Monday, January 31, 2011

A Ticket to Love

            "Find Mr. Right yet?" Aunt Myrtle asks, and gives me a glance.
 My dating life intrigues her. She loves the details.
"Maybe...I'm not sure."
We're driving in my old, rattly Ford Tempo. I'm taking her to lunch. I do this every Saturday at noon. Then I drop her off at the Fair Grounds to play bingo.
A widow, she meets with three buddies, one of whom still drives; she gives all the ladies a ride home.Aunt Myrtle's seventy-six, my only living relative.
"There is this one man...lately..." I say. "Harold Mason."
I stop for a traffic light.
Aunt Myrtle says, "I don't remember your mentioning him before."
'I've known him for a long while. We went to high school together. But maybe said Hi two or three times in four years."
The light changes. My foot presses the accelerator.
"What does he do?" Aunt Myrtle asks.
"He's a policeman. We've talked. I'll see him again. He's joined our church."
"A policeman? Goodness, how did you meet a policeman?"
I smile. "He gave me a ticket a few days ago for speeding.
Fifty-five miles an hour in a thirty-five-mile-and-hour zone. "
"Oh lord, Kathy, what were you thinking?"
"Lately on Monday mornings I've been late getting started for school—I open the library for early-bird students."
"In my day," Aunt Myrtle said, "I'd have batted my eyelashes at the man, smiled, and said, 'How are you doing today, officer?' He would've given me a warning. Asked for my telephone number—I don't understand men these days. "
"He gave me a warning the first time."
"Oh, my goodness," Aunt Myrtle says, and shakes her head. "You mean he's stopped you twice?"
"But I've gotten only one ticket."
At that moment, in my rearview mirror, I spot a black-and-white squad car pulling up behind me in traffic. I glance at my speedometer. I'm doing forty in a forty-five mile an hour zone. My seat belt's buckled. Aunt Myrtle's  is, too. I'm not yapping on a cell phone or fixing my makeup. I'm safe, I'm legal.
Why does my heart start hammering so hard?
Halfway down the street, I pull into the Blueport CafĂ©'s parking lot. The squad pulls in behind me, blocking me—like I'm on a most-wanted list—so I can't escape. A fugitive.
Aunt Myrtle and I climb out of the car. It's Harold!  He's already slipped out of his squad, and is facing us, leaning against his squad's fender, his arms crossed.
I blink.
"I'll handle this, Kathy." Aunt Myrtle huffs and steps in front of me.
Smiling his gorgeous blue-eyed smile, Harold says, "Ladies..."
"Now listen here, young man..." But Aunt Myrtle falters. Harold's good looks and awesome smile have apparently disarmed her.
"Hi," I say quickly to Harold. "This is my Aunt Myrtle..."
He nods hello, then says to me,  "You left taillight is out."
"Oh my! No!"
Harold tips his hat, still smiling his awesome smile, and my stomach flutters.  "I won't bust you this time," he says. "But you should get it fixed."
Aunt Myrtle scowls at Harold, but I sigh, relieved to have escaped without another ticket.
"Have a nice lunch, ladies," Harold says.
"Thank you," I say.
Aunt Myrtle says nothing; she's still scowling.
Inside the Blueport, while we each enjoy a chef's salad, garlic bread, and ice tea, Aunt Myrtle says, "That young policeman is handsome, but he should be asking you out instead of giving you warnings and tickets. In my day..."
"Maybe next time," I say wistfully.
When we leave the Blueport and approach my car in the parking lot, I'm stunned to find a yellow ticket under my windshield wiper.
"The nerve of that young man!" Aunt Myrtle says, bristling.
I'm starting to bristle, too, until I grab the ticket and realize it has a note paper-clipped to the back of it.
Kathy, the note reads, I realize your aunt doesn't exactly approve of me. Still, I'd like to call you later today and maybe we can go out to dinner and catch a movie tonight—if you don't have anything else planned. Here's a ticket you can tear up. Just for fun. A big smiley face appears at the bottom. The note is signed, Your friendly traffic officer, Harold Mason. P.S. I'll bring a bulb to fix your taillight. He left his telephone number.
My face is flushed, my heart hammering again.
I give the note to Aunt Myrtle. She reads it, smiles, and says, "My lord, what a nice young man."

The End
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