I had been meaning to fix it for ages but it always seemed to slip my list of things to do. There were always more important things to do like holding down a job, paying the rent and bills on time and keeping her royal highness sweet and happy. A faulty brake light was not a priority.
The segment of the highway I was driving along wasn’t properly lit. If it had been on one of the roads in town, with all the street lights, I might have got away with it. But out here on a dimly lit highway a non-functioning brake light sticks out like a sore thumb. Like an unwanted beacon it can be seen for miles around. And all it takes is for one observant motorist to point it out.
I wasn’t looking at my mirrors as I should have been or I would have seen that very observant motorist lurking, not too far, behind me.
But he was to make his presence known.
First it was a flashing blue light and then there was the loud audible siren. Only then did I look in the mirror. It was a cop and I was being pulled over.
If I’m lucky, I thought, I’ll be given a verbal and told to fix my faulty brake light ASAP.
I took my foot off the gas, gently gearing down as I coasted my car into the nearest layby. Like co-joined twins, the police car behind me mimicked my actions, pulling in closer, his fender nearly touching mine.
It was late at night and I thought about switching on the interior light. But that might aggravate things. I might be regarded as a smart arse. So with both my hands on the steering wheel I waited.
I didn’t have long to wait. There was a dull thud on my side window and a state troopers’ face appeared. He had tapped on the window with his baton.
“ Officer…”, I began, winding down the window. It was cold outside and a chilly breeze blew in. I felt it against my cheek and hoped he wouldn’t keep me for long,”…is anything the matter?”
It was a lie. Of course I knew what the matter was: I was one parking light down!
The reply was robotic. I had to do a double take to be sure it wasn’t Robocop.
“Sir do you realize one of your brake lights isn’t working?”
I feigned ignorance – it usually works- and lied.” It was working perfectly well when I left home…”
“Are you calling me a liar?”, the robotic voice had gone up a decibel or two. Risking a sideward glance I could see the warm misty vapour coming out of his mouth. He didn’t want to be out in the cold either.
I risked a smile in his direction. It was probably the first time he saw me in the darkness of the vehicle. For some reason I seemed to blend in with my surroundings.
He thought I was being insolent.
“Please step out of the car sir”
It was the same robotic voice. Only now it was louder and angrier.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see his right hand go down to his hip. It was a reflex action like a tennis player about to serve a ball.
My car’s an old Buick, old and creaky, and my door can sometimes need a bit of a shove to get it open.
I leant over trying to get my right hand to give the door a push while my left shoulder shoved.
He misread my innocent move.
At the same time as I was struggling with the door he raised his right hand, nervously. It all happened in a flash. As the scene played out in slow motion he shouted something I didn’t hear. His mouth forming incomprehensible inaudible words as the metallic tube in his right hand spat fire.
It was like a dragon exhaling for the very first time.
Panicking, my hands instinctively flew into the air, an obvious sign of submission, but not before, in that nano-second, I could see a small projectile headed my way.