The cops had him up against the car, assuming the position. Just an hour ago he’d been on I-90 headed to Seattle. His VA doctor had referred him to the cancer care center for radiation treatments unavailable at the Spokane medical center. Then he ran into the traffic jam created by the closure of the highway due to snow in the mountain pass ahead in Snoqualamie. He’d exited the freeway in hopes of using the old state highway to bypass the freeway road closure. The weather wasn’t really that bad, but the state would close the pass at even the threat of ice on the steep and curving I-90. He was two-thirds of the way to his destination with only another hour and a half to go when traffic came to a halt at Ellensburg.
“What are you doing slinking around our town, degenerate?” asked one of the two cops who stopped him.
“I’m just passing through, or trying to. There were detour signs on I-90 that led toward the old highway 2, but I seem to have gotten lost.” answered the vet.
“Right. You’d like us to believe that, wouldn’t you?” said the cop.
“Looks like he’s lyin’ to me.” said the other.
“Probably casing the town for a string of robberies.”
“A one-man crime wave. How come you’re parked near one of our resident’s houses?”
“I ran out of gas.” said the suspect. “Driving all over trying to find my way. Those detour signs got me all twisted around.”
“I think you were gonna rob that house. You were, weren’t you?”
“No, no. That’s not right. I …oof!” The second cop poked him in the kidney with his baton.
“We’ll do the talking here. Now speak up and answer the question.” said the first cop.
“I… what?” The cops grabbed the suspect and threw him in the back of their squad car.
The city center.
A police station and an old fashioned Justice of the Peace. “So, you admit you came to rob our citizens of their possessions.” said the justice.
“No, no. I was trying to follow detour signs and got lost!” wailed the suspect.
“Riiiight.” said the justice. “And where were you going when you say you got… lost.”
“Seattle. I have an appointment at the VA hospital tomorrow for cancer treatment.”
“Wait a minute. You’re a veteran?” asked the justice.
“Vietnam 1966.” said the suspect.
“Well now, that’s a whole different kettle of fish, wouldn’t you say officers?” The justice peered over at the pair of cops.
“Sure is, Your Honor.” they replied in unison.
“How on earth could you get lost?” asked the justice. “The highway’s only two blocks from the freeway.”
“Well, we can shed a little light on that.” commented the first cop. “The state cops came through and put up detour signs, dumping the state’s degenerates onto our quiet streets.”
“They’re always trying something like that.” said the second cop.
“So,” said the first cop, “we changed the signs and sent the drivers out into the sticks on old logging roads.”
The justice smiled widely. “Good thinking, boys. This town relies on the tourist trade to exist. We can’t have strangers taking up all the hotel rooms and filling up the restaurants.”
“That’s awful!” said the vet incredulously. “What about the people who get lost out there and run out of gas? There’s nothing around for miles!”
“Awww. We’d help them.” said the first cop.
“Right after the spring thaw.” said the second.
The justice nodded agreeably. “Protect and serve. As for you, Mr. Veteran, I sentence you to a year in jail.”
“What? On what charge?”
“Vagrancy. Public indigent. Mopery.” said the justice.
“I ran out of gas!” wailed the convict.
“Tell you what.” said the justice. “You get in your car and drive away from here and never come back and I’ll suspend the sentence.”
The convict sighed. “Okay. I’ll need to get some gas though.”
Twenty minutes later he was back at his car. The cops gave him enough gas to get to the town’s only gas station so he could buy enough gas to get out of town –and to replace the gas the cops “loaned” him. They took off in a convoy, cop in front, cop car in front, cop car in back, the convict in the middle. The cops were running with full lights and siren. The convoy got to the station where the cops kept their lights and sirens on and kept revving their engines. VROOM-EEE-AHHH-EEE-AAA-WHOOP-WHOOP-VROOM.
“I need forty dollars on pump four!” shouted the convict to the attendant. VROOM-EEE-AHHH-WHOOP-WHOOP-EEE-AHHH.
“What?” shouted the attendant, placing a hand behind his ear.
“I said I need forty dollars on pump four!” yelled the convict. VROOM-EEE-AHHH-WHOOP-WHOOP-EEE-AHHH.
The convict yelled “forty” and held up four fingers and pointed to the pumps. He shoved a pair of twenties through the cashier window to the attendant. He then made his way to the pumps, took off the nozzle and started pumping gas into his tank. It stopped at four dollars. VROOM-EEE-AHHH-WHOOP-WHOOP-EEE-AHHH. The convict shook his head and just climbed into his car. The convoy took him to the freeway.
“The radiation clinic said you never showed up.” said the vet’s doctor. He sounded disappointed.
“I need to wait until spring.” replied the vet. “For when the passes are clear.”
His doctor shrugged and wrote him a prescription for tranquilizers. “You shouldn’t be so stressed out about the snow. These should help you relax a little.”
“It’s not the snow, it’s the town… aw, never mind. Give me the prescription.”
It was a long and painful wait for spring.