“Officer, I can explain.”
The county mounty leaned against the side of my car, tapping his pen on his ticket pad and giving me the standard “tough cop” act. The flashlight lingered on me and then passed along to my sister, Emily. She squinted, crossed her eyes, and stuck out her tongue when the beam lit her tangled hair.
“Ya’ll know how fast you were goin’, son?”
His cruiser’s headlights shined directly into the cab through our Chevy’s back window. Blue smoke from the exhaust crept over the asphalt of the state highway between the vehicles, adding a surrealistic B-movie vibe.
“Yessir officer, ah’m sorry sir.” I handed over my license. Honestly, I wasn’t going more than five miles over; business must be slow at the speed trap this week.
“Jackson. Ya’ll are Louise Jackson’s kids?”
“Yessir. Sam, and this here’s my sister Emily.”
“Had Miz Jackson for sixth grade. She’s a good teacher, always liked her. Well, ya’ll are locals, no booze or drugs or nothin. So I’m not gonna ring you up this time, just slow down and drive more careful, Sam, all right? An tell yo momma Billy Joe Ladeau said hey.”
“Surely will. Thank you.”
He waved one hand out the window as his cruiser passed us a few minutes later.
“Why didn’t you tell me, Emily?”
“I knew he weren’t gonna do nothin’. That one’s got a good vibe to him. A slap on the wrist wuz all you wuz ever gonna get.”
“But when those red and blue lights come on, I just about wet my britches every time that happens.”
Emily just grinned. She can be such a brat.
“It’ll be comin’ up on the right in bout half mile. Gonna be a blue pickup pulled off to tha side, some guy fixin a flat, right before the turn.”
A few seconds of silence before the pickup came into view and I turned onto the dirt track.
“Ah been here before. Ain’t this the old Steadman farm?”
“Yep, couple miles up this way,” she said.
“Spooky old place, why we goin’ way out here?”
She gave me one of her patented “I’ve got a secret” smarmy smirks. She has the smug superiority of any eight-year-old, only ten times worse because of what she can do.
There wasn’t much left of the Steadman farm, abandoned for at least eighty years. It’s just a collapsing barn and a couple of topless grain silos.
Emily led me by the hand into the rickety old barn.
“Is this ol barn safe?”
“Relax. It done stood for all this time. It’s good for a few more minutes.”
In the far corner she pulled away a dusty pile of straw, revealing six mewling kittens.
“Momma cat dun went and got herself et by a coyote. In my dream ah saw her kittens wuz left all alone and starvin. So here we come runnin.”