Open Containers

by Julie Eberhart Painter


Flashing blue lights sent me rolling to a stop along the side of the old Bee-Line freeway to Orlando, Florida.

“Hands on the wheel. License and registration where I can see them,” a sweaty officer ordered.

“But if I put my hands on the wheel I can’t get to my purse.”

“Don’t be smart. Is that an open container there beside you?"

“Just an open water. I always carry water—”

“Out of the car!”

“But—”

“Don’t you be resisting arrest,” he warned as he unscrewed my half-finished bottle and took a sniff.

“This ain’t real water. Billy, Smell this.”

“No. It’s distilled water,” I interrupted.

“From a distillery? Spirits?”

I raised my eyes to the heavens hoping spirits would rescue me.

“Why are you drinking distilled water?”

“I had a kidney stone once.”

He looked at me as if I was a paranoid hypochondriac. “We have to frisk you.”

“Do you have a warrant?”

“You’re under suspicion for having an open container of a questionable liquid. That’s probable cause. What else do you have?”

I popped the trunk almost taking off the second officer’s nose.

“Who told you to do that?” Billy yelled leaping backwards.

“You wanted to search; I’m helping you get it over with. I have a boat to catch.”

“What’s all this here?”

“It’s called luggage.”

The officers went though my bags. “Lotta drugs in here.”

“I’m old. It takes a lot just to get me out of bed.”

“Are you soliciting?”

“For what?”

“Never mind.” He shuffled through my papers. “Where did you get this old license? Whose face is on it?”

“That’s me twenty-five years ago. In this state if you don't have a record, you can renew by mail.”

The officers passed the license back and forth, stretching out their arms to compare the real me with the old me. “You, huh? That’s the oldest damned license I ever seen.”

“Yes, officer, I used to be young.” I conjured up a tear to slide down my cheek — not easy when you have dry eyes. I deliberately didn’t mention that theirs was the laziest damned DMV system I’d ever seen.

The boys in green looked at each other. “Should we let her go this time, Billy?”

“Awful lot a drugs in that trunk.”

“Yeah. Why so much? How long ya gonna be gone for?”

“A long time.”

“Where ya going?”

“Around the world.”

“That’s a long trip. Ya don’t have much clothing. How come? Oh! You’re meanin’ the other kind of around the world?” He leered in my direction.

I looked innocently back. “I like to buy my clothes in the port cities and mail my wash home.”

Billy stroked his chin. “We could hold ya, ya know.”

I didn’t say something flip like “It’s been a while.” I was in enough trouble.

Billy hit the hood. “Okay, back in the car. Y’all have a nice day, and drive careful now.”

I nodded. I revved the motor and took off. I had a pat-down waiting for me at the airport. I was poised and ready.


Copyright © 2011 by Julie Eberhart Painter

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