Big Chief

I took a deep breath before opening the door.  I knew that the others were waiting for me, and that the moment I walked over the threshold all eyes would be on me.

I thought I knew how most of them would react, but I wasn't sure.  This could go over badly.

Very badly.

I looked back at Steph and Mindy.  They had ridden in the car with me, and so knew what I was about to tell the others - what I had to tell the others.  With a slight nod Steph assured me that they'd back me up.  With no compelling reason to put it off any longer, I turned the handle and entered my apartment.  Half a dozen people stopped half a dozen coversations and whipped around to face me.


"What happened?"

"You saw what happened.  I got pulled over."  I pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and swung it around so I could sit and face everyone sprawled over the living room couches.  Steph took a seat next to me.  Mindy stayed back, eyes on the floor, and leaned against the wall by the entryway.

"Yeah, but for what?" asked Kiki. "We were in the car right behind you - you'd barely made it out of the parking lot before the cop turned his lights on."

A few hours earlier, the boys had announced that they were making a Denny's run and asked if any of us wanted to come along.  It was well after midnight, and the truck-stop Denny's in Salina, a 45 minute drive away, was the nearest restaurant that would be open that late.  Though most of us weren't big fans of the food, it was something of a tradition to make the long drive through the desert to fill up on rubbery pancakes in the wee hours.

We piled into three separate cars and caravaned through the darkness along the twisting highway, stopping for the occasional herd of deer or sagebrush pile that blocked our path.  The restaurant was mostly empty, except for a few truck drivers and another group of college kids whose evening had thus far progressed much the same as our own.  By the time we finished eating, our guts full of conversation and laughter and imitation maple syrup, our energy levels were shot through the roof.

Later we piled back into our cars to make the long drive home.  Candice led the way, Kiki brought up the rear, and I drove between them.

When the cop pulled me over, Kiki rushed around and up ahead to catch up to Candice so they could pull off to the side and wait for me.  Candice and her companions were too busy rocking out to the music blasting from her car stereos to notice his flashing lights in her rearview for almost two miles, so by the time the other two cars pulled over they were much to far away to see what was happening back at my car.

(Very few of us owned cell phones at the time, and those that did never bothered to bring them on road trips.  There was no reception outside of town until you got all the way north to Nephi.)

As Kiki explained this to me back at the apartment, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a folded half-sheet of paper.

"So after we waited for a while we decided to come back here and wait for you," Kiki finished.  "You took forever.  What happened?  Why'd he pull you over?"

"Well, it wasn't so much because of me," I said, "as it was because of us."

"Us?  Who?"

"Us.  All of us.  Because of the statue."

Next door to Denny's was a Sinclair gas station.  Like so many others, this one featured a six-foot high brontosaurus in the yard.  Part of the Late Night Denny's Run tradition included climbing on this little dinosaur for a picture.

This particular Sinclair station, however, went the extra mile.  In addition to the dinosaur, there was a 14-foot bronze statue of a Native American on a pedastal, wielding a tomahawk and wearing a loincloth.

"No way."

"Yes, way."

"I don't believe you.  He pulled you over because we were climbing on the statue?"

"He pulled me over because he thought I was driving drunk.  He was in the parking lot across the street, saw us all scaling Big Chief, and figured we must all be plastered out of our minds."

Kiki and the others just stared at me.  I had a history of telling tall tales, and they were all wary of my stories.  None of them were eager to swallow this one, until Lynne spoke up.

"She's telling the truth.  I can tell."

"No, she's not," Kiki said.

"I've lived with her for two years, Kiki.  I know her better than you.  I can tell when she's lying," Lynne insisted.

"I'm not lying to you.  He made me get out of the car and walk the line and everything.  Had to take a breath-a-lizer.  That's why it took so long," I said.

Kiki looked to Steph for confirmation.  She nodded.  He turned to Mindy, who was still staring at the ground, silent.


She didn't say a word, just kind of shrugged.

"They made us all do it," I said quietly.

The others instantly understood.  No wonder Mindy was so quiet - how embarrassing for someone to think that we'd be drinking!  We hardly looked like the kind of people who would drink.  We were good Mormon kids, smart, about to graduate from junior college!  Most of us weren't even of age yet.  For someone to think that we would be so devious as to drink alcohol was insulting.

"But obviously you weren't drunk, so it was fine."


I dropped the folded piece of paper on the tabletop.  Kiki reached out to pick it up.  He opened it carefully and skimmed over it.  I took a deep breath before blurting out the bad news.

"We have to pay a fine.  For disturbing the peace and vandalism."

"WHAT?"  Some of the others leapt from the couches and crowded close to see the ticket in Kiki's hand for themselves.

"Where does it say that?"

"She's lying."

"If she was lying, why'd she get the ticket?"

"I dunno, speeding?"

"We were pulling out of a parking lot; there's no way she could have been speeding."

 I let them all argue for a minute, then decided I had to speak up.  "Guys," I said, "the way I see it we have two options.  We can either fight it or pay it.  But since graduation is in a couple of days, and we'll have to go all the way to Salina to see a judge to fight it, it'd be at least a two hour drive for any of us.  And we don't really have a reason to fight it, as we were climbing on the statue.

"So our other option is to pay it.  Since it's in my name, I'll send the check if everyone just gives me cash for their share."

Everyone nodded in agreement.  Almost.

"I'm not paying anything," Candice said.

"What?  Why not?"

She tossed her hair behind her shoulder and rolled her eyes, as if the answer should be obvious.  "I didn't climb Big Chief."

"Yes you did, we all did!"

"No, I just leaned against the base.  I'm not paying."

"Don't be a jerk."

"I'm not being a jerk!  I'm just not going to pay a fine for climbing on a statue when I didn't do it."

The conversation continued for a while longer.  By now, dawn was approaching and our late night pancake buzz was nearly worn off.  Mindy had long ago slipped off to her room to go to bed, without adding a word to the discussion.  I glanced at Steph.  Through a long yawn she gave me a look that clearly said, "That's enough, do it already."


Once again, all eyes were on me.  I took a deep breath.


"I hate you."

"I knew you were lying," Kiki claimed.

"You lying sack of crap."

I laughed.  "You guys totally fell for it!  Come on, I had to have one last good one before we all graduated and moved away."

"So what'd you get the ticket for?"

"He pulled me over because he thought I'd run the stop sign.  I told him that wasn't me, it was Candice in the car in front of me.  Since our cars are both white and it was dark, he must've gotten mixed up.  But my insurance expired last week, and I don't have the new card.  It was mailed to my parents' house, and since I was going back there in a few days I hadn't bothered to have them forward it to me.  So I got a ticket for not having proof of insurance."

Most of them laughed along with me now.  "Good one."

"I don't know why I ever believe a word you say."

"I really thought you were telling the truth!"

"Well," said Candice, "it's a good thing I wasn't going to pay my part of the fine."

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Haha! You are cool. I think you'd be a fun friend. If only you were mormon. We have an activity tomorrow night maybe you'd be interested in? It'll be totally fun.