Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writing Prompt from One of My Students (My Story is Here ... Want to Give it a Go?)

"She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights..."

One of my students is a passionate writer; in fact, she sees it as her future career, which I think is amazing :-) She gave me the above sentence as a writing prompt, so I told her I'd give it a go.

If you want to try, leave a link in the comments ...
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She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights.

It had happened before, and a montage played quickly in her head.

*

She was seventeen, and nine months pregnant.  She'd worked open to close at the restaurant, a sixteen-hour shift, and she was exhausted.  As she merged onto the highway and started over the bridge, the breeze from the open window increased.  It buffeted her waist-length hair around her face, so she quickly grabbed a hair tie and pulled it back.

And swerved slightly in the process.

She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights.  She'd never been pulled over before, but she knew what to do.

The police officer approaching her car was middle-aged and overweight.  "Have you been drinking?" he asked without preamble.

"I'm pregnant," she replied.

"I repeat, have you been drinking?  You were all over the road back there."

"I was putting my hair up.  It started blowing all over the place when I got onto the highway."

"Where are you coming from?"

"Work.  I'm a waitress at Mollie's."  In point of fact, her work shirt, extended over her swollen belly as it was, clearly stated 'Mollie's Waitstaff'.

"And where are you heading?"

"Um ... home."

"License and registration," he grunted.

She bent forward to get the car registration from the glove compartment, and her stomach knocked into the car's horn.

"Get out of the car!" the officer ordered.

"But you said to get my--"

"I have reason to believe that you've been drinking."

"I told you, I'm pregnant."

"Yeah, and you look about twelve, too."

Tears welled in her eyes.  She had always cried easily.  "Do you want my license and registration?  I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

"Get them for me--without honking the horn--then step out of the car."

She nodded, sniffling.  After locating her license and registration without further incident, she stepped out of the car--her mother's Jeep Wrangler--and stood uncertainly next to it.

"Um ... what do I do now?" she finally asked as he scrutinized her license.  The picture on it was shockingly flattering for a DMV shot; her friends teased her that it should have been her senior picture.  She knew that the beautiful, carefree girl in the picture bore little resemblance to the exhausted mess in front of him.

"Put your hands on the hood of the car while I run this through."

She had to bend at an awkward angle to accomplish this, and it seemed to take him an awfully long time.  She knew that her mother would be worried about her, and the tears poured freely down her face.

When he returned, he directed her to the white line delineating the breakdown lane.  "Walk that line for fifteen steps."

"Um ... why?"

"I'm giving you a field sobriety test.  I have reason to believe that you've been drinking."

"But I ..."

"Go over to the line, and walk."

She did as she was told; she feared loud, bullying men above all else, and fate seemed to have sent her a police officer who fit the bill.

It was worse than she'd feared.  He screamed at her when she couldn't line her feet up on the line (the fact that she couldn't see her feet was clearly irrelevant to him), and she cried loud and hard.

He finally pulled out the big guns and gave her a breathalyzer test.  The result was 0.0.

He mumbled an apology which might have been a verbal warning and sent her on her way.

*

She was eighteen and late for work at her third job balanced with single motherhood and full-time college student status.  Although working mornings at her daughter's day care cut down on that particular bill and working third shift at Cumberland Farms made finding a nighttime babysitter easy, this was the job where the money came in--the fact that she hated it, that putting piecework together in a factory was boring at best, was irrelevant; her factory paycheck was pretty much what she lived on.

If she left directly from class, she could make it to the factory with five minutes to spare.  Today, though, the babysitter was late, and one-year-old Nancy was clingy, not wanting her to leave.

As a result, she'd driven the back roads of small New Hampshire towns like a bat out of Hades, and actually harbored some degree of hope that she was going to actually punch the timeclock on time, when a rust-freckled white sedan jerked out in front of her ... and started to move along at speeds topping out at fifteen miles per hour.

Alanis Morrissette was on her CD player, and she sang along angrily, doing her best not to tailgate the guy as the minutes ticked by.  There was no way she'd be getting to work on time.

