It was the Sunday before Easter and the Jews were getting ready for Passover. They were out in a town called Prairie du Rocher, Illinois'”looking like a family of patriarchs'”yarmulkes and sideburn curls, dressed in black'”alone on sidewalks transplanted from another world… Strange to see them in an old French settlement on the floodplains east of the River'”the Mississippi'”where the levees are built, the fields of wheat and corn just depressions in the land'”the roads circling them, and train tracks like an arrow the only thing linear.
And that’s where it happened, passing the Jews heading the same way we were, to the next block (where perhaps they were turning), an open bar up ahead, with motorcycles lining the street, like in an old-time Rendezvous as they happened in this town, the costumes leather jackets and sunglasses'”people mixing in the street that are weird and rare, strange just as seeing Jews out on a Sunday… The baby was sleeping'”our two-year old'”Bella. Delilah, four, was playing with her Happy Meal toy, but as I looked back to check on her (the Tupperware bowl of weed on my lap and a can of Natural Light between my legs) I could see she was watching the bikers out the window as we passed, just as my wife was. That’s why we didn’t see the cop at the end, at the crossroads, where you can only go either right or left'”straight ahead a dead end, the police car parked by the silos there, the cop standing in the open door of his ride, watching the Palm Sunday spectacle.
I don’t know how we always find the river bottom'”why we always drive there. Sometimes I’m driving. Sometimes it’s my wife. But our children are always in the back. Reminders of responsibilities. And alibis to bad turns. But to accept these terms a preposition is made. Like calendars documenting a home-coming, or maybe just a day off from work driving aimlessly to let your kids take a nap. You assume someone is watching. It is the basis of a moral structure, the imagination that if you died right now you would appear in court, resurrected, a transcriptionist (the likeness to your choosing) reading the narrative of your life with a full disclosure of that mind movie that plays in your memory before you fall asleep, even remembering the dreams you forget as soon as you wake up. This morality needed for two things'”understanding for the victim, and consequences for the criminal. The role you play depending on how you choose to see your choices, at any given moment'”the beauty of Free Will, if that’s what you want to call it, really'”to give meaning to injustice. And like the roads along the American Bottom, these floodplains south of East St. Louis, it’s all an endless loop'”inventions so we don’t steal from each other, kill one another'”and you see how well that’s working… We’re all just waiting on death to see if we’re right. And in keeping with the holiday only one guy knows that.
And that’s when the cop waves to us. I immediately make that furtive gesture, popping the lid on the Tupperware bowl, bending down to place it and my beer under the seat. My wife gesturing back at the cop'””What? Me?”
So my wife pulls slowly across the street, over the curb and onto the gravel lot of the silos, parking perpendicular to the police car.
“You know your headlights are on? You’re going to blind somebody.” This after he walks over to our Jeep Liberty Renegade (optioned for the hunting lights up top). The cop looks at us through the driver-side window, and at our kids in the back.
My wife turns on the hazard lights accidently. Turns them off. Then the headlights up top. There’s a switch by her left knee.
“Sorry! I must have hit it.”
The cop coughs as he looks away and he’s done with us. If he’d asked, my wife wasn’t carrying her driver’s license. And the registration for the Jeep was with her daughter from her first marriage, who needed it for the driving test to get her license (which my wife had taken her to get the past Saturday, but they didn’t get to the DMV early enough). The Tupperware bowl contained over a quarter-ounce of weed, and there were four empty beer cans under the passenger seat. This the cop would have never suspected, not with two kids in the back, but maybe he did, and there were two kids in the back.
My wife went right, heading north, out onto Bluff Road, and when we knew what the cop knew we looked at each other. We looked at each other and began to laugh. And that’s why maybe nobody’s watching. And if they are'”don’t give them a bad day. I light a roach in the Tupperware bowl and hand it to my wife. I reach for the open beer I hid beneath my seat. I hadn’t spilled a drop.