05 February, 2012

Late For Dinner

Ankush took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone. Fourth time in as many months. How could a guy get caught so often?

When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Ankush pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with a mirror. The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in hand.

Manish? Manish from Temple? Ankush sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A cop catching a guy from his own temple. A guy who happened to be a little eager to get home after a long day at the office. A guy he was about to play golf with tomorrow.

Jumping out of the car, he approached a man he saw every Sunday, a man he'd never seen in uniform. "Hi, Manish. Fancy meeting you like this."

"Hello, Ankush." No smile.

"Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids."

"Yeah, I guess." Manish seemed uncertain. Good.

"I've seen some long days at the office lately. I'm afraid I bent the rules a bit -just this once." Ankush toed at a pebble on the pavement. "Diane said something about roast meat and potatoes tonight. Know what I mean?"

"I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct." Ouch. This was not going in the right direction. Time to change tactics.

"What'd you clock me at?"

"Seventy. Would you sit back in your car please?"

"Now wait a minute here, Manish. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65." The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.

"Please, Ankush, in the car."

Flustered, Ankush hunched himself through the still-open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Manish scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn't he asked for a driver's license?

Whatever the reason, it would be a month of Sundays before Ankush ever sat near this cop again. A tap on the door jerked his head to the left. There was Manish, a folded paper in hand. Ankush rolled down the window a mere two inches, just enough room for Manish to pass him the slip.

"Thanks." Ankush could not quite keep the sneer out of his voice.

Manish returned to his police car without a word. Ankush watched his retreat in the mirror. Ankush unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket. Ankush began to read:

"Dear Ankush,
Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car.
You guessed it -- a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail,
and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters. All three of them.
I only had one, and I'm going to have to wait until Heaven before I
can ever hug her again. A thousand times I've tried to forgive that man.
A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again.
Even now. Pray for me. And be careful, Ankush, my son is all I have left."
- Manish

Ankush turned around in time to see Manish's car pull away and head down the road. Ankush watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.

Life is precious. Handle with care. This is an important message; please pass it along. Drive safely and carefully.

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