Never Again

By on Sep 13, 2011 in Humor

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Never Again graphic

The blue light rotated hypnotically and alternate shades of dark and light skittered across Jim’s face.  I squirmed deeper into the leather passenger seat of his yellow Camaro, then briskly rubbed my thin face with both hands.  I glanced into the passenger side-view mirror, but all I saw reflected there was the velvety night and superimposed white lettering that read, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

Fingers nervously drumming on my door’s instrument panel, I accidentally depressed a square, raised button. Somewhere deep inside the door, a mechanism groaned and my window descended three inches.  The sounds of rubber on wet pavement invaded the interior of the car — along with something else — a sickly sweet smell that caused the lining of my stomach to ripple.  Nearby, hidden in the darkness that surrounded Archer Road, the Argo Starch factory churned out its wares.  My finger again found the raised button, shutting out the sounds of the night, but locking in the syrupy stench.

“What’s going on,” I said, my voice a confessional box whisper.  “We weren’t speeding.”

Jim stretched out a pasty, pudgy hand and adjusted the rear-view mirror.  Tiny black hairs dotted each of his digits and, in the ghostly, alternating light, seemed to wriggle like insects trying to burrow under his skin.

“Well,” he said.  “While we’re waiting for him to run priors on me — and it could take a while — I should probably tell you that my state sticker’s expired and I never bought one from the city.  But, what I‘m really hoping. . .”  he leaned close to me and I could smell his Old Spice aftershave,  “. . . is that once he gets back here, he doesn’t ask me to open the trunk.”

My spine stiffened and ever so slowly I rotated my head in Jim’s direction.  My voice seemed to come from someplace far away.

“What the hell does that mean?”

Jim smiled, and a dimple appeared in his left cheek.  I cringed.  I had seen his dimple many times in college bars around the city.  It appeared whenever he told half truths to squeamish co-eds to convince them he was worth spending a night with.

“Nothing to be worried about, Ricky,” he said, and then he laughed.  “Really, the stuff in the trunk is nowhere near as bad as what’s hidden in the back seat.”

Oh my God — what had I gotten into?  Involuntarily, my head swiveled and my eyes scanned the back of his car.  Newspapers, school books, old clothes, a torn McDonald’s bag, a hub cap – and somewhere buried beneath it all . . .

“Besides,” he continued as if we were having a normal conversation about the weather, “if anything happens tonight, if we get arrested, it’s all your fault.”

“What?” I said, my voice rising until I realized shouting wouldn’t do us any good — not with an officer of the law sitting ten feet behind us in his patrol car.  I lowered my voice until it sounded like shoes scraping on gravel.

“What are you talking about?”

“Sometimes, Ricky, you’re such a whiney little baby.”  His voice raised to a falsetto, he pretended to be me. “Jimmy, it’s your turn to drive.  Jimmy, we’re gonna be late for the party.”

I hissed at him, “Jimmy, we’re gonna be someone’s girlfriends in the lockup.”

He turned his round, pasty white face towards me,   “Listen, smart boy, all that whining and rushing you did earlier didn’t give me any time to do a better job hiding the marijuana in the trunk  — or to get the loaded guns out of the back seat.”

“Marijuana!  Guns! — Jim, what the hell?”

Jim raised an index finger to his lips, and then pointed at the rear-view mirror.

“He’s finally got his fat butt outta his car,” he said.  “And he’s comin’ to the window.  We might still get outta this.  I know how to handle cops.  Watch and learn, Ricky — master at work. ”

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Rick Jankowski is a Tinley Park, Illinois, writer. Over three dozen of his short stories have been published in small print, literary and online magazines. He loves to write speculative, sensitive and humorous fiction, and his writing goals are: connection with character, the beauty of language, and a sense of wonder. He's won several awards for his stories and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He's currently working on a SF/suspense novel, A Shadow in the System. You can read some of his better stories on his website: