Undersheriff Bob Garrity decided that he liked Neil Diamond which was a divergence from his usual 80s hair-metal playlist. He also decided that he had grown fat since his divorce. He switched on his interior light and examined his flabby, rose-colored face in the rear view mirror while careening down County Road 73 at thirty five miles per hour over the speed limit. His chubby cheeks were beginning to squeeze in on the flanks of his push broom mustache and his beady eyes appeared to be receding further into his skull. He decided he had to do something about his weight.
No wonder she left you, he muttered to himself as his eyes moved from the mirror back onto the road—
He slammed on the brakes.
His cruiser screeched and fishtailed to a halt in the middle of the road just short of a pair of red, flashing taillights.It was a moonless night, a pitch black, country night, illuminated only by the range of the headlamps. Garrity turned down the insanely loud whimsical keyboard riff of Diamond’s “We’re Coming to America” and radioed in. He couldn’t see any motion in the car ahead. He flipped on his flashers and siren…still nothing. He aimed the intense beam of his searchlight into the back of the car revealing the backs of two heads.
“Morons,” he muttered, while taking mental notes of the details.
Their SUV was new and clean, a Luxury Edition. Its tags were current. The taillights were in working order. It had a “Coexist” sticker affixed to the rear bumper.
Commies! Garrity thought.
Garrity believed he could discern the caste of most civilians by a quick glance at their automobiles. Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? The most dangerous ones to be wary of were the meth-heads with their matted hair and chronic twitchiness. They drove rusty sedans that often rode low due to blown out shocks. Another brand of self-manifested self-destruction were the “wiggers,” as Garrity referred to them. They were short, skinny, and usually adorned with sparsely grown porno mustaches. Rap music thumped from their spinner-wheeled econo-boxes. It was best to unsnap ones holster when approaching these idiots.
To Garrity, these two flavors were the most dangerous subspecies of white trash. They all seemingly evolved from the same genetic spawn with their greasy hair, flexed ligaments accentuated with a grease-stained muscle-shirt, short stature embellished by low-sagging pants like the male prostitutes wear in prison. If they only knew! he thought.
There were other breeds of troublemaker for the undersheriff to worry about as well: “welfare queens” with their dinged up, blue smoke-puffing minivans; drunken cowboys in their diesel pickup trucks; bitchy CEO wives in their German SUVs; punky rich kids in their souped-up rice-burners—they were always on drugs—and don’t forget the tree-huggers in their faggoty hybrids—smug and passive aggressive.
Most strains of mutant had hair-trigger tempers, disrespect for authority, and a foul mouth stuffed full of something to prove. Thankfully, the occupants of the car ahead were none of these; the bumper sticker indicated something else. A clean, luxury edition SUV with a “Coexist” bumper sticker indicated an upper-middle-class, metrosexual white male that Garrity could intimidate with a mere snarl.
“They probably hit an elk,” Garrity muttered to himself as he approached the driver’s side. The window slid down. “Hello,” Garrity called out as he approached. There was no answer. “I said HELLO!” He stopped at the rear wheel well of the SUV and took out his flashlight. “Hey buddy, you’re endangering me out here! What’s your problem? Answer me!”
“Sorry officer,” came a timid male voice from inside.
Garrity continued toward the driver’s side and shined his flashlight directly into the man’s eyes to blind him—Garrity learned that technique at the academy. He scanned the interior taking mental notation. Male driver, milquetoast. Shouldn’t be any trouble unless he mouths off. Female passenger, crying, probably man’s wife. Stereo playing that whiney-ass Dave Matthews…communist affiliation confirmed. Small brat in back seat, sleeping. No signs of drugs. No one looks like they’re hiding anything. No odors of pot or alcohol, no wait…sniff…what’s that? Red wine? Aha! They’ve been drinking.
“Do you mind telling me why you’re parked in the middle of the highway? You coulda gotten me killed,” Garrity asked, switching the flashlight beam into the woman’s eyes to blind her, too.
“We hit something,” the man explained.
“What did you hit?”
“I don’t know.”
“Were you planning on taking a look?” asked Garrity.
“It just happened. I wasn’t sure what I should do. What if it was just injured? I was going to call the police but you showed up before I could dial. I don’t know if it’s dangerous.”
“Oh, for crying out loud.” Garrity’s head swiveled toward the front of the SUV and scanned the road ahead illuminated by the headlamps. He couldn’t see anything from his vantage. “I want you to stay in your car and keep your hands on the wheel,” he ordered the driver. And get her calmed down while I go take a look.”
“I don’t need any calming down,” she said.
Garrity gave her another blast of blinding flashlight into her eyes while he radioed in. Then he walked to the front of the SUV. It was pitch black except for the arc of the lights and the red and blue flashers of his cruiser reflecting off the tree trunks. The road was empty. He swept the darkness with his flashlight as he moved towards the shoulder. Miller moths fluttered and danced in the beams of light.
His beam swept over a large stone or trunk or—no, it was something else. How exciting! he thought. His adrenal glands surged into action. An otherwise dull evening might end on an interesting uptick. He stepped closer. The flashlight’s beam locked on while headlights appeared not far down the road. What is it? he asked himself. It was tan and long, facing into the trees. Could it be a—yes, yes it’s a mountain lion! Oh, what a find. How awesome would this look over my fireplace?”
