• mental meltdown •

A man is having a mental meltdown, one night, on the side of an interstate highway. He weeps, disconsolately, the very picture of exposure and defeat. Headlights from slowing vehicles Illuminate the bizarre scene. Strobes from a prowler slash the night sky at stultifying and painful intervals. Here and there, scattered on the ground before the loon, elements of what may be a sideboard, are revealed to baffled passing motorists.

Above the fray, two ‘Staties’ (state highway patrolmen) stand silhouetted in stark relief, looming over the shattered subject.

Of the two public servants, lawman number one has a hat; the sort that Marine Corps drill sergeants wear. The other officer sports a glistening flattop (the results of a latest round of experimental testosterone enhancements) atop a sweating pate. He is slowly shaking his not-insubstantial head, over a not-insubstantial neck, which are, in turn, supported by a pair of decidedly not-insubstantial shoulders, and so on, right down to his not-insubