There’s a police car coming toward us—of course there’s a police car coming toward us. That’s what the police do: cruise the after hours in search of mischievous preteens taking late-night bike rides past curfew.
“We’re screwed,” I gasp.
“We’re not screwed,” Mini replies.
“There’s a police car right behind us!”
“It’s not right behind us. It’s at least several car-lengths away.”
“Like that matters? In a few seconds it’s going to sidle up alongside us, the cop’s going to flash his lights, blare his siren, tell us to pull over. He’ll ask to see some identification, I’ll show him my school ID, and that’ll be it. Handcuffs, the backseat of a squad car, overnight behind bars, Mom in tears when she shows up tomorrow morning with the $500,000 to bail me out in time for the hearing—”
“$500,000?” Ernie sneezes offensively; I can feel his mucus soaking through the fabric of my shirt. “Dude, don’t act like you’re worth anything less than a cool million.”
“Lay off the rich white boy thing, fat shit,” I warn as a sudden, torrential sweat moistens my face. To Mini: “What do we do?”
Mini gives me a look. “What do you mean, what do we do?”
“The cop following us—what do we do about the cop following us?”
“Pish. He’s not following us.”
The cruiser, clearly following us, sidles up alongside in the left lane.
“Maybe he’s just passing by,” Jan says.
The cruiser’s passenger window rolls down—and here’s the thing: it’s late, I’m tired. I’m not entirely sure how much of this is real, and how much is my brain interpreting the world around me through a hypnagogic haze, but I swear to you the most gnarly-looking police officer in the world is sitting behind the wheel of that cruiser. He’s got the look of a man who’s lost his wallet, gotten a flat tire in the middle of traffic, and broken up with his wife—all on the same day. He’s the Terminator. He’s Axe Cop. He’s a circa Conan the Barbarian Jason Momoa playing a psychotic law-enforcement agent whose massive, rippling upper-torso is ready to burst out of his uniform at the slightest sign of trouble.
“Curfew!!” he roars, jabbing an accusing finger at me.
Or maybe he just asks, in a normal tone of voice, what I’m doing out so late at night, and if I need any help. But I can only see and hear the Momoan. This is no longer reality, it’s a mental twilight into which I’ve somehow pedaled unaware. Here boogeymen and boogeywomen water their lawns and take their little boogeychildren to soccer practice in broad daylight. Here, where Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera were never born, Internet Explorer 6 still rules the Web, and PNG transparency is but a madman’s dream.
This is where Mrs. Womack’s griffin half resides.
I pretend (poorly, mind you—acting has never been my strong suit) not to notice the police officer, and pedal slightly faster. There’s a fine line I don’t want to cross, a peace I don’t want to break by acknowledging the officer and thereby singling myself out amidst traffic. But intent and implementation are arch enemies; my fight or flight instinct has kicked in, and it’s mostly flight at the moment.
The result: Officer Momoa is now cruising at a slightly faster speed, while I’m pedaling all-out in an attempt to get nowhere fast. Again, he asks placidly if I know what time it is, if I need any help.
I hear, “I’mgonnagetyoukid!!”
Mini shakes his head in disgrace. “You know the idiot suspects you see in police chase footage on the news? You’ve become one of those.”
“I…” Pant! “…have…” Gasp! “…not!”
“Says the guy whose brilliant plan to not get picked up for breaking curfew is to outrun a police car on his Huffy.” Mini pulls a plush cell phone from a pocket I only now realize he’s got sewn into his side. “I’ll take care of this.”
“How do you…” Pant! “…have a cell phone?”
“Dude—it’s the twenty-first century. Everyone has a cell phone.”
“I don’t,” Jan offers, wistful.
Ernie, on auto-reply: “Czechs don’t count.”
(I hear a soft thud, which I can only assume is Jan giving him a pixelated punch in the soft bulk of his back.)
Meanwhile, Mini has proceeded to strip naked, and, keeping hold of his phone with one hand, is stuffing his clothes into my pocket. “I’m applying technology to a real-world situation,” he explains when he sees the WTF expression on my face. “Toss me onto the copper’s hood.”
“What?” Gasp! “Why?”
Mini rolls his eyes as if annoyed that I don’t already know the answer. “What’s worse than breaking curfew?”
I shrug, wobbling, compensating.
“Breaking curfew with your junk hanging out. Maybe if he’s paying attention to me, he’ll stop paying attention to you. Now…” He spreads his arms, gives me an affirmative nod. “Throw me, brah.”
I grab him, hurl him at the police cruiser. He soars through the air in epic slow-motion, twisting, rotating, bellowing a heroic battle cry at the top of his lungs. I think his intention is to land on the car in some kind of uber-cool ninja pose. Instead, he tumbles clumsily across the hood and disappears over the edge.
Officer Momoa swerves briefly, surprised by the plush assault, but is otherwise unaffected. Rather, pissed that a snot-nosed kid is throwing puppets at his car, he turns on his warning lights, gives me a very specific gesture to pull over immediately.
“I don’t think that went according to plan,” Jan says.
Ernie, again, on auto-reply: “Dude. You throw like a girl.”
I start to point out that it’s difficult to throw things while keeping one’s balance and simultaneously managing the weight of a baby elephant when suddenly Officer Momoa lets loose a howl of surprise and slams on the brakes, veering away from us. After a moment, it becomes apparent why: Mini hasn’t fallen off the car after all, but is actually clinging to the side, his phone clamped tight in his mouth, a look of grim determination on his face as he claws his way back onto the hood.
The cop, obviously freaked out by the concept of a living, naked doll on his car, has lost all sense of poise, and is trying to shake off the possessed plushie any way he can, in the process side-swiping another car inadvertently, rolling up onto the curb, and knocking over a mailbox. A flurry of envelopes erupts into the air.
Mini holds tight, makes his way up to the windshield. He holds up his little cell phone, aims it at the cop, and hits the send button—
—and Officer Momoa uploads instantaneously.
Mini’s used SuperMegaNet on a police officer.
I hit the brakes, my bike stuttering. Our momentum (most of it Ernie’s) causes us to lose our balance, and we end up falling, toppling onto the street as the car behind us comes to a screeching halt mere inches from where we’re lying in a heap, arms and legs splayed every which way.
Officer Momoa’s police cruiser careens past. Half a block down the street, it lurches onto the sidewalk—right into a telephone pole.
For absolutely no reason, the car bursts into flame.
Oncoming cars swerve off the road to avoid the accident. Somewhere nearby a woman’s scream pierces the night air. Pedestrians duck for cover.
Ernie lifts his head from the ground, coughs phlegm. “Holy fuck, white boy.”
I look at him.
He looks back at me, holds up my phone. “I think I broke your phone.”