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Location: marengo, il, United States

Thursday, December 09, 2004

AN INTRUSION

The red van leans hard as Bon Adventure swings it around the corner. Timber street appears to be deserted at this time of morning. But as the van approaches the stop sign up ahead, he suddenly regrets taking his favorite shortcut. Any hope of saving time evaporates as he and David are forced to sit and watch two miles of traffic that stream from both directions. He leans forward and grips the steering wheel with both hands while he looks back and forth, muttering under his breath.

“Well, isn’t this great.”

David sits in the passenger seat unconcerned. All he cares about is getting to school, but being on time is not a concept that he relates to.

“Just look at this, will you! Where do all of these blasted people come from, anyway? Holy-moley, we are going to be so late today!”

David curiously looks up to see what dad’s problem is, but quickly returns to playing his Game Boy.

Bon Adventure creeps the van forward, inching closer toward the train of slow-moving cars. Hopefully some soul will notice and allow the trapped fellow to cross the highway. He watches as a slight gap between two approaching vehicles closes up tight, and then he watches as the two car rolls right on by.

The woman in the first car reaches up to grab her rear-view mirror. She makes a minor adjustment to the device before she locks her eyes on the car to her front.

“Thank you very much, madam. You are a most-wonderful human being.”

The second driver sails past too. He holds his steering wheel with a coffee mug balanced at the top. He also stares straight ahead.

“And you are way too kind, sir.”

More half-awake commuters drive steadily on by; but all eyes in the line stay focused on vehicles they each follow.

Bon Adventure drums on his steering wheel.

“Not a one of these foreigners is going to stop, either. And why is that cop over there not doing anything?”

To his left sets a parked patrol car. A uniformed officer stands outside the vehicle, leaning comfortably against the trunk. The patrolman stands with his arms folded, idly watching the flow of traffic. Young school children cross the busy road here, but rules dictates they be assisted by a protective crossing guard. So far none have shown up; in the meantime the officer can only pass the time patiently.

One option for Bon Adventure is to make a right turn, but that would take the van four blocks out of the way. He has his mind set on crossing here, so he leans his head out of the window slightly, and then he stares at the mesmerized policeman.

“Hey.”

The policeman turns and looks toward the van.

Bon Adventure wrinkles his face into a quizzical expression, and then he beams at the man.

“Go on out there and hold your hand up. You got a gun, so they will listen to you.”

The cop’s frame jerks once as he snorts out a laugh. Then he shakes his head.

“I can’t do that. Only when kids come along.”

Bon Adventure grins. He points into the passenger seat where the shorter person sits unseen.

“I got one right here.”

The cars continue to roll on by without ceasing. The officer doesn’t budge from his post, but he glances up the road before looking back to visually search the red van. He works his jaw a moment before speaking again.

“If he walks across I can stop them.”

The man doesn’t move away from the squad car, but he does stand upright.

Bon Adventure looks over at his son.

“Unbuckle your seat belt.”

“Dad!”

The boy hates to be disturbed while playing Game Boy.

“Come on and do it; the cop over there is waiting for you.”

On the other side of the street Bon Adventure pulls over and stops the red van. Moments later the passenger door opens and David climbs back inside.

“Now buckle your seat belt again.”

After dropping the child off safe and barely on time, he turns the van around and heads for home. On the way he passes within several blocks of a small building that houses Hoohoovilles’ finest.

Why not, he thinks? Were I the man in charge, I would want to hear complaints from the ones I protect and serve.

He parks and leaves the van. Inside a small foyer he encounters an elderly lady caged behind what resembles bullet-proof glass.

“What can I do for you?”

Her gravel-like voice sounds tinny and far away. She also appears displeased to be bothered by this early-morning guest. A small round and slotted metal speaker seems to be the correct way to communicate with the anxious woman, so Bon Adventure leans over and speaks into it while she gives him a look.

“I’d like to see the boss.”

A radio next to the woman crackles once, so she interrupts the sparkling tête-à-tête. It crackles again while she searches a bank of keys for the proper button to push in response to the caller. Bon Adventure turns to read the fire escape plan for the station. The tinny voice grabs his attention again.

“What about?”

