|In Cold Mud
1976, 2002 by Bruce Jaeger. All rights reserved. (Printed in the DNF, April
"Thwup-thik. Thwup-thik. Thwup-thik." The wipers
scraped their endless rhythm as the Opel pounded through the night. Beads of water
streaked the side windows as the car's driver pushed the gear lever into third and applied
"Right after third railroad crossing?" he asked aloud,
taking his eyes off the road for an instant to inspect a sheet of paper clipped to the
dash and illuminated by a dim red light.
"Yes," said the passenger, a young, dark-haired woman in
her mid-twenties. She reached to her left with a pen and crossed a line off the paper.
"Next instruction is 'Right onto County Road B,"' she added as the car turned to
A parked car loomed out of the darkness. "Looks like a
checkpoint ahead!" remarked the driver. He slowed the Opel to a stop just past the
parked car, opened his door and stepped out into the rain.
"Guess I'll stretch my legs, too," said the passenger as
she joined the driver. They walked up to the parked car.
"Worst thing I've seen in years," said the
County Sheriff. Ben Coolee the next morning to the short, balding man beside him. He
shivered a bit--not entirely from the cold--as he climbed out of the muddy ditch. Up on
the real. sat the Opel, empty, and with large number sevens still taped on its sides.
Sheriff Coolee gave the scene one last, painful look, then turned
to a group of somber-faced men standing near a white truck. "Okay, get 'em out of
here!" he snapped. The men stepped gingerly into the ditch. In a few minutes they had
packed up the truck and driven away. Sheriff Coolee and the short, balding man were left
standing alone on the side of the road.
"Yes," said the Sheriff in low tones, "Definitely
the worst case of littering I've ever seen! Beer cans and hamburger wrappers and
Kaopectate bottles! Makes me sick!" He climbed into the county cruiser with the short
"Wonder whose Opel busted down out here?" asked the
Sheriff as they drove away.