Garrity heard the woman grumbling about something back in the car. She had the potential to be a problem. He knelt down over the animal. It didn’t appear to be breathing but there wasn’t any blood. He unsnapped his holster just in case and leaned in closer, extending his hand. He stroked the fur. It was coarse like straw. The cat didn’t move or make a sound.
The car coming down the road approached and Garrity thought it best to walk back to the passenger’s side of the SUV. He blinded the driver and the woman again with his flashlight along the way.
“Roll the god damn window down, will ya?” Garrity barked at the woman. She complied. “What is she bitching about?” he asked the driver.
The driver tried to hold her hand but she yanked it away.
“Does she have a problem?”
“She’s just upset that we hit something.”
“That’s not why I’m—” she explained but was cut off.
“What did we hit?” interrupted the driver. “Is it dead?”
“It’s dead,” Garrity answered, with a smirk forming under his mustache.
“So what happens now?” the woman asked.
“Can you calm her down, please?”
“I’m perfectly calm. And you can address me, personally.”
“So what was it?” asked the driver.
“It’s a cougar.”
“Oh, that’s terrible,” said the driver.
“It is,” Garrity answered, as he put his flashlight under his arm and took out his ticket book.
“Are you writing me a ticket?” asked the driver.
“License and registration, please,” Garrity replied, as the approaching car whizzed past them in the other lane.
“Are you seriously writing him a ticket?” asked the woman.
Garrity scowled, then took the flashlight out of his armpit and blinded her with the beam again. He had a low tolerance for citizens questioning his authority.
“Please stop shining that light in my eyes,” she said.
“I said license and registration!” Garrity growled. “Have you been drinking?”
“No, not at all. Not tonight, officer.”
The driver reached into his visor, took out his papers and handed them to Garrity who took them back to his cruiser. Once inside, Garrity keyed in the info and radioed dispatch. Another set of headlights appeared, far off up the road. The driver’s papers were in order with no outstanding warrants. Garrity filled out a citation, making notes as to the woman’s unccoperative demeanor. Then he waited an additional thirteen minutes just because he could. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to put the driver through the roadside test. It was such a pain in the ass. Two more cars zipped past. To pass the time, he fumbled with his iPod finally settling on “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.
He glanced up, startled to find that the driver was getting out of his SUV. Garrity jumped out of the cruiser to subdue him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he shouted at the driver.
“Are you really going to write me a ticket?” the man asked.
“That’s right. Now get your ass back in your car. You are endangering me!”
“I want to know why you’re writing me a ticket.”
“I’m the one with the badge and the gun. I ask the questions and I give the orders. I said get your ass back in your car or I’ll tack on a DUI,” Garrity hollered as he reached for his holster. “I’ve had about enough of you two.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I just want—”
“Get your ass back in your car or I will take you down. Do you understand?”
“For what? For asking you a question?”
The woman in the car started to shout. The toddler who was asleep woke up and started to scream. Another set of headlights appeared from up the road.
“This is your last warning,” Garrity commanded as he reached down along his belt to his holster.
The woman shouted, “No, no!”
“I asked a question. That’s all. I just want to know why you are writing me a ticket. It’s just a question. Just answer that and I’ll get back in my car.”
“You will do as I say or I will put you down. Get your ass back in your car!” Garrity could not believe the defiant attitude of this prole. Even the meth-heads, as argumentative as they typically were, had more sense than this idiot. Garrity pondered at what moment he should he draw.
“Come back to the car!” the woman shouted. “You’re going to get run over!”
The headlights from down the road drew closer. The whoosh of its tires on the road grew louder.
“You have no right to give me a ticket for hitting that thing,” the driver argued. “There was nothing I could do. It ran out in front of—”
Garrity drew and charged forward, following the beam of his flashlight into the man’s face. He fired, dropping the man to the ground in a heap, screaming and writhing in pain from the shock of the taser. The woman shouted obscenities in response. The toddler screamed. The approaching car decelerated with a screech. Garrity pounced onto the man, driving his knee into his back, deftly cuffing him—they taught him that technique at the police academy, too.
“Why are you doing this?” shouted the man.
“Stop resisting. You’re under arrest!” Garrity declared.
“I’m not resisting.”
“For resisting arrest.”
“You’re arresting me for resisting arrest? What the fuck? That doesn’t make sense.”
“Shut up or I’ll taser you again and tack on obstruction.”
The approaching car came to a stop which added to Garrity’s agitation. There were too many variables for him to control, now. He was highly stressed. He yanked the driver up and shoved him into the back of his cruiser.
“Anything we can help with, officer?” asked the driver of the other car.
“It’s ‘sheriff’, not ‘officer’. Do I look like a god damn city cop to you? Move along.”
Garrity went back to the SUV to subdue the woman who had since exited her vehicle and was now standing on the shoulder of the road cursing him. Garrity drew his taser but the sight of it had no effect on her. She continued insulting him and giving him dehumanizing stares. She looked as if she wanted to rip his eyeballs out with her fingernails—deadly weapons as far as he was concerned. The toddler in the back seat cried. Garrity took aim at her but thought for a moment about the witnesses in the car in the opposite lane which had not yet moved on. He holstered his taser and charged the woman, tackling her down onto the rocky shoulder.
The other car slowly pulled away.
As Garrity knelt on the woman, frisked her, and radioed for backup, the cougar, which was only stunned, gathered herself up and limped back into woods.