Monday, February 1, 2010

The Good Cops in Maine, And Our Wreck

The Good Cops in Maine, And Our Wreck

By LC Van Savage

Last November, Mongo and I were returning from a concert in Portsmouth. It was dark when we started back toward Brunswick, but it’s an easy drive and I was looking forward to stopping at Popeye’s for red beans and rice on the way home. Love that stuff.

As we passed by a pretty little small Maine town, a car in front of us suddenly slowed way down, and pulled off to the far right, but their left-hand blinker was going. Not understanding what that driver was going to do, Mongo slowed, put on his right blinker and pulled in behind him to allow him time to make up his mind. We were way off the highway. Suddenly we heard that sound no one enjoys—a long, high-pitched screech of tires behind us – then a pause, we braced and then, kabammo! Someone in a large, dark van slammed into us from behind. What a sound! I never ever want to hear that again.

I turned to Mongo and we both said somewhat in unison, “Are you OK?” Then I said, “Let’s get outta here.” We exited the car quickly. The van who hit is? Slowed a fraction and squealed away, fishtailing. He didn’t stop. He didn’t know if we were dead or alive. He just left us there on that very dark stretch of highway, the back of our car scattered everywhere.

Mongo was able to get the car into the parking lot of a creepy Stephen King abandoned weed-strewn diner where it totally died. Man, it was dark there. And cold.

I had watched with just vague interest as that blue van sped away from us, not thinking about memorizing the license plate, my focus mostly on the car that had slowed down in front of us causing all this. The guy stopped and began to get out of his car. I said aloud, “I’m gonna beat him up,” and went striding off into the night to do just that when suddenly I was facing Shaquille O’Neal. OK it really wasn’t Mr. O’Neal but it was surely his twin brother. That man was so huge his head was lost in the night above me and I couldn’t even see his face. My bravery became rubber, but I stood my ground. This giganticus however, was all tender concern for us, so stammering just a little, I said “Well—well, why did you slow down anyway?” He said “I’m sorry. It’s that woman I’m with. She was driving. I don’t know why she did that, but are you OK?” He was so kind, he did stop and even though he passed the buck and blamed “that woman” (huddled in the car) I let him go after reaching up, shaking my finger furiously at him somewhere around his belt buckle, and telling him to never ever do that again young man, did he hear me? He did, and off he went.

We called 911 and pretty soon after that a police officer, young enough to be our grandson, came wheeling importantly into the parking lot and strolled toward us with his flashlight and talking importantly into his shoulder. Does every male police officer shave their heads bald these days? Anyway, we chatted, he shone his flashlight on the wreckage of our car and became annoyed because his batteries were wearing out. Wearing out? He’s a cop. That can’t happen. He told his shoulder he’d need a fire truck and one came along and oh boy, in the lights of that truck we could see an awful lot of the shards of Mongo’s car just scattered and glittering everywhere. It was their job to clean it up and haul it away and I watched with much fascination. I asked the nice young police guy if he could take us to a car rental place so we could drive home as our tattered car got towed back to Brunswick. No, sorry, they close at 4 on Saturdays. There was one motel somewhere nearby and we could maybe sleep there. No thanks. I don’t sleep in my clothes with no toothbrush, not ever. Another young bald policekid stopped by and this time he had a working flashlight and we could get a better look at the wreckage. Wow. It the darkness and shadows it looked like the innards of one of those disemboweled robots in a SciFi film, nameless things hanging out and splintered. It looked grotesque.

What to do? We had to call Paul or Kate back in Brunswick to come down the highway to rescue us and without a blink, they agreed. Officer Youth said he’d drive us to the police station. “Is it nearby?” I asked. Awkward silence. “Well,” he said, “it’s kind of in a neighborhood. In an old schoolhouse actually. But all that’s about to change. The town has plans.” I said “Well, you’re lucky. Our police department is in a cellar and there are no plans to change that.” He laughed. I said “Does your police station have chairs?” Yes. “Does it have a lady’s room?” Well, he allowed as to how there was one bathroom, unisex, but I didn’t much care. He held open the door to his cop car and I got in. Mongo got squashed behind the cage in the back seat. Perps I guess are all no taller than around 5 ft. 6. But I was psyched. I’ve never been in a cop car and there is one huge load of electronic stuff in them. Or do you know that? He blasted the heat and began to do a check on us. Uh oh. Would his computer tell him that when I was underage and lied about it, I went into a porn shop with some friends in NY and bought something unspeakably suggestive? Would he believe me that I’ve since thrown it away? Panic! No, the computer screen showed that I have been nothing but a great bore nearly all my life with no tickets or accidents or armed robberies to my credit. Apparently the statute of limitations regarding the porn shop caper had run out. Then he checked on Mongo’s driving record. OK, we won’t go there.

When we got to the station, yes an old schoolhouse, I turned to Officer Stripling and said, quite seriously, “This is a dream, right? We’re in Mayberry.” He laughed but I’m not sure he knew what I meant.

In we went. Two chairs were there. One bathroom. I used it. He showed us a “conference room” and I was so relieved to see two M&M machines. We were ravenous. A nice man, perhaps the Chief of Police, said, “You’re hungry? Wait!” and he comes back in with a huge tray of doughnuts. The station had had some kind of dedication that day and those were left over. We tore into them. Not as good as Popeye’s but just perfect for the moment.

We got a tour of that police station and then I knew for sure we were in Mayberry. I looked for Aunt Bea. Otis. Barney. Opie. Floyd. We saw the holding room; a large closet with a pair of medieval handcuffs chained to a pipe that went into a wall. Carvings on the bench. Carvings? Like with a knife? Hmmmm. But can you imagine a police department making sure we had food and a place to rest and good company around us? We were treated with much kindness and respect. As they say in Texas, “Well bless their horts.”

Kate arrived with our granddaughter Jordan and we were so happy. How good they looked. Our car was headed back to Brunswick on the back of a truck somewhere, and we were headed to Popeye’s for red beans and rice minutes before they closed. As to the hit and run dude; why did you run away before finding out if we were OK? If kids were involved? Were you in a stolen van? Were you drunk? No license? Did your buddies charge you any money to repair your van? Don’t you have any sense of ethics? Decency? I hate you.

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