As she entered the town limits, within sight of the factory, the car put on its blinker to make a right turn.

Holding back the urge to honk, show the driver an extended view of a certain finger, or otherwise act like an annoyed and immature teenager, she merely checked to make sure that nothing was coming from the other direction before she veered around the hated car that'd held her up, crossed the double line into the other lane for a car's width of time, then pulled back into her own lane.

She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights.

Muttering expletives under her breath as she saw that she had four minutes to get to work, she pulled out her license and registration so that she'd be ready when the trooper reached her open window.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?" he asked.

"Look, I'm late for work.  Can you just give me a ticket?  I have three minutes to get there.  Three."

"Late for work, huh?  Well, let me take this to my cruiser and run it."

Fifteen minutes later, he returned to her car.  His walk was so slow it was very nearly a swagger.  "Just giving you a verbal warning," he said, smiling although there was a nasty glint in his eye.

*

She was nineteen years old and heading toward her family's beach house.  She'd driven the road a hundred times, so she was in comfortable glory.  Sunglasses were on, she wore shorts and a bikini top that set off the tan she'd gotten lifeguarding, and Tupac was pounding loudly from her car's speakers.

She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights. 

The cop approaching her car was middle-aged and overweight.

"License and registration, please?"

She handed them over, then asked, "Do you mind if I asked why you pulled me over?  Do I have a tail light out or something?"

He peered down at her from above his sunglasses.  His eyes were muddy and brown.  "You were speeding, little lady."

"Um ... no, I wasn't."

"I clocked you going 37," he said triumphantly.  "Got documentation right in my car."

She readjusted her bikini top to improve the view.  "You're going to give me a ticket for going two miles per hour over the speed limit?"

"Two miles?  No, honey, you were going seventeen miles over the speed limit."

"Like hell I was!  I drive on this road all the time.  The speed limit here is 35.  I know this road like the back of my hand!"

"Maybe you do and maybe you don't, sweetie, but you musta missed the sign where it said 'school zone', which means the speed limit is twenty."

"There's no school on Saturday, stupid!" she retorted.

The officer's face flushed an ugly red, but he didn't say a word.

Instead of a ticket, she received a citation for insubordination toward an officer of the law.  The fine was $300.  She had to go to court.

*

She was thirty years old and on her way home from work.  Even though it was not yet five, night had fallen, and she watched the stars through the windshield as she progressed along her monster commute.  She recognized Orion's belt and found the little dipper.  Life was good.

She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights. 

As she pulled her car onto the shoulder of the road, she took her license from her wallet and the car registration from the glove compartment.

The officer approaching her car was middle-aged and overweight.

"Good evening, sir," she said, handing him her license and registration before he asked.

"Do you know why I pulled you over, ma'am?" he asked.

"No, sir, but I'd appreciate it if you would."

"You have a front headlight out."

"Oh, no!  Are you serious?"

"I'm afraid so.  Not to worry, it's an easy enough fix to just replace the bulb.  I wanted to bring it to your attention so you can get it fixed as soon as possible, though."

"Thank you so much, officer."

He reached in the open window and put the paperwork back into her hand.  "Just get that headlight fixed as soon as possible."

"Oh, I will, sir.  Thank you so much.  I really appreciate your understanding."

He smiled slightly and shrugged.  "Even police cruisers loose a headlight once in awhile."

"Thank you again, officer.  Have a wonderful night."

"Same to you, ma'am."

*

She started to slow as she looked up and saw blue flashing lights.  She remembered in the blur of seconds her history with getting pulled over, and the one car accident she'd been in at the age of twenty-one when she fell asleep driving at three in the morning and accidentally went into a ditch.

She nudged her decelerating car onto the road's shoulder and was reaching into the glove compartment for her registration as the police car swerved around her, sped past her, and disappeared into the night, lights still pulsating like alien bubbles.

Clearly it was her lucky night.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if it's deliberate but there's a sense that the police judge people on age no matter the circumstances. When she was older the cop was a lot more understanding. Though she herself was as well. I'm really over-thinking this but that just shows how good it was to me.

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