The speed limit on this particular highway was eighty kilometres an hour. It had been eighty for as long as Carson had worked at the library just outside of town. And yet, Carson couldn’t seem to stop himself from speeding. He didn’t steal; he felt strongly enough about lying that he did his best not to exaggerate when he was talking; he had never entertained the idea of being unfaithful to his wife. For ten years, in fact, he had been doing his best to follow the word of God, to allow the character of Jesus to shine through him. It had been a hard road, but the changes in his life had been well worth the sacrifices he had made.
But it was a persistent temptation, especially after dark, to press down a little harder on the gas and urge the speedometer up to one hundred, where he’d often thought it should be. He’d justified it again and again with the fact that he had never seen another vehicle along this road; not even defunct with a ‘For Sale’ sign in it and left to greenhouse weeds in one of the fields.
So, why should he go eighty? It only added time to his drive; and anyway, it didn’t hurt anyone if he did go a hundred. In fact, he felt sure that if the person who had made this speed limit were to actually drive along this highway, they would amend the limit out of sheer frustration. Even if he went a hundred and fifteen, it wasn’t like there was anyone around to complain. Even if he went a hundred and twenty-five…
A sudden flash of red and blue in his mirror made him frown. What were the odds? He reluctantly eased some pressure onto the brake and steered for the shoulder. He hadn’t seen the headlights until the red-and-blues had caught his attention, which meant that the man in that car had probably been speeding, too. How ridiculous.
“Could I see your licence and registration, please, sir?”
Carson fumbled in his wallet for his identification and handed it over with a sigh. His first speeding ticket in nearly fifteen years. At least fifteen years ago he’d been sure he had deserved it…
“I clocked you at one hundred and twenty-eight kilometres in an eighty kilometre zone. Did you realize you were speeding?”
He thumbed his licence back into its proper slot and struggled to slip his wallet back into his pocket. “Yes, officer, I did. I guess I figured there wasn’t much danger in speeding on a deserted highway.”
Carson tried to exercise patience as the officer tracked his flashlight along his car, along the highway, then along the side of the road. If he had to get a ticket, he was inclined to want to get it over with so that he could continue on his way home. But, after a moment, he realized that something was wrong. The officer was staring along the highway, a frown on his face as his flashlight glared into the darkness.
“What in the world?”
Carson watched in befuddlement as the officer jogged back to his patrol car to use his radio. He seemed upset about something, and Carson was fairly sure it wasn’t to do with him. He got out of his car.
He’d stopped on a slight hill. The wind was chilly for early October, filled with the scent of leaves and an earlier thunderstorm. Carson zippered up his jacket and stepped into the glow of his headlights, wondering what the officer could’ve seen that would’ve made him want to call back to his station. As he crested the hill, he put his hands into his pockets and looked into the shadows.
It was a tree. There were no streetlamps along this stretch, but his eyes eventually grew accustomed to the shape. A tree, sprawled along the road, broken unevenly from its trunk. And left undiscovered all day, until now. Carson was fairly sure in one glance that, at one hundred and twenty-five kilometres an hour, he wouldn’t have been able to stop in time…
He got back into his car, shaken. If that officer hadn’t pulled him over…
He took his ticket gratefully when it came and carefully steered his way around the tree before resuming his car ride home. Eighty kilometres an hour, he thought to himself amidst a prayer of thanks to God. What a perfectly legitimate speed.
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