by Niles Reddick
When I took my fifteen-year-old son to get his learner’s permit, I had to provide his birth certificate, his social security card, my driver’s license, a utility bill, my mortgage statement, and my vehicle registration (this had to be “real” and not printed from the web or email even though all of these bills are paid via the web). It seemed a bit much to require for a learner’s license, particularly since others didn’t seem to have as much material, but in their defense, they weren’t getting a learner’s permit either. They were there for a renewal after expiration, a replacement for a license lost, or issuance of a different type of license because of driving under the influence of alcohol or drug charges.
One fellow in stained shorts, a raggedy t-shirt, discolored tennis shoes with an unknown brand emblem, and bed head worse than my teenager’s hair in the morning came to the counter, and I figured the clerk was in for an experience. I pretended to read and listened to him tell her he’d moved South from Arizona and lost his license in the move. I wondered how one might lose a license in a move if it was in the wallet, and the wallet was always on him. He hadn’t mentioned losing his wallet or anything else, so it seemed suspicious to me. The young lady typed his information into her computer, and she shared he had an outstanding ticket for driving without his license and for driving with broken taillights. He then shared that he’d explained to the officer that he’d lost the license but technically he had one and shouldn’t be ticketed. Plus, he had pleaded that the tape holding shards of red plastic over the small light bulbs were crooked but not totally busted and functioned.
The driver’s license lady said, “That was your first mistake. When you lost it, you should’ve come on in and got a replacement. That was a year ago. Where you been?”
“I know,” he pleaded. “I just didn’t have any money.”
She nodded. “It only cost ten dollars for a replacement, but now you got to go to court, pay the ticket, and bring proof back from the judge before we can get you a new one.”
“I tried to go to court, but the doors were locked. It’s hard to get rides.”
“I understand and wish I could do more.”
I kept my nose in the book and was thankful I didn’t have a job where I had to listen to people whine day in and day out. I hoped he didn’t notice me in the chair behind him, hoped he didn’t go postal (though I didn’t think he could have hidden a gun without it being seen in his outfit), hoped he didn’t ask me for a ride or for money, and hoped my son didn’t come out until after the guy left.
When he left, a young girl with blue hair got her license renewed, and mother tattooed with what I thought were ancient symbols, paid for her son’s new license after his DUI. I imagined she didn’t know the symbol on her leg was a triple spiral triskelion that predated Celtic culture but simply liked the tattoo one night after too much hard liquor. If I had a tattoo, I might have selected this one, too, but the likelihood of me getting a tattoo had always been low because of the pain.
My son barely passed his test and wanted to drive home, but we had to take the interstate and it was rush hour. I told him we’d try that later.
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Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in thirteen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in more than three hundred publications, including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, The Boston Literary Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others.