Vindaloo Philm-Wallah


My kids and I, two boys 15 and 11 are at some event at a rural fairgrounds setting. The late afternoon holds an overcast, if slightly threatening sky. The event, whatever it is, is over and folks are walking to their cars, which are spread out over a few hundreds of yards of grass and sod. Me and the boys are walking against the tide of people who are dressed mainly in flannel, t-shirts and jeans.

Next to the road, which resembles Blue Ridge in Raleigh that runs right by their fairgrounds, is a long-hooded 'funny car.' It's parked in in the front yard of a small house near the mailbox. Grass has overgrown near the tires, it looks like this car hasn't been used in a while. As we have no way home, I squeeze into the single-user driver's seat. A large spoiler just behind the roll-bar is connected to the chassis by an elaborate tapestry of small rods and bars. Also nearer to the ground on either sides are platforms which I instruct each child to step on and hold fast to the support bars. I turn the car on and each kid hops on excitedly, the youngest at last questioning if this is a good idea. I tell them that we are going to drive super-slow just until we get home, then I'll drop them and return the funny-car.

We start out on the road, the kids are whooping and hollering enjoying the ride. Due to the design of the car, steering is a bit difficult but I'm able to manage. After a mile or so, going around 20 MPH, I hear a siren behind us. "Oh shit," I say, "I knew this was going to happen." We pull over and the cop comes over to me. I thought he was going to ask about the welfare of the children but he didn't. Instead he asks if I have permission to be driving this car, especially since we're in a lockdown. Knowing my kids are getting disturbed, I opt to be as forthcoming as I can. Feeling their worried eyes boring into me I explain that no, I didn't ask permission to use the car, but I'm going to return it as soon as I get the kids home. The officer tells me to get out of the funny-car.

He takes the three of us to the police station, which more resembles a pick-up/drop-off kiosk in the rental car section of a large airport parking lot. Inside the tiny all windowed office two officers are having a conversation that all of us can hear. "I knew as soon as I saw that car on the street whose it was, and I knew right away it wasn't that guys," pointing at me. Then the cops turn in my direction. "Do you know the owner?" "No, I do not. Look, I apologize and I want to be completely truthful with you." The kids are still staring at me, taking in everything I'm saying. I know how I handle this will leave an imprint on them for life. "I just needed the car to get them home, then I was going to return it, honest. I wasn't trying to steal a funny-car." The phone rings and a hardy policeman twists around uncomfortably to pick it up. He says a few words and then to us, "It's the owner." After a few more uh-huhs he puts the phone down. "He's not happy." I look back down at the kids who haven't looked away from me. One of the officers stands up and grabs his coat and tells us, "let's go."

Inside the police car on our way home I ask what the penalties will be. One of the cops says one of the charges will be "47 bucks," which has to do with getting the police involved. The other fee is for theft, "20-80." "Twenty dollars?" "Heh, two-thousand, eighty dollars." I inhale deeply and say ok. Inside I begin to feel the dread of figuring out how I'm going to be able to pay. I do some calculations in my head; second job, sell some gear, et cetera. The feeling is like my insides have rotted. As I do with money related issues, I get depressed. 

Then thanks fuck, I wake up.

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