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The Smiling Lady in the Toll Booth
by Julie Michaelson
05/22/11
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Then
I saw
another
beast
which rose
out of
the earth;
it had
two horns
like a
lamb,
and
it
spoke
like
a
dragon.
[Revelation 13:11]
************************

Time: Middle of the Tribulation.
Place: Somewhere, America.
____________________
"How's it goin', Roberta?"
Jack reached up,
while he was talking,
to push away the thick
blond hair that
tended to fall over
his forehead. Keeping a
couple fingers over the small
clump of hair, Jack
waited until the Toll Booth
Agent picked up her
scanner and slowly
waved it over his
forhead.

The small black scanner
in Roberta's
hand beeped, and a
green light blinked
twice in its tiny screen window.
The scanner was shaped like
a little camera,
and never seemed to
break down, or run out of charge.
Roberta smiled and nodded; the color
of her eyes were
hidden by the deeply
shaded eyeglasses
that she always wore.
"You're CLEAR to
GO, Mr. Dobrovsky!"

Jack removed his
fingers from his hair,
and put them back
on the steering wheel.
He smiled up at the
Toll Booth Agent: she was
in her mid-twenties,
very tall and slender,
and had a long,
low auburn-colored pony-tail
neatly tied behind her slim shoulders.
Roberta always looked the so
professional and saavy: her navy-
blue Tollway Agency
uniform was always
sharply pressed, the
white cotton little
blouse that she wore
underneath it reminded Jack of his
old parochial school
days, when the girls
had to wear white
cotton blouses under
blue and green plaid
jumper dresses.
Roberta was no school girl, however;
her black and gold name tag
was pinned atop quite a womanly
bosom, underneath the blousy material,
and she wore a small
little clump of daisies
in the pressed pocket
of her short,
figure-hugging,
navy-blue Toll Booth
Agency jacket. The
little flowers were
always fresh; did
Roberta go out, herself
every morning, to pick them?
Jack smiled to himself:
probably not.

(A girlish, feminine
voice broke Jack
out of his reverie.)
"JACK!
COME ON!
There's CARS behind
us! And, the BABY SHOWER'S
going to start ANY MINUTE!
MOMMY'S WAITING!"

"OH!"
(Jack laughed, shaking his head.
The thick wave of
blond hair moved back
across his forhead: covering up
the area that
Roberta had just scanned.)
"SORRY, Ashley!
My MIND'S still back
at the OFFICE.......!
I don't know WHY
your mother had to
have this stupid shower on a Friday NIGHT....
doesn't she
know.....the rest of us have been
WORKING all DAY?"

"Oh, JACK!
I already TOLD you...
WHY........Mama's
in the middle of the
BABY'S room fixed up,
and the WORKERS have to
come on SATURDAY!"

"How come she's
fixing up a baby's
room at HER house?
Is SHE pregnant, TOO?"

Ashley's light, girlish
laugh tickled Jack's
ears.
"NO, SILLY!"
Ashley leaned over to
poke a small feminine
finger into Jack's
driving arm.
"YOU know WHY!
Mama wants to have
the room ready and
all fixed up.....for when she and Daddy
BABYSIT!"
(Ashley giggled again. She smiled, and then
rested her head against the back of
the carseat: her small pretty fingers
gently resting on top
of her dark green
maternity sweater.)

Jack turned from
the windsheild to glance over at his
young, pretty blond
wife. He paused for
a moment, before
deciding to bring up
a sore subject, again.
"Ashley..........?
Honey?
Did you make that
appointment for Monday MORNING?"

A dark cloud seemed
to pass in front of
his wife's small,
heart-shaped faced.
Tiny wrinkle lines
formed over both of
her light-brown eyebrows. Ashley
closed her eyes, and
gave a little inconsequential shrug.
She smiled to herself.
"Oh.......THAT.
Yes........that's RIGHT.
I FORGOT
about THAT."

"WELL?
Did you MAKE it...
or NOT? You mean
you just forgot about
the APPOINTMENT
that you MADE.....?"

