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"Smoke and Mirrors"


It’s easiest, I think, to start at the end; that is, with the here and now, the here being a jail cell somewhere near Upland, Pennsylvania, and the now being . . . well, about an hour and a half after Officer Jenkins pulled me over on Route 452. I know that’s ass backwards, but that’s the way it’s coming to me. That’s the way I’m thinking about it.
    I’ve got Kevin’s black lab, Onyx, to keep me company in this naked little room, and Kevin has my roommate, Crystal, to keep him company back in the apartment in Philly. I'm not claiming an equivalency here. That’s just the facts.
    Onyx hasn’t been accused of anything; Officer Jenkins only put him in here because he felt sorry for me. That was nice of Officer Jenkins, but I think Onyx senses this is not a good place to be. He has been sniffing out the borders of the cell and jerking his head around as if he expects a lynch mob at any moment.
    They wouldn’t let me have my Alice Munro book, so there is nothing to do in here but sit on the cot with my chin in my hands and stare at the toilet. When Onyx finishes casing out the cell, he trots over, wedges his head through the triangle I've made of my upper body and slides his chin onto my lap. I scratch him behind the ears and wonder how it came to this.
    By this I don’t mean the jail cell, I mean Kevin and Crystal curled up together back in the apartment.
    I’m only here because I was honest, because I didn’t feel like lying when Officer Jenkins pulled me over. That’s one of the things you should know about me: I have an aversion to messing with the truth. It spooks me.
    Here’s how it happened. It was raining, and I was thinking about Kevin and Crystal thrashing around naked when I lost my concentration rounding a curve. I guess I nicked the guardrail, or maybe sideswiped it a little, and bounced back on the road, but a few seconds later I noticed everything around me start to change colors, red-blue-red-blue, just sweeping through the car. When I finally looked in the rearview, I saw a squad car so close behind me its fenders didn’t fit in the mirror.
    I handed the officer my license, registration and insurance card, and after examining them under his flashlight, he ducked down and peered in at me. “This vehicle is registered to a Mr. Kevin Haggarty,” he said.
    “Yes, that’s my ex-boyfriend,” I said.
    “Is this ex-boyfriend aware,” the officer said, emphasizing the ‘ex’ part, “that you’ve taken his car?”
    “No, officer, he isn’t,” I said. “Not unless he’s looked out the window and noticed it’s missing, which I’m pretty sure he hasn’t.”
    The officer glanced over at Onyx, who was sitting up in the passenger seat staring at him with a worried look. “That your dog, miss?”
    “No, officer,” I said, “he belongs to my ex-boyfriend too.”