Short Story: Another Level*

*This is a creative short story, and in no way a recount of real events. The names may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent.

When a hippy band of wandering, barefooted, personal-hygiene-deprived musicians announced their arrival in the city, a plan was proposed. A certain herb with euphoric and up-lifting capabilities would be collected, consumed and provide the perfect perceptive for the night’s entertainment.

The plan commenced at the abode of Britt and Carli. The group gathered to burn the pleasure from the herb and consume bellies of laughter.

With eyes adjusted for a calmer perspective, the group moved forward with phase two of the plan. Britt offered her leadership. She would drive. There was much debate as to Britt’s abilities to successfully navigate the group, but with the calm in their hearts and the song of laughter on their tongues, the group agreed to follow Britt. They got in her car.

She drove exactly one block before should could no longer contain herself. She irrupted into laughter, collected herself and embarked on the group’s journey. For the ride to the venue, Britt skillfully selected a song to compliment the thoughts and feelings floating through each member of the group. It was a reggae song. Britt played it with pride. The windows went down to invite the wind into the car. The song rang through their bodies and spilled into the passing streets. The agreement was worn across the faces of the group.

The plan was perfect – with one exception.

Approximately a third of the way into their journey, Britt arrived at a stop sign. Across the intersection two police cars sat idle serving as seats for two police officers. In the presence of the authorities, Britt’s song was boasting too much excitement. The officers took notice. Britt slowly reached for the dial and moved the volume to a more agreeable level.

Britt put both hands to the steering wheel. Ten and two, she told herself. Full stop, chin up, neck straight, eyes open, blinker, intersection clear, foot off the brake, foot on the gas, turn.

As Britt gracefully avoided the attention of the officers, the group sat silent – as if they were waiting for the approval of a drill sergeant. Chins were up. Eyes stared straight ahead. Shoulders were back. Backs were straight.

With the car just out of police attention, the group released a collective sigh of relief that quickly turned into a chorus of laughs and celebration of escape. The plan’s perfection was preserved. Their destination was approaching on the right. The group scanned the streets for a place to park while suggesting how Britt maneuver through the city.

As Britt heeded the advice of the group, the pleasure she brought into her body while at her home was mutating. The pleasure was becoming anxious. The pleasure wanted the ride to end. Britt spoke on behalf of her pleasure.

“I’m too high,” she said. “I really just want to park.”

One turn too many and the group found themselves on an unforgiving road. With few opportunities to turn around, the group was at the mercy of the long stretch of road. A red light demanded a stop. A cop car pulled behind the group.

“Don’t freak out,” Carli cautioned. “But be aware, there is a cop behind you.”

Britt squeezed the steering wheel. Her knuckles flushed white. She turned to the group for guidance. Ashley noticed a right turn offering an escape just past the intersection. If the cop didn’t follow, the group would be safe.

The light turned green. Britt moved to the right lane. She turned right and watched from her rear view mirror as the cop elected not to follow. The group watched too.

Britt continued to slowly drive up the ramp. The coast was clear, but with so much attention on what was behind them, the group didn’t have room in their collective attention span for what was ahead. Britt slowly proceeded forward.

“Now what?” Britt asked.

“Just pull a u-turn,” John said.

“We’ll just take this until we can legally turn around,” Carli said.

The car was driving up an apparent entrance ramp. The ramp was divided by a concrete triangle. A long pole extended across the right lane with a sign. It reflected the light from Britt’s car. In bright red, the signed cautioned: Wrong Way. Do Not Enter.

“Is this right?” Britt asked.

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Carli said.

Carli and John turned to each other. They exchanged their concern in silence.

“Ya’ll,” Britt whispered. “I don’t know about this.”

When we feel threatened, we must manage our primal urges of flight or fight. When we feel stoned, we must manage our distinction of reality and imagination. And when an authority is threatening our high, we must manage our anxiety and insatiable appetite for tasty treats.

Driving up the ramp, Britt and her crew were adhering to their flight instincts and about to challenge their distinction of reality and imagination.

The Do No Enter sign hung above the right lane suggesting the left lane was the appropriate way to enter – or exit. As they drove, the collective consciousness was too clouded with nerves and lingering fumes to discern the entrance from the exit. They trusted the signs and drove up the left lane.

“Wait, are we sure about this?”

The cop was gone. The threat of arrest was replaced by the threat of death. If they drove up the wrong way of a one-way entrance ramp, they would be driving into a death trap. The tall concrete walls lining the edge of the road would safely prevent them from falling over the edge, but it also would guide them directly into a head-on collision with law-abiding traffic.

