The state trooper got out of his vehicle and sauntered over to my side, moving his hand in a circle to indicate I should roll the window all the way down.
“Let me see your license and registration,” he ordered Mother darling. He looked ten feet tall to me and broader than Grandpa.
Mother darling hurried to dig it all out of the glove compartment and her purse. It took a while, and all that time, he stood there glaring at me. I’m caught again, I thought sadly.
He took the license and the registration.
“Where are you going?” he asked as he read it.
bsp; “To Nashville, Officer. I’m a singer and I have an opportunity to improve my career. My daughter and I are goin‘ to start a whole new life,” she continued. I thought she was pathetic, trying to sound so sweet and innocent.
He didn’t smile.
“Do you realize,” he began, looking more at me, “that you could start a serious fire tossing lit cigarettes out of the window and into the dry grass back there?”
“Oh,” Mother darling said, obviously relieved I wasn’t being arrested for shoplifting. “Yes. I mean, no. I didn’t realize she had thrown a lit cigarette out the window. I thought she had snuffed it out. Didn’t I tell you to do that first, Robin?” she demanded with a face full of steam.
I looked at her without answering. He would have to be a very stupid policeman to buy that, I thought.
“We’ve had some serious fires here recently, and with the drought and all…”
“Oh yes, Officer. You’re absolutely right. We weren’t thinkin‘. You know how two young women can git sometimes. We were listenin’ to music and talkin‘ because we’re so excited about startin’ a new life.”
“Umm,” he said. “I really should cite you for this.”
“We don’t have much money,” she wailed. “Just enough to get ourselves goin‘. I swear we won’t do anythin’ like that again. Will we, Robin?”
“No,” I said dryly. “Never again.”
“All right. You watch it, and watch your speed. I notice your right rear tire is too worn. You had better get that changed soon.”
“Oh. It’s so like me to neglect my car. But,” she said, flicking her eyelids, “I never neglect my men.”
He finally laughed.
“I’ll bet,” he said. “Have a good trip.”
“Thank you kindly, Officer,” she told him.
I could have puked, but I swallowed hard, closed my eyes, and pressed my lips shut.
“Okay. Good luck in your career. What’s your name in case I hear about you later?”
“Kay Jackson,” she said. “And you will hear about me.”
He broke a smile, tipped his hat, and returned to his car.
Mother darling released a hot, trapped breath.
“There,” she said, satisfied with herself. “Let that be a lesson to you. If you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you. Especially men,” she added, and started away.
“If you’re so nice to them, how come you never had one ask you to marry him?” I asked.
In my heart of hearts, I thought the reason was really me. Most men didn’t want to marry a woman who had a child to raise, and as I grew older, that became more and more a problem. I used to have nightmares in which Mother darling did decide to marry someone, but only if I remained with Grandpa and Grandma. She would come to me in the dark dream and say, “You can’t expect another man to take on the responsibilities of raisin‘ someone else’s child, now can you, Robin? I’m sure you understand.” I’d wake up as she was leaving the house, and for a long moment, I would wonder if it hadn’t happened. The dream was usually that vivid.