Chief Cole Walker sat behind the wheel of his broken down, bucket of bolts cruiser, stationed in a well-known yet effective speed trap behind a billboard off of Route 199. Up on the billboard, there was an image of a grimy looking slime ball with a white cowboy hat and matching white suit. He was surrounded by cars and held up two fist filled with cash.
The message on the sign? “Beaumont Dufresne’s Used Car Emporium – Prices so low he’s practically handing you cash!”
Seated in the passenger seat was Walker’s trusty right hand man, Russell “Rusty” Yates. Both men were roughly the same age. Cole looked like he might have been a handsome ladies’ man in his youth but time had since had its way with him. While his body remained in good shape, his face was weathered. His black hair had patches of gray around the temples. In short, he always looked like he needed a nap.
Rusty, on the other hand, had a boyish face, so much so that he had the appearance of a giant kid. He had two bucky front teeth. They didn’t protrude so much out of his mouth that he was able to open up a beer bottle with his choppers, but they did poke out ever so slightly, even when his lips were closed. His hair was red. Shockingly, blindingly red. His locks had withstood the test of time, as a single gray hair had yet to infect his scalp.
The duo had been working together for two decades and in that time, they had their rituals. Well, Rusty had his rituals. Cole usually just grunted and nodded. Occasionally he’d offer a thoughtful response if he was in a good mood, which wasn’t often.
Reading the newspaper out loud was one of Rusty’s rituals. “President Stugotz Mulls Whether or Not to Send U.S. Troops into “NoOneCanPronounceThisCountry’sShittyName-istan.”
Rusty took a sip of his coffee. “Good golly, it’s about time, don’t you think, Cole?”
Cole sat and blankly stared at the highway. He offered no response.
“I say, Cole, what do you think?”
“Huh?” Cole asked.
“Stugotz might be sending the Army into NoOneCanPronounceThisCountry’sShittyName-istan,” Rusty said. “It’s a good idea, don’t you think?”
Cole rolled his eyes and emitted a thirty second long sigh, the kind that Rusty had grown used to over the years. It was clearly meant as a warning that Cole was angry that he was had already expelled the minimum mental energy required to recognize Rusty’s existence and now he was downright irate that he was being pressed to engage in an actual conversation.
“I don’t know,” Cole said.
“All these people dying,” Rusty said. “Getting machetes up their taints and rocket propelled grenades up their butts. It’s all a crime against humanity if you ask me.”
A few moments passed before Cole finally offered. “Did anyone ask you?”
“No,” Rusty said. “But innocent people are dying and America can’t proclaim itself as a beacon for justice if we all sit back and do nothing.”
Cole popped a cigarette into his mouth and let it dangle from his lips as he mustered up a response. “Who says we have to do anything?”
Rusty shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Nobody.”
“Then why get involved?” Cole asked.
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” Rusty replied.
“And who says that?” Cole asked.
“I don’t know,” Rusty said. “President Stugotz. Senators and Congressmen.”
Cole flicked his cigarette light, lit up, and puffed away. Within seconds, the car was filled with a smokey stench.
“Right,” Cole said. “All the people who aren’t going to pick up a gun and travel thousands of miles to some place they’ve never been to before, a place they know nothing about, just to shoot at people who want to shove a machete up their taints or an RPG up their asses.”
Rusty coughed dramatically and waved the smoke away from his face with his hand. “Will you put that out?”
“Oh, shut up, Russ,” Cole said. “Don’t give me your sanctimonious health kick bullshit. That coffee you’re sucking down is just as bad for as you as this cigarette is for me.”
“Yeah,” Rusty said. “But at least I’m not forcing you down and pouring my coffee down your gullet, whereas you’re making me smoke that thing with you every time you blow your second hand smoke around my airspace.”
Cole shook his head and rolled his window down. He took another puff, then blew his smoke out the window. He then held his hand outside, leaving the cigarette to chug smoke into the night air.
“There,” Cole said. “That better, you crybaby?”
“Much,” Rusty said. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” Cole replied in a sarcastic tone, denoting that he felt Rusty’s request was, in fact, very much a problem.
“It’s just about being considerate is all,” Rusty said.
“I’m not considerate?” Cole asked.
Rusty had seen Cole’s temper flare up before and didn’t want to cause it to do again. He chose his words carefully. “You seem to be lost in your head most of the time. I’m sure you don’t do it on purpose.”
“Whatever,” Cole said.
“You got to care about other people, Cole,” Rusty said. “Whether it’s your partner in a police cruiser or innocent civilians on the other side of the world getting machetes in their taints and RPGs up their butts.”
Cole looked at Rusty incredulously. “Maybe I do care about people. Maybe I’m just caring about the people that you aren’t caring about. Did that possibility ever make its way into your soul-less ginger skull?”
Rusty turned the page of his paper. “You know, if you’re going to start name calling, let’s just forget it.”
“No,” Cole said. “You started it, so let’s finish it. Maybe I do care about those innocent people who are getting taints and RPGs up their butts. But maybe I also care some dipshit kid from Podunk, Kentucky who signed up for the Army because he couldn’t find a job anywhere and he’s going to shipped off to some hellhole to fight for people who will resent the shit out of him for being there. If he doesn’t get his taint hacked with a machete or his ass blown up by an RPG within the first three days of his tour of duty, then he’ll have to come to grips with the fact that his mission there is destined to fail for, as we all know, all the limelight sucking politicians will blow each other with compliments and praise for as long as the war is going well, but they’ll finger point and play the blame game the second shit goes south. The war will always go south, because that’s what happens in war, and when that kid needs a new flak jacket, or a new gun, or God forbid, more soldiers to back him up, the same assholes who sent him there in the first place will deny him all the assistance he needs to win in a desperate effort to save their political careers as well as their ability to suckle off of the government teet for the rest of their lives, so don’t give me that shit about me not caring about all the innocent civilians in NoOneCanPronounceThisShittyCountry’sName-istan. That’s a shitty place. It’s always been a shitty place. It will always be a shitty place. There’s never been a time when people haven’t been dying there and there will never be a time when people won’t be dying there. Sending Americans to die there will not solve the problem one iota.”
Rusty studied his newspaper. “Sorry Cole, I’ve already moved on to the funny pages. Oh Garfield, I’m with you about Mondays. They sure do suck. Preach on, my furry orange brother.”
“Yeah,” Cole said as he stuck his head out the window to puff on his cigarette. “The moral of the story, whether its war or a heated political discussion, is don’t start it if you don’t want to finish it.”
The minutes passed. Cole smoked. Rusty read and drank his coffee.
Zoom! A cherry red Ferrari blasted down the highway at warp speed, veering back and forth over the center line. Cole squinted just in time to spot a tell-tale white cowboy hat poking up over the driver’s seat.
“Son of a bitch,” Cole said as he flicked his butt out the window and pulled out into traffic. He turned on his lights and siren and began a pursuit.
“You think its smart to start something with our illustrious mayor, Cole?” Rusty asked.
“Why not?” Cole asked.
Rusty flashed his partner a wry grin. “Because you and I know both know you won’t finish it.