Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Chase Scene by Bill Chance

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Groucho Marx

Design District
Dallas, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#80) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Chase Scene

Albert had a critical – the monthly operations schedule planning – meeting coming up. He checked his clock and realized there wasn’t enough time to start on any new task. There was enough time to walk down to the break room for a little bag of Cool Ranch Doritos corn chips to put in a desk drawer and enjoy after the meeting. He was sure he would need them.

Down at the break room there was a big clot of folks gathered around the television mounted high on the wall. Albert couldn’t help his curiosity and joined the group. The TV was on a local news channel and everyone was watching a high-speed police chase. The view was from an overhead news chopper and was amazingly clear. The cops were trying to run down a blue compact car, which was speeding through the city.

“What’s up?” he asked Jerry from accounting.

“Bank robbers,” he said. “It’s been going on for a while. They started out on the Interstate and now they’re in the neighborhoods, Springvale, I think.”

Albert lived in Springvale. He pushed his way closer and stared at the screen, trying to recognize the location. It was so hard – everything went by so fast and it was tough to figure out from the unusual viewpoint of an overhead helicopter.

Suddenly a huge, garish, orange and yellow sign went by. Albert realized that was outside of Juanita’s Tacos y Mas – a Mexican restaurant he and his family ate at all the time. You could not miss that gaudy logo.

“That’s only a couple blocks from my house,” said Albert. Nobody responded.

The car roared into a busy intersection and was T-boned by a pickup coming from the side. Everyone around the TV let out a gasp. The car spun and then, to everyone’s surprise, sped off down the intersecting cross road. Its side was clearly caved in and smoke was pouring from under the hood, but it didn’t stop.

“This won’t last much longer,” said Jerry from accounting.

At the first opening, the car veered right and took off down a residential street. The police cruisers were close behind.

“That’s my block,” said Albert, getting nervous. He knew his kids were at school and his wife at work so he wasn’t worried about them. But it was an invasion of his quiet bucolic suburban neighborhood by evil, unpredictable, outside forces.

The chase wound through the narrow twisting streets. Two police cruisers must have gone around because suddenly, they boxed the blue car in. It turned sharply into a U-shaped driveway which cradled a large, brick mailbox.

That was Albert’s front yard. His family used the alley in back but he had always dreamed of having a front driveway that could fill up with cars when they would entertain. Growing up, he had seen wealthy people with driveways like that. It took him five years to save up enough money to have the concrete poured. At the same time, he hired a bricklayer to make a big permanent mailbox. “A statement,” he said.

The crowd around the TV was getting excited. It was about to go down. Albert didn’t want to say that the scene was at his own house. He felt embarrassed, somehow.

Police cars swerved into both ends of the driveway, trapping the car, which slid to a stop. Despite the damage both doors flew open and the driver took off running across Albert’s lawn with the police in pursuit. He was relieved when they entered his neighbor’s yard and disappeared off screen.

The passenger remained crouched down behind the opened, dented car door. A circle of police began closing in. There was a small puff of smoke from the car and then the police opened fire. Nobody could hear anything but it was obvious by how everyone was moving that many shots were being fired.

There were yells of horror and amazement in the break room as the man went down, sprawled out at the base of Albert’s custom mailbox. It isn’t every day they were able to see someone killed on live television.

Albert stood transfixed, horrified.

“Well, that was something,” said Jerry from accounting. Nobody really knew where Albert lived and nobody recognized his house. Everyone began to disperse and head back to their desks.

Albert didn’t know what to do. Should he go home? There would be cops, news crews, and excited neighbors. Would they all want to talk to him? What would he say? He didn’t know how to deal with all that.

And there was his meeting. It was important. He would have to confess, “I’m sorry but I have to go, someone was killed in my front yard.” Then he’d have to admit he was slacking off in the break room watching the television. It was all so messy, so complicated.

So Albert went to the monthly operations schedule planning meeting and sat there like nothing had happened. He decided to go home at his usual time and wondered if there would be a bloodstain on his driveway or bullet craters in his brick. He was shaken and sweating, but tried to pay attention to the PowerPoint Presentations.

