The view from the underside of a truck

Me and trouble, we’re on a first name basis.

Before the age of 16, I’d been hauled in and questioned on charges
of arson, destruction of property, B&E with intent to cause bodily harm,
disturbing the peace, and countless “police encounters” – the name with which
Sheriff Forkes gussied up routine police harassment. Oh, and I was pulled over
by Deputy Benz – during Driver’s Ed class
–for speeding.  Everything dismissed for
lack of evidence. Except for the speeding ticket. That cost me thirty bucks and
a stern talking to by Judge Patterson.

I’m good at getting into trouble, but I’m better at getting
out of it.

But this?  A whole new
dimension.  I’d enjoyed a long streak
skating outside lawful society, but I’d hit the end of the road.  Maybe I shouldn’t be putting this down on
paper, but I’m afraid if I don’t do it now, I won’t get another chance. So,
here goes.


A strong hand latched onto my booted foot and yanked me out
from under the truck. “What the hell you doing under Delbetter’s car, Ellen
Weils?” Deputy Eddie Bishop looked down at me, blocking the sun.  I squinted, trying to make out just how mad
he was. “I’m driving through the school parking lot and I see these little
boots stickin’ out from under Gary Delbetter’s pick-up,” he shifted, and the
sunlight blinded me, “I said to myself, ‘Eddie, who’s boots you suppose those
are?’ and only one name come up, Ell.”

“Eddie,” squeezing my eyes tight, I groped in the air,
“gimme a hand up, ‘fore you yell at me?” He grabbed my hand in his rough one
and pulled just as hard as he had on my foot, nearly yanking my arm out of
socket. “Dang – how big you think I am?”

“Quit avoiding the subject, Ell.” He gathered his sinewy
arms over his wide chest and just squinted at me.

I shifted, raked a hand through my hair and tried, “I heard
a funny sound comin’ from under it,” I gestured out to the overgrown field
bordering the school lot, “thought it might be a ‘coon or a skunk.” His face
didn’t move, only his eyes got squintier. “I swear, Eddie, that’s all I was doin’.”

“Heard that all the way in the classroom, then?  School’s not over for another,” he yanked his
pocket watch chain and glanced at it, “another hour and a half.”

Oh. “Well, uh,” I
thought hard, keeping my mouth running, “I had a uh,” and it came to me, “a
science paper due and I left it out in my-,”

Bishop caught my slip the same time my brain did. He just
shook his head, losing the battle with a smile fighting for possession of his
mouth. “Out here to the parking lot, huh?
Where the cars park.” His
mouth lost the battle and forfeited the war as he laughed out loud. “You ain’t
got a car.”  He shook his head again,
“Nice try, kid.  Wanna go for another?”

Now he was making me mad. “I got a bike, Deputy.” I swung my
arm over at the bike rack, “Right there, in the bike rack.  See the one with the saddle bags?”  He swiveled his gaze in the direction I pointed, and squinted back at me.

“Huh. You heard a tiny varmint paddin’ around over here in
the dirt parking lot from all the way over there.” He pursed his lips and
rocked back on his heels. “That’s some powerful hearing you got, there.”

I was about to spin a powerful story of how my failing
eyesight actually made my hearing more acute, when the school bell announced
free period. At the top of the front steps I spotted Gary Delbetter – owner of
the vehicle in question – looking first to the Deputy’s cruiser, then to
me.  His face clouded over, “Hey!” he
stalked towards us.

“You know what,” I grabbed the handcuffs on Eddie’s belt,
“you should haul me in.  I was up to no
good,” I yanked at his cuffs and pulled on the back door handle of the cruiser
at the same time, “you gotta take me in, Eddie!”  The Deputy just stood there, so I pulled open
the door and dived into the back seat just as Delbetter reached us. He lunged
at the back door and Bishop finally moved. Not much of a move, just a step to
the side, but his powerful body effectively checked anything Delbetter had in
mind.  Like pounding me into chopped steak.

“What did she do?  What did she DO?” Delbetter’s face turned purple. The Deputy talked in a
low voice I couldn’t make out through the safety glass, but Delbetter’s came
through loud and clear. His red face showed off white nostrils flared out like
a bull’s. He jabbed at the glass, fighting to get around Bishop as my
gossipy classmates pressed in for a better look.  I bit the insides of my mouth to keep from
laughing.  Watching the King  of LaFoy School lose his cool amused the hell
out of me.

The good Deputy had enough and stepped around the car, slid into the
seat, started the car and backed out carefully. As we pulled out, Gary shoved
his face into the glass separating us. “You’re goin’ down, Hell-on!”  He jabbed a finger at me, “You’re goin’ DOWN!”

Delbetter ain’t no prophet, but he spoke more of the truth than
even he knew.


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