.
Reaching into another drawer, he pulled out a stamp and ink pad. First rocking the stamp on the pad, then dabbing it on the same surface, he slammed the stamp onto the fine with authority. Putting away the stamp and ink pad, he wrote something on the fine.
“Okay, Miss. Do you have your check book?”
“It’s just a fifty dollar fine for going a little over the speed limit plus the processing fee. How’s that?”
“Oh, thank you, Sir. Thank you so much.”
“My deputy will handle the rest. You have a good day. I am off to spend time with the Misses.”
“Thank you again, Sir. And you have a wonderful evening.”
His boots clack-clacked as he walked out of the office, the screen door slamming behind him.
“Good job,” said the deputy as he left his desk and walked towards my seat.
“Thanks for the advice.” I stood up, check in hand, happy my ordeal was over.
“No sweat.” He approached and stood close, too close to me for just a helpful public servant. I smiled, despite myself.
“The same joke, twice in row? Hmm, you need some practice.” He reached out and took my payment, extending a finger to trace along the back side of my hand.
“You want to teach me?”
Was the heat in my body from the day’s temperature or having this man so near it? Either way, I didn’t care.
“Indeed. I think you have much to learn. Is there somewhere we could go?”
“I know just where to take you.”
Categorised as: Gen Fiction
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