Saturday, June 15, 2013

Over the Line

I'm Lost Grove's Parking Enforcement Officer—a Meter Maid. Lots of people get ticked at me when I hand them a ticket, but I'm always willing to give a person a break. Like if they show up and catch me in the middle of writing a one, I tear it up. This is a friendly town.
Anyway, Sunday morning in a checkout aisle at Lyle's Groceries,
I laid my items—mostly for baking—on the belt that would whisk them to Alice, the cashier, so she could scan them. A stranger standing behind me, his blue eyes twinkling, said, "Bet it'll smell great in your house today. My grandmother used to bake a lot."
You don't see many strangers in Lost Grove. This handsome one caught my interest. "Cookies and cake for my sister's baby shower," I said.
"She'll be pleased."
"I hope so."
Alice handed me the slip—$40.00.
That's when heat crept into my face. I suddenly realized and then quickly explained that I'd left my purse locked in the glove compartment of my car. Without hesitation, the handsome man said, "Here, let me," and handed Alice two twenties. "Save you the hassle of running out and back in. And holding things up here."
"I can't let you—"
"Nonsense. I'll check out and meet you in the parking lot."
Feeling totally embarrassed but grateful, I said, "I'll be standing next to a red Jeep Cherokee."
When he approached me in the lot, the sun shone wonderfully off his blond hair. Handing him forty dollars, I glimpsed no rings on his fingers; I thought for sure he glanced at my ringless left hand.
"That was a nice of you," I said, "paying for my groceries. Thank you."
Smiling, he said, "Maybe I'll see you again sometime."
My heart fluttered with hope. "Maybe."
"What's your name?"
"Wendy Flynn."
"Chad Hill."
We shook hands and then said goodbye.
Monday morning, I made my usual rounds downtown, issuing only three citations. At noontime, a fourth citation left me a half block away from Cindy's Café, where I always grab an hour for lunch. I walked in and at the counter the first person I spotted was Chad Hill.
I sucked in a deep breath, gathered my courage, and eased down on a stool next to him. The dark blue uniform and sunglasses I wore threw him. I took off my blue cop hat and dark glasses.
Blinking twice, he said, "You're a police officer?"
"A meter maid."
"Bake all those cakes and cookies yet?"
"This weekend."
And that started us off chatting. We ordered Cindy's Friday special—chicken potpie—and sipped coffee. Handsome Chad Hill came from upstate. He'd taken a job in Lost Gove—the county seat—as a county surveyor. Never married. I told him I was born and raised in Lost Gove. I'd never married either. I was taking night classes to become a full-fledged police officer, an investigation technician. Six months to go.
"Good for you," he said. "Law enforcement needs good female officers."
I guessed him to be my age, nearly thirty. I felt a connection between us, which pleased me tremendously.
After we finished eating, paid or bills, and left Cindy's, he turned left to go down the street. I should've turned right—I'd already covered the area to our left, but Chad said, "Walk with me to my car, it's not that far."
When we reached his car, a half block away, he cleared his throat. His Adam's apple bobbing, he said, "I was wondering if you—if we might..."
My heart skipped. I thought, Oh my, he's going to ask me for a date.
But his words trailed off, and then my heart stopped. Completely. His red Mustang sat parked in a crosswalk. I'd left a pink citation on his windshield, under the wiper blade, my fourth of the morning.
He stared at his car and shook his head. "I'm not illegally parked," he said.
I pointed at the white line. "The rear of your car—the entire trunk practically— is over the line."
"And you're out of line, Officer. My tires are on this side," he said, also pointing.
"Doesn't matter. City ordinance says, 'Any part of a vehicle...'"
He held a palm up. "Never mind," he said, and surprised me with a smile. "I'm guilty."
I recalled his thoughtfulness in the grocery store yesterday, and now I felt terrible for having slapped a citation on his windshield. "I'll tear the ticket up," I said.
He shook his head. "No. I'm guilty," he said again. "Guilty as charged. And as part of my debt to society, let me take you to dinner tonight. Later, a movie maybe." His smile turned rueful. "But someplace where I can't park illegally—like over a white line."
My blood rushed. My turn to smile. "Big gravel parking lot at the Steak House," I said, and tore up his ticket. "Movies at the Sunset Drive-in start at nine. No white lines anywhere at all."
"Sounds safe to me," he said, and we both laughed.
The End
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