Ashley shook her
small blond head of
curls, and opened her
baby-blue eyes:
turning away from her husband's voice,
and staring out the
car window.
"Okay!
Okay!
I FORGOT!
I FORGOT to MAKE
it! Is it such a TRAGEDY?
First thing, Monday morning.....
I'll CALL them.....I PROMISE..."

Jack moaned with
impatience, and exasperation.
He felt as though he were talking
to a young teenager: trying to
get her to study
for an alegebra
test on a Sunday night....and the test
was Monday morning.
"ASHLEY!
ASHLEY!
THIS IS....really
IMPORTANT!"
(Jack lowered his voice to
a loud, punctuated whisper.)
"It could be a matter.....of life...
or DEATH!"

(Ashley pursed her pretty
little pouty lips, with
an air of ruefulness.)
"Oh, JACK!
Stop being so DRAMATIC!
PLEASE! You're
sounding just like
my MOTHER!"

Jack merely sighed,
turned his head:
keeping his eyes on
the road, and pulling
the little shader down,
against the bright setting sun.
Ashley was living in a dream-world,
and he knew it. What if
something HAPPENED to him?
Who would be able to put their
money in the bank,
or buy GROCERIES?
Even gas pumps
were now set up with
the same electronic-
readers that toll
collectors, like Roberta, were using
on I10 and all the main highways.
The world had changed, almost
overnight.......and
his young wife, who
had grown up very
sheltered and spoiled,
might find herself
in some very grim
circumstances if
she continued to procrastinate....and,
put off the inevitable....as if
she had a choice.

"JACK?"
(Ashley's soft
Southern accent,
sweetly breathed in
a low whisper, came
to his ears.)

"What IS it,
Ashley?"

"I PROMISE;
I'll GO.......first
thing, Monday MORNING.....
I promise........OKAY?"

(Jack gave a small
sigh of relief.
At least his wife was
trying to think more
responsibly.....for a
change.)

***************

Six and a half hours later,
he was in the car
on the way home....
bound toward the same toll booths
on the other side of
the turnpike. Jack,
however, was not
driving; he had sipped
one too many beers
with his step-father,
brother-in-law and
some other buddies
over at the local pub,
while Ashley, her mother
and two-dozen or so
of Ashley's friends
were whooping it up
at the baby shower.
Ashley's parents had
tried insisting that
she and Jack spend
the night at their
house, but Jack was adamant:
they were going home, and besides,
Ashley's mother had a houseful
of exotic Siamese cats, and
their fur turned Jack's sensitive nose
into a bright red
sneeze-ball.

Absolutely not: they
were driving home,
and Ashley would drive.
Jack could just sleep off
his hangover, Saturday
morning.

Jack dozed. The
next thing he felt
was Ashley's small
palm pushing against
his left forearm.
"JACK!
JACK!"

"Huh?
What IS it?
Are we HOME.....yet?"

His wife's softly
accented voice sounded high-pitched
with anxiety. For
some reason, she
was shouting in a
soft whisper.
"No!
NO!
LOOK, JACK!
The.....TOLL BOOTH'S coming UP!"

Three quiet seconds passed.
Suddenly, Jack woke up out of
his drunken reverie;
he sat up so hard that his
seat belt pushed against his
left rib, painfully.

The toll....booth.....
The TOLL BOOTH!

Jack's eyes opened
wide, in terror.

Oh, NO!
NO!
THE TOLL BOOTH!
He FORGOT!
They had to get off
the TURNPIKE...to
get onto the access,
home!

"ASHLEY!
QUICK!
GET OFF THE ROAD! WE'RE
GOING TO HAVE
TO STOP THE CAR
AND CHANGE SEATS! YOU CAN'T
GET SCANNED!
GET OFF THE ROAD!"

"I CAN'T, JACK!
I CAN'T!
THERE'S A CAR
RIGHT BEHIND ME!"

Jack, little beads of
sweat beginning to pool
at both his temples, stared into
his side mirror: holding out
his palm as if directing traffic.
"OKAY!
OKAY!
WAIT!
JUST WAIT!......
GO!
NOW!"

Ashley, sobbing with
fright, swerved franctically off the
road.......and slammed
on the car's brakes
as they plunged down
into a low ditch. Several cars'
headlights blinked back at them;
car horns tooted, and blared.

