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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Police (10/12/06)

TITLE: A bribe by any other name would taste as foul
By Gregory Kane


Abishai was already running late when he saw the portly outline of a traffic cop on the stretch of road just ahead. Please God, he prayed. Let him wave me on by!

It was not to be. The policeman extended his hand and Abishai grudgingly applied the brakes. His lorry slid to a stop just feet from the arbitrary check point.

Licence and registration book! demanded the policeman. He was already sweating profusely; the heat of the day and the absence of any shade had put the officer in a foul mood. He scrutinised the heavily creased paperwork, irritated not to be able to find any fault with the documentation. Grunting a command to remain parked, he prowled around the lorry, poking the tyres and banging on the suspension with his swagger stick. The moment he returned with a smirk on his podgy face, Abishai knew that he was in trouble.

There appears to be a problem with your rear lights, the man asserted. Looks like a stone has cracked the lens on the drivers side. Its an offence to drive a vehicle in an unroadworthy condition. Youll have to pay a fine.

That must have just happened, officer. If you let me off with a warning, Ill see that its sorted out later this morning.

Im afraid its much too serious for a warning. The fine will be five thousand kwacha.

Thats ridiculous, Abishai protested. I could replace the lens for less than a thousand. Besides, thats more than two weeks pay for me. My boss is really mean: he insists that we have to pay our own traffic fines.

The policeman made vaguely sympathetic noises but Abishai wasnt fooled. He knew what was coming next.

Its a very warm day. One becomes very thirsty in this line of work, not to mention feeling hungry. If you could afford to part with enough for a light lunch, I might be willing to let you off with a warning. Im sure that 500 Kwacha would cover it.

Abishai hated this stage in the proceedings. It was always the same. No matter how well maintained you kept your vehicle, the police would always find something minor to complain about. They werent even that interested in giving you a fine all they ever wanted was some extra cash that they neednt declare to their superiors.

Im very sorry, sir, Abishai explained nervously. But Im not allowed to do that. Im a deacon in my church and we take a very firm stance against bribery. For consciences sake I really cant give you any money. If necessary, you can write out a ticket and give it to me.

The policeman looked as if he would explode. His jowls were quivering violently; his eyes seemed almost to shrink back into their sockets, leaving only two smouldering pits, dark with cruelty and spite. Abishai jumped at the clang of the baton striking the cabs door.

Are you accusing me of soliciting a bribe? the policeman demanded to know. We have strict laws against corruption in this country. People have lost their jobs for less.

Im not accusing you of anything, sir. Im merely stating that for consciences sake I cant give you any money. If you write me a ticket, Ill take it to the police station and pay my fine there.
You can pay it here and now! The mans voice dripped with malice.

Abishai glanced down to check that the officer wasnt armed. Im sorry, but I cant do that either. Its been on the television and in the papers. How the government changed the law. The justice minister was very clear that all fines must now be paid at the nearest police station.

The expletive didnt do justice to any of Abishais relatives. The traffic cop threw the licence and registration book through the window. Get this heap of rust out of here! he yelled. Otherwise Ill be forced to impound it for blatant infringement of the traffic ordinances.

Abishai didnt hesitate. He shoved the transmission into gear and rolled off. Looking in his rear view mirror, he watched the policeman waddle back into the middle of the road, his hand already raised to stop the next oncoming car.

Father, he prayed, thanks for getting me out of that one. But you know, Lord, sometimes I wish it wasnt so hard to stay faithful to your Word.

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This article has been read 943 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Donna Haug10/19/06
oh wow! You've been there, haven't you!!! Me too. It's AWFUL. Terrific writing. You carried me along and I related 100%. Good stuff.
Marilyn Schnepp 10/21/06
Great story, terrific writing and a fascinating read. A real page-turner! a Triple Kudos 4 u!
Peggy Bennitt10/21/06
"The expletive didnt do justice to any of Abishais relatives." I loved this line! It's a very effective way to include a vulgarity without actually using foul language. There is a knack to this and you handled it very well. Who says you can't get the real feel of bad or evil without actually using expletives. You did it, and did it well! This writing gave a real feel of what other people experience, often on a daily basis. Good job!
Sharlyn Guthrie10/22/06
Your writing is superb, and your story engaging! You made it clear that sin and corruption are the same across cultures, but so is God's mercy and grace.
dub W10/25/06
Well written throughout - unlike the officer, I don't even find a cracked lens.
Suzanne R10/27/06
This is the line I loved: "His jowls were quivering violently; his eyes seemed almost to shrink back into their sockets, leaving only two smouldering pits, dark with cruelty and spite."

Living in Asia, I also identify with the situation.@
I do know many good policemen, though, and others in official positions, who also benefit from their position in ways outside their salary. It is a tricky position. You've painted your guy totally 'black' and it worked well for the piece. HoweverC@@@@i@C@hV@jC@V@@C@@DDDD

Suzanne R10/27/06
Sorry - as I said I live in Asia and my input method on the computer just flipped itself to Chinese. I was being pointed but not rude as those little symbols suggest!

Anyhow, what I tried to say there is that what worked well in your piece is that you painted the deacon so much as 'light' and the policeman so much as 'black'. My concern is that, at least here, and I suspect there is the same, life isn't as black and white as we westerners like to make it. I have friends in high positions who are wonderful people but perhaps don't do everything by the book. Yes, power corrupts. But we are all sinful people and our sinfulness is expressed differently in different societies.

That's my criticism of your piece. That aside, it is excellent writing.

Can I make one final suggestion. Other readers like me LOVE getting feedback, and especially newer writers thrive on encouragement. May I suggest that for every constructive piece of criticism you make, you also give one encouragement. I hope I've modeled this above. It's just my rule of thumb.

May God bless you there in your work and keep you from being picked up on pretences for traffic offencesI