“Madam?”

“What did you want to see him about?”

“Oh. Sorry, I didn’t understand you.”

He glances back at the chart on the wall.

“Well. It’s a personal matter.”

That seems to do the trick, and her heart thaws. The woman explores her keyboard again before leaning over to speak something low into a microphone. Then she stares back up at her visitor.

“He will be with you shortly.”

“Thank you very much, madam.”

She is such a friendly human.

In a moment a massive steel door swings open. A man dressed in a white shirt stands with one hand resting on the door handle. A large gold badge attached to the man's pocket first catches Bon Adventures’ eye.

He offers an opened palm through the doorway before he steps forward, and he speaks confidently while the two men shake hands.

“You the Chief?”

Acting very pleased to be falsely promoted, the man confesses he is only the Deputy Chief.

“But what can I do for you?”

Neither man makes a move.

“My name is Bon Adventure. We moved here eight years ago, and I just thought it was high time to stop by and introduce myself. Plus to let you know how much I like all that you guys do for Hoohooville.”

That gets the man a free pass inside the fortress.

As the two walk down a short hall to the Assistant Chief’s cramped office, the administrator volunteers some information.

“We rarely get people coming by to tell us that, so I certainly do appreciate that.”

Inside the office, the two men face each other across a neatly disorganized desk.

“So how can I help you today?”

The officer sits straight in his chair and looks right at his caller.

Bon Adventure looks down at the floor and thinks hard.

“Well, here’s the problem. Last year, my son had one rough year finishing out the fifth grade. He’s a good kid and all that, but he somehow got off on the wrong foot with a pack of teachers there, if you know what I mean. Later they had him seeing doctors and therapists and all sorts of experts that each tried to explain just what the deal was. So it was a bad school year all the way around for the boy.

Now this year they have him in a great place over here at Timber, and the wife and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way things are going so far. But still, it just burns me up when I think about all those experts, and them trying to tell me what to do and how to do it.”

Now at this point Bon Adventure looks up. He breaths a small but silent sigh of relief when he catches sight of the Chief's slight smile.

“I can understand that much. So go on. What exactly is the problem here?”

“Well that, sir, is where I am at, concerning your fine officer down there at the corner of Main and Timber. See, I sure as hell don’t want you mad at me for telling you what to do, or suggesting how you ought to run things.”

The Chief leans back in his swivel chair and laughs. He then folds his hands up behind his neck as he listens to Bon Adventure continue with his speech.

“It isn’t a real problem, I suppose. Except that Main Street is so darn busy when I get there. Now I could drive four extra blocks farther and avoid the whole thing, but I do wonder why that fellow can’t just go out and stop traffic for what few of us parents drive cars and have to cross over."

He shakes his head, considering his dilemma.

"But listen. The man does a bang-up job keeping the kids safe, so I am thankful you guys are at least doing that.”

The Chief smiles and leans forward. His elbows settle on the desktop.

“I put him down there as a temporary until the school district hires a replacement for the lady that up and quit last week. Hopefully they will get a new one in a few more days, and then I can pull him off.”

“No chance the city would just spring for a traffic light?”

Bon Adventure stands, done with his complaint.

The swivel chair squeaks as the Deputy Chief rises also.

“That’s up to the state boys. They’d have to come in and do a traffic-pattern study first. Then it would be years before anything would happen. In the meantime, why not find another route?”

“Oh, I plan to. I ain't going through all that again.”

Both men laugh, and then shake hands once again.

At the end of the hall the Chief holds the door to the citadel open. On his way out Bon Adventure tips his hat to the little lady sitting behind the bullet-proof glass.

"Much obliged, madam."

The red van and he go home, and he goes home content.

3 Comments:

Blogger Gone Away said...

Now THAT'S what I call diplomacy. Great stuff again, Harry. And thanks for making me feel guilty, working away there while Mad and I have been having fun, posting silly comments all over... ;)

12:20 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

Very good. I agree with the lizard, on all counts. We have a similar police dept. here, without the helpful deputy, unfortunately.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Thanks, gys. Yer comments are always tops. Now, back to my highly-skilled cut n paste abilities everyone seems to envy...

12:36 PM  

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