Near the end of the meeting, he realized he had forgotten to buy his bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

 

 

Dangers of Schadenfreude

Friday, I was driving home from work along the same route I drive twice every day. A quick calculation – I’ve driven past that point in the neighborhood over six thousand times. This is a little stretch of road through what used to be the independent town of Buckingham. When I first moved to Dallas, Buckingham was a rectangle of small farms hanging on in the northern reaches of the giant exploding Metroplex. A developer bought the entire city, making all the property owners rich, with the single requirement that all the residents hold a vote before they left – and that vote would make the town “wet.” All the suburbs in the area were “dry” at that time – which meant that there was no sales of alcoholic beverages. His idea was to create an island of legal booze and open up an upscale entertainment, lodging, and destination district… thereby raking in the cash.

It might have worked, but there was one of the too-periodic economic collapses in the late 80’s – and his plans fell to dust. Some of the former landowners bought back their properties for pennies on the dollar at the bankruptcy sale. In the decades since the liquor laws in North Texas have become much less draconian and the City of Buckingham faded away – eventually adsorbed into the larger suburb of Richardson. It has since been mostly developed into zero-lot homes and large apartment complexes – along with a couple of liquor stores to keep the traditions of the area alive.

This stretch of road wound between complexes and is the sort of place where people drive faster than they should. There is often a police cruiser lurking in a hidden speed trap by a tiny city pocket park. I would guess on a typical day every car (except me) is going faster than the speed limit. Yet, because of the traffic leaving the complexes, the subtle blind curve in the road, and the iffy intersections at each end – it’s pretty dangerous and I wish folks would slow down.

So, on Friday, I felt a twinge of Schadenfreude as saw the red and blue flashing LEDs of a Police SUV angled into the parking lot at a complex. “They’ve caught somebody, good. At least it’s not me,” was the thought that involuntarily flashed through my mind. I’m not proud of that, but it is what it is. I couldn’t help but steal a quick glance sideways as I drove by.

I didn’t see what I expected. I only saw the little tableau for two seconds, at most, but I’ll always think about it. The police SUV had a dark sedan trapped in the corner of the little lot. The uniformed officer had a beautiful young Asian woman over the hood, one hand on her back, and the other reaching around his back to pull his cuffs off his belt. She was dressed in a short blue and white striped cocktail dress – obviously on her way out on a Friday evening. She was looking back over her shoulder at the officer and I had a good quick look at her face.

I’ve seen plenty of people get arrested. I think most people that are taken into custody have been hauled in before and know what is going on – what to expect. Some are angry, some are indignant, but most are resigned. This woman wasn’t like any of these. She was scared to death. She did not look like a criminal.

I’m not being anti-cop here. I don’t know the full story – I don’t know any story at all, really. The officer, as far as I could see, was by himself and if he ran her license and it came back with warrants – he didn’t have much choice but to cuff her. That’s what I assume happened – she was caught in the speed trap, pulled over, and something was wrong. Either her license came back or there was a problem with the car.

The young woman had made a mistake. She might have ignored a ticket until an arrest warrant was issued or maybe she was driving a friend’s iffy car.

But I’ll never forget the look on her face. I can see her driving along, music booming, in a great mood, looking forward to a Friday evening on the town and then, within seconds, it all went south. Her fear, shock, maybe layered with some embarrassment. Across the street is a big field that is owned by a girl’s elite soccer club – there were maybe two hundred girls from eight to eighteen out practicing – though I didn’t have time to swivel my head that way, I’m sure a lot of them were looking up from their drills to see the woman hauled away.

I feel so sorry for the woman. I’m sure, no matter how it all turned out, she will remember this day with shame and dread the rest of her life.

I feel helpless – though I don’t know her and only saw her for two seconds – I wished there was something I could have done. I didn’t even want to turn around and see what happened. I could only make things worse.

Most of all I feel guilty for the moment of Schadenfreude I felt when I first saw the red and blue lights.