Posted by: Lawrence D. Elliott | December 17, 2008

Whoops! She Did It Again!

It was an interesting afternoon of writing indeed. It had rained for most of the day and our electricity for the neighborhood had been shut off since the early morning. After numerous frustrating calls to the electric company, they continued to move the estimated time for restoration of service later and later unable to locate the cause of the outage. I normally write on a laptop, which of course has battery power. But a battery can only last so long.


I made arrangements for my wife to be cared for and decided to head to a favorite park and get in my writing for the day. My SUV has an outlet and I could sit inside and write for hours without the worry of losing power. As a special treat, I decided to get a cup of coffee and an apple fritter from the local coffee house before heading up to the park.


As I arrived, the rain came down harder. The pounding could be heard on the roof of my vehicle. Although the sky was growing dark, it took nothing away from the beauty of the rolling green hills and lake with ducks paddling across. Occasionally, they stopped to playfully dive below the surface.


I set up a Playlist on my iPod and connected it to play through the vehicle stereo. I moved my seat away from the steering wheel to be able to write more comfortably. I set my laptop on my right leg and fired it up. Well, at least I started it up, Windows being as slow as it is.


God, Windows is so slow!


But perhaps it was best my writing was delayed. To my right, I could see a plain white sedan with two spotlight lamps on the side easing down the parking lot. It had to be going at about five miles per hour. I knew right away it was an unmarked law enforcement vehicle.


The car stopped at a sporty red car parked backward in its stall. Two men exited the vehicle and approached it. Even with my poor eyesight, I could see Sherriff written on their backs. I guess their weapons on their side were also a dead giveaway.


I could see one deputy checking the identification of the young man who had been driving it as they all stood in the pouring rain. By now I was now observing them instead of my laptop. They were engaged in conversation that went on for quite a few minutes. Then, the two deputies returned to their vehicle and made their way down the lot in my direction. I could see them starting to pass. I returned my attention to my laptop as I waited for it to complete its startup.


Damn Windows is slow!


Then, in the rearview mirror I could see the white sedan had stopped. They were in position to prevent me from leaving if I chose to. Their doors opened and the two men walked toward me. One stood back at the rear of the SUV while the other approached me on the driver’s side. Having spent four years in the US Air Force as a Security Policeman, I understood the tactics. The one in back was cover, while the one approaching me would be investigating.


The officer approaching me was of medium height and build. He was Hispanic and soft spoken. As he approached my door, I rolled down my window. I noticed his hand was resting on his sidearm.


“Hi,” the deputy greeted me. His face matched his demeanor. It wasn’t a smile, but under the circumstances, it was the best I would get. “We’re just checking out the area. A lot of time we catch people out here smoking dope or doing other things.”


“Okay,” I replied.


“So, what you doing?” I could tell he was sizing me up. He was looking for nervousness or guilt. The only crime I was guilty of was drinking a $4 cup of coffee in this economy.


“I’m writing. I’m a writer.”


You’re a writer? Really?”


“Yeah. And a Realtor, too. Didn’t you see my license plate?” I was referring to the chrome license plate frame I made when I started building some momentum in my writing. It was sort of a treat and motivation to keep going. It also was a nice conversation tool for business. Engraved on it were the words Author at the top and Chicken Soup for the Soul at the bottom.


“You’re kidding,” he said as he walked back to the rear of my vehicle. I couldn’t help wonder how you could check out a vehicle and not notice the license plate. When he returned, he said, “Oh, you can buy those anywhere.”


“Yeah and I hope you buy a couple the next time you’re at a book store.” He looked confused. “Wait a minute,” I asked him, “are you talking about the book or the frame?”


“The frame.”


“Are you kidding me?”




By then my laptop had loaded up. I picked it up showing him the screen with the photo I placed on my desktop. “Here’s a picture of me at a book signing at Borders.” I showed it to him. He was surprised.


“You’re kidding?” I was waiting for him to tell me, “Anyone can take a picture at next to books at Borders.”


Then, I could have come back with a snappy line…


What guy would stand next to a picture of Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause unless he actually had a story in it? Let alone a crook!


But he didn’t. He finally understood. And I missed out on being the subject of a story he would have told every cop he came in contact with, each time embellishing it more and more.


“Yeah,” I answer, “That’s me.”


“Oh my God!” He looked back at his partner. His expression was classic.


“I’m working on my novel,” I continued. “Our electricity went out and I came here to do some writing since I can plug in to the SUV’s outlet. This used to my favorite place.”


“Used to be?”


“Well about four years ago, we remodeled the house and made the backyard nice. Now the backyard is my favorite place to write. When it’s not raining, of course.”


From that moment on, the conversation went into my writing, the real estate market, and back to my writing. By then, his partner had walked up and stood listening to the conversation. Smoothly, I interjected a “Hi” to him as I continued talking. They grew so comfortable, they asked for a business card.


But the writing was the main topic of discussion. I love talking about it. Perhaps too much. I went on so long that they were getting soaked standing out in the rain. In fact, so was my left arm and leg, even though I didn’t really notice it.


“Well,” the deputy said, “you’re getting soaked.” Actually, they were the one’s getting soaked. I also think I had bored them out of their skulls talking about my writing! I’m sure it was way more than they bargained for.


“We’ll let you get back to your work,” the deputy said as his silent partner nodded.


“Now when this novel is completed,” I said as I shook hands with each of them, “I’m going to make it a point to have a book signing at the Borders in Chino. I’ve been there about five times and they’ve been so nice to me. I expect to see you both. You can buy a book and I’ll sign it for you.”


“Sure.” With that, they started walked away. It was the only time the silent partner smiled.


Perhaps it was a coincidence the men they happened to stop were both black. Perhaps it wasn’t. Two black men could not have been more different. The other guy was a thin and tall and young. Let’s just say I am not. A good friend told me I need to carry that picture of me at Borders at all times. Maybe he’s right.


I’ve been stopped by cops since I was a kid. My mother always taught me how to be stopped by the police. I was resistant in beginning because I had this notion that I had my rights and that life is fair. It wasn’t long before I learned that life isn’t fair. I guess she just wanted me to make it home alive.


Every time I see a black kid get into some altercation with a police officer that started because he decided to argue the merits of the stop with the officer, I figure a few mothers should have been as proactive as mine. An argument with a cop on the street is one you can’t win. Ever!


Whoops! She did it again! Taught me a lesson while I wasn’t looking!


I really think that’s what threw the two deputies off. I was so calm. I almost seemed like I was enjoying the moment. And in a way, I was. Now, if I was in the middle of getting an idea down and I was being interrupted, then it probably would have been a different story. Just ask my wife about that.


But it was a pretty productive afternoon. I got in my 1,000 words for my novel and this story.


Not bad, eh?


  1. Nice story, Lawrence! We wouldn’t be able to sit in a parking lot very long this time of year in Missouri, though — not without the engine running and the heater going full blast! BRRRR! Windchills below 0 tomorrow! Merry Christmas!

  2. Lawerence, good story! Isn’t funny how life has a way of leading you right to the spot where you really need to go? I’m so glad that you are on to the next stage of your novel! You said editing was the hardest and most rewarding if I remember right. But now it’s time to take a break and have a fabulous Christmas with your wife!!! 🙂

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