It all seemed wrong. The ramp snaked up into the sky, bending and turning as it rose higher and higher with no destination in sight.

“Are we going against traffic?”

“Why did it say ‘Do Not Enter’?”

Hearts began to beat fast. Palms began to sweat. Adrenaline began to overwhelm satisfaction. Questions raced through minds and were recklessly shared.

“Is this ramp under construction?”

“Where does this go?”

“What’s the speed limit?”

“Are we on a bridge?”

The snaking ramp turned into a level bridge extending from the city to the suburbs. They were familiar with suburbs approaching, but the bridge they used on our other trips to the suburbs was a separate bridge. A bridge that ran parallel to the bridge they had stumbled upon. The bridge they were all familiar with was a one-way bridge. If they were not on the one-way bridge they always used to the suburbs, they must have been on the other bridge used to get to the city.

John tried to manage his concern.

“Turn around!” John said. There were few indications that assured they were driving the right direction on the bridge.

“What?”

Ashley pointed to the parallel bridge across the river. “That’s the only bridge I remember taking,” she whispered.

“This is like being on a roller coaster,” Britt said with alarming calm as she steered the group over the bridge.

John studied the passing road. Britt was driving the speed limit and not a mile-an-hour faster. They were on an unfamiliar bridge divided by a tall median. The road signs they approached were facing their car.

“No, we’re going the right way,” John said. He put his hand on Britt’s shoulder. “The road signs wouldn’t be facing us if we were going the wrong direction.”

In silence, John noticed the signs facing both directions. John looked at the reflectors on the sides of the road. They glowed white.

“And if we’re going the wrong way, those reflectors would be red,” John said and gently squeezed Britt’s shoulder. His attempts to calm Britt had slightly settled his own nerves.

“That’s true,” Britt said. She exhaled hard. “Okay.”

They drove in silence. They took notes to assure they were heading the right direction and staying on the bridge. No matter how many convincing observations shared, it wasn’t until headlights appeared on the horizon that they could confirm their direction.

“Those are big lights”

“I think this bridge is only for trucks.”

“At least we’re going the right direction.”

The final confirmation that they were not approaching traffic was triumphed by an opportunity to exit. Britt guided the group off the highway and into the suburbs. She turned left off the exit. They passed a cop leaving a gas station.

Britt wasn’t concerned with the cop. She was concerned with turning around and getting back to the city. The detour was encroaching on their show time. She turned left down a short road that divided the street. They passed two signs that indicated a left turn at the approaching stop sign would be an illegal turn. Britt verbally acknowledged the sign. She complained about another detour. She stopped at the sign. She noticed the cop crawling down the street.

She turned left.

The intersection ahead went from green to yellow. Britt slowed the car as blue lights expanded into every inch of the car’s interior. For a moment, the lights felt calm. It was like diving into a clear-blue sky. The blue pulsed and reflected in the windows.

“Are we seriously getting pulled over.”

“Britt, you fucking turned left!

“Shit.”

The police car declared its presence with a shrieking siren. Britt pulled to the side of the road. John’s heart stopped beating and started thudding against his rib cage. The panic in his heart vibrated through his body. He nearly choked on the striking pulse. The sudden acceleration of his heart made him dizzy with awareness.

In the back of the car, he could forecast the future. He saw Britt in jail. He saw the group sitting on the side of the road. He saw myself explaining this story a thousands time to important people. He saw the police discovering reasons to prosecute the group.

His heart worked with force. He begged his nerves to stay calm. The cop approached the car.

“Hello ma’am.” The officer stood away from the Britt’s window and bent slightly at the waist.

“Hello sir.”

“Are you aware, I pulled you over because you turned left after a no-left-turn sign.”

“Shit.” Britt handed the officer her license and registration.

“Are you from out of town?” The officer returned the cards to Britt.

“Yes sir,” Lee said. “We all are.”

The officer asked Britt to turn right at the nearest intersection, drive just pass the fire station and park. As the officer returned to his car, Britt carefully followed his directions. The group guided Britt’s doubts. John reassured Britt if he was suspicious of her being under the influence and having open alcohol in the car he wouldn’t let us drive this short distance.

She ignored John. The cop returned to Britt’s window.

“I’m going to let you go with a warning.”

With an acceleration that defies physics, the group went from silent to rejoicing in thanks. They suffocated the officer with gratitude.

As they pulled away from the cop, they recapped the night.

They drove 30 minutes out of the way to avoid a cop only to get pulled over by a cop.

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