Friday, January 25, 2013

FFF: The Speed Trap

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of original flash fiction. Today's saga...

The Speed Trap
Word Count: 600

Somehow we’d managed to gather enough gasoline for the journey. We had cans and cans in the rear of our mostly-functioning hatchback. We sped down I-95, hoping to meet up with other survivors.

We were about 5 miles North of Benson, just cresting a hill, when a man appeared under a dilapidated billboard and flagged us down. I slowed the hatchback and cracked a window.

“Don’t stop,” said Teresa from the backseat.

“He might have food he can spare,” I said.

“More likely he wants to know if we have any,” said Tomas, sitting next to me.

The man was armed, but he didn’t appear hostile. He walked up to my door and tapped on the window. I rolled it the rest of the way down. “Do you have any food?” I asked.

“I’ll ask the questions,” said the man. “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”

I looked back at Teresa and then at Tomas. “No,” I said.

“I clocked you going at least 83 miles per hour,” said the man. “That’s thirteen over the limit on this stretch.”

I looked back at my companions. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“The speed limit is clearly posted,” said the man.

“You have, like, a radar gun or something?” I asked.

“I timed you going between those orange pylons,” he said, pointing back the way we came. Sure enough, there were two orange pylons—one at the bottom of the hill, and one a ways up behind it. “My math might be a little rusty,” he said. “You’re welcome to double-check my figures.”

“Hold on,” said Tomas. “Is Benson still alive? Is there a functioning city here?”

“No,” said the man, “it’s just me. Now, the fine for speeding is twenty dollars per mile over the limit. You were thirteen over, but I’m willing to round it down to ten.”

“We don’t have any money,” I said.

“You can trade some of that gasoline,” said the man. “Or you can get some money from the Food Lion. It’s at the Main Street exit. Most of the tills are in the cashier drawers.”

“Wait a second,” I said. “You want us to steal so we can pay this bullshit parking ticket?”

“It’s abandoned property, far as I’m concerned,” said the man. “And it’s a speeding ticket, not a parking ticket. And it’s most certainly not bullshit.”

“Hey, is there food at the Food Lion?” asked Tomas.

“It’s been picked pretty clean, already,” said the man. “But there are some unlabeled cans on a few of the shelves—if you’re not too squeamish.” He tore a piece of paper from his pad and handed it to me. “Bring this back to me with your $200, when you have it” he said. “You’re free to go.”

He headed back up the ladder to his billboard. I could see a chair, a Thermos, and some binoculars up there waiting for him.

“Hey, Mister!” I shouted after him. “Why are you doing this?”

The man paused on the ladder and looked back at us. “The rule of law is important, son,” he said. “It’s the only thing that separates us from the animals.”

Then he waved us on, and we continued down the highway.

“I guess we’ll stop by the store,” I said. “I’m not afraid to open a strange can, not if it might have food in it. Maybe we’ll pick up some money while we’re there.”

“Why?” asked Tomas. “Are you thinking of actually paying that asshole?”

“You know,” I said, “I think I want to.”

Edited by Carolyn Abram.

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