Right behind them,
came the obnoxiously
loud blurping-sound
of a police car. Jack
could see, in his mirror,
the side of
the right car door slam.
Two police officers walked
alongside their car.

"Get OUT, sir."

"Sir? My WIFE'S..."

"Take out your
DRIVER'S license
and CAR insurance..."

"SIR? My WIFE'S
having LABOR pains...
we're just....TRYING to get to a HOSPITAL!"

"You're DRUNK,
sir. You can't DRIVE."

"Yes.....yes, sir."

"M'AM? Can you
DRIVE the rest of
the WAY?"

Ashley's head shook;
her lovely blond curls
and soft sobs made
her look even younger
than she was; she
bent forward just
a little, and put both
her palms over her
softly-bulging belly.
"No........no.... sir...."

"ALRIGHT!
We're going to drive
BOTH of you to the
nearest HOSPITAL...
you're just going to
have to leave your car.....where it is,
for now."

Jack groaned; the
tow-bill was going
to be monsterous...
but, at least they
weren't going to have
to go through the toll
booth.
"Yes.....yes, sir!"

"Get in the CAR,
m'am! Sir!"

Jack and Ashley
gave each other
a brief glance,
as they followed the
policemen and got
into the back of
their car.
"Thank you, sir."

"Yes! Thank you
so much, officer!
My wife really needs
to get to a hospital!"

"Buckle-UP."

"Yes, sir!"

"Yes, sir!
Thank you, sir!"

The police officer
swiftly shifted gears,
and sped up onto the
turnpike. Within
minutes, the well-lit toll booths
came into view.

Surprisingly, the luscious
and uniform-hugging-Roberta
was still on her job:
smiling, nodding, and
scanning each of the
drivers' foreheads
or wrists, just as she
had been doing hours
before.

Jack leaned over
toward his wife. He
whispered.
"GEEZ! Doesn't
she EVER take a BRAKE?"

Ashley wasn't in a
talkative, or teasing mood;
she simply shrugged her
small thin shoulders
and whispered back,
rather disinterestedly.
"Maybe she's doing
a double-SHIFT,
tonight...?"

The police officer,
who was sitting
on the passenger's side
in front of them,
turned around and
chuckled. Beside him,
his buddy was pulling
aside the short-cropped dark
hair off his forehead,
so that Roberta could
run her scanning
machine across his
broad forehead.
Two seconds passed
while the scanner
read '666', and
its tiny green on-light
blinked twice. The
officer chuckled, again.
"Didn't you KNOW?"

Jack wearily shook
his head; his stomach
felt as if a school
of fat piranha
were swimming around
his esophagus, and digestive
track. He swore two things
to himself: he would
never, ever, EVER drink.....again.....and,
SECOND.....
Sweet Ashley was
going to get her scanner-code tattoo
first thing....Monday
morning.
"No, sir......uh....
what?"

The two policemen
smiled at each other,
and chuckled.
The one whose '666'
on his big broad forehead
was still plainly visible
in the bright lights
of the toll booth,
spoke up first:
chuckling, once more.
"She's a robot."

A small, frightened female voice
spoke up, beside Jack: her lovely
Southern accent was even stronger,
in the cold air conditioning of
the small police vehicle.
"I don't believe it....
but....WHY?"

The officer who wasn't driving,
kept his big face turned around
over the passenger's seat. He
popped a piece of chewing gum
in his mouth; with the other
hand, he pushed the motorized
window down a couple inches
and tossed out the silver wrapper.
"SIMPLE........!"
(Chew. Chew.)
"If some guy doesn't have his
CODE.....all she does is hit
the switch on that little scanner
a' hers...."

(The officer who was driving barked
out a laugh.)
"YEAH!
POW!"

(Both of the policemen laughed.
The bigger one, who wasn't driving,
smiled a toothy smile.)
"and.....
STUNS the poor GUY!"
(Laugh!)
***************************
Also
it causes all
both small
and great,
both rich
and poor....
to be
marked
on the
right hand
or the
forehead,
so that
no one
can buy
or sell
unless he
has
the mark...
of
the
beast.
[Revelation 13:16-17]


Copyright 2011.


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