Scallops by Isaac Steinzor

A tear of sweat worked its way down the Highway Patrolman's forehead, across the doughy mounds of flesh that hugged his eyesockets and along his cheek, until it beaded on the corner of his upper lip, where he licked it off. He looked like he was made of rubberized foam, or, if you were hungry, funnelcake.

He stroked his waist, where his belt dug into his belly, and thought for a moment of which point he should jump off at.

Which end of the good-cop-bad-cop spectrum to begin upon when addressing these two giggling jackass Yankee motorists.

“Kids- don't think I ain't seen kids like you before, because I have, and it's always trouble- please step out of your vehicle.”

Rick smiled. “I'm actually, uh. Well within my rights? To stay in the vehicle, sir. So if it's no problem...” through his teeth, sunglasses on. The tried-and-true 99 Problems defense.

“Well, actually, son, now that you mention it? It is a problem. I have my-self a job to do, and if every jackass with an invalid driver's license or half an ounce of weed stashed in the glovebox kept me standing by their window for half an hour or more, then I wouldn't be the proud highway patrolman I am today.”

“Hey, man,” here Rick found himself on the receiving end of a sharp look, “Uh, officer. I've shown you my license. There's nothing wrong here. I promise, there are no illegal drugs. Honestly, do we even look like the type-?”

“Everyone's the type, nowadays. I mean, aside from upholding the law, what's to say I'm not 'the type,' sir?”

Rick laughed, to show he was friendly and not above a few illegal activities now and then, when outside of the Highway Patrol's jurisdiction. Next to him, Honeysuckle was wilting underneath her shock of violet hair. The dye job had preceded Rick by a week, and it was fading at the roots back to an unhealthy-looking straw color. She wanted to say something to help, but she couldn't think of anything to say, so she bit her nails and settled nerves.

“Your companion there. Is she alright? She looks a little... out of it.” The Patrolman cast his line, having seen “Cops” on TV before and knowing the junction where routine bookings turn to arrests when he saw it.

“Hun, you okay? Talk to the man, alright?” Rick, knowing that junction by the back of his hand, mind going fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck knew this was a bad idea, knew it knew it knew it, was about to grab her by the upper arm and shake her. “C'mon, baaaaaby, any time now.”

Honeysuckle took a finger out of her mouth and sighed. “Oohhhhhh, it's probably... just the heat. I guess. I'm from... up- North, so...”

“Gotcha. Not a Southern Belle, right? Nothing at all wrong with that.”

She returned his crooked grin with an anemic facial gesture that wouldn't seem out of place in a maternity ward. “Yeah... it's no, reflection. Or anything. Just... um, a general weakness of... conce- conce... what's the word?”

Rick suddenly wanted to fuck her- right here, right now- at this endearing sign of mental feebleness. “Constitution, baby, constitution.” It was all he could do not to slip his hand down the top of her white cotton tank top, just to feel the August heat and know somebody else felt hot as fuck too. It was these commonalities and little else, he supposed, that tied people together.

The highway patrolman squinted at Rick just as Rick was busy shooting Honeysuckle a lustful gaze, and felt moved strongly enough by this to spit on the road and glare, full of contempt, first at Rick and then at the sizzling expectoration on the pavement so as to ensure they both made the connection. Finally, not without sheepishness, Rick handed over his registration, thankfully as valid as his license.

The patrolman went back to his cruiser and ran the numbers. No outstanding warrants, nothing. Clean as a whistle. Drugs be damned, it was probably better this way, he figured as he adjusted his bulk through the open door of the patrolcar and back towards his quarry.

Standing over them, he stroked his belt again and squinted hard for a minute, just to make the fuckers squirm. The kids looked innocent, mostly. Disappointing. “Well, I s'pose you're all set, then. Just understand once you cross state lines into Georgia that they don't take these things quite so light as us folks up here in Tennessee, okay?”

“Okey-dokey! Hey, sorry about this whole thing, here. It's gotta be a drag, doing whatcha do, every day 'nd all.”

The highway patrolman blinked and pondered whether to be all buddy-buddy with assent or to condescend to this Yankee with some folksy common sense.

“It's a day's good honest work. I help uphold social order so that people like yourself who don't feel the need don't have to.” Rick opened his mouth, but thought better. “Have a good day, now.”

And then just as soon, the highway patrolman was back in his air-conditioned patrol car, feeling his damp uniform seize up and stiffen to jets of cool air, running his fingertips across the little inverted nubs in the rubberized plastic of its steering wheel, just enjoying the music of its enclosure, the newly-washed windows singing to him a song of the world outside- the bright and jovial South, lazing in the Saturday warmth and ready for him to move down the road and explore it at his own pleasure.

Meanwhile, Rick and Honeysuckle sat side by side in Rick's rented red '96 chevy cavalier convertible for several minutes, he with a barely-lit joint dangling from his lips (you were right, officer!), his eyes closed and head back; she the same expression as usual- spaced out, head swiveled a few degrees diagonally to her right towards the landscape, eyes focused on nothing in particular. The joint started to make him feel dizzy and he held it out to her, but she was too affixed to whatever was going on outside the car to notice. He flicked it off onto the highway and put the car in gear. “Man, we've been fucking around a bit too much. Let's make some time and get on the road for real!”

“Hey... didn't we just almost get a ticket? For speeding?”

“No big deal, Hun. Happens all the time, to people better and worse than you and me. Bottom line? We gotta be in Atlanta before nightfall, and that means speeding some. Buckle up.”


And away they went in the red Chevy Cavalier, the wind drying out Honeysuckle's eyes as she stuck her face out the side. She rubbed them with the back of her hand, and when she opened them again it was dusk and the streetlights blurred yellow from across the slow lane. She stretched out her arms above her head and yawned, and thought about how far she was from Milwaukee and how it was a week since she'd left home with no notice, and how it felt like so much longer and so much further. She felt incredibly tiny and bewildered at every turn and at every interaction, like she hadn't read the manual that everyone else knew every page of instinctively. What am I doing wrong here? She thought, and looked at Rick, inscrutable Rick. What am I doing here at all? Rick looked over and smiled at her through his sunglasses. “Almost there, babe! Although we gotta take a little detour before finding a hotel, 'kay?”

She almost asked why, but then realized she hadn't even asked why Atlanta by sundown, or why Atlanta at all, really, or why leave. It hit her then how strange it was that none of this had occurred to her before, at the bar when he said “let's hit the road” after she emerged from the bathroom, ketamine wrapping the curtains around her, strange shadowy figures belly-dancing in the bar's darkened corners- or when they moved onto the freeway an hour and a half later and she had come down and her left hand was on his right thigh, feeling body warmth seeping through the coarse cloth of his jeans into her palm. She drew her body towards the car door for a second and looked at his face. He was staring through the windshield and down the street, past the shitty housing developments that crouched by the road, towards somewhere she didn't know; she didn't even know if he knew. All of a sudden she felt sick and the door handle was digging into her side, it was too late at night and the streetlights kept telling her she was in a strange town. She pulled her face into her shirt and tried to go back to sleep. Sleep didn't come.

They made their way through the outskirts of Atlanta and headed south past the airport until they were in the suburbs, “somewhere in Riverdale” according to Rick, and they rolled past rows of identical ranch houses until finally turning into a driveway where they idled for a minute while Rick lit a new cigarette. Honeysuckle looked up at the night sky and tried to identify constellations, but they all looked the same and very pointillist at that. Rick finished his cigarette and stepped out of the car. “Be back in a sec',” and then the car door clicked shut, followed by him looking at her looking away. “Might be more than a sec', actually. Be back soon, is the point.” He's a total stranger, she thought, and then shuddered at it.

Rick stepped slowly all across the lawn, at the last second looking down at his feet, in doing so narrowly avoiding crushing a tiny plastic shovel. He strode over it to arrive at the door. He touched his knuckles to the red, chipping paint for a second before knocking, just to get a feel for the place. Definitely a fixer-upper. Rick breathed in, breathed out through his nose. Knock-knock. Silence. Again, repeat- and after more silence, stirring from inside. Slippers shuffling across hardwood, the edge of a moth-eaten robe dragging behind drowsy feet? The door opened to reveal a woman with tangled black hair framing her face. Slippers, robe- check. Plaid boxer shorts- check. He remembered those. She was staring at him (through him, maybe? Her eyes were unfocused), all of him perhaps, like he was a man-shaped cloud of bees or a cardboard cutout of himself painted black. His eyes bored through the mess of hair hanging around her hazel eyes... into those eyes, through them, and he was suddenly aware of her breathing: quick, shallow breaths, even but quiet like a cat with a broken rib. He could feel her apprehension and melancholy at all of the memories of themselves bleeding back into her brain. The left side of his mouth lifted itself, ever so slightly. “Boop,” he said gently, his quivering finger outstretched and almost touching her nose. Her mouth made a shape that could've been interpreted as a smile back.

“Boop,” she replied as her fingers closed around his hand half an inch from her face. They went inside.

Isaac Steinzor just did a shot of Sobieski, and is now trying to think of any attributes of his that are worth sharing. He writes pathetically, is probably in the 45th percentile in terms of looks, and considers himself potentially the Tri-Valley area's worst but most memorable white rapper. He has a blog where he spews inkblotter-type throwaway writing exercises at Other than that, he is doing nothing out of the ordinary at the moment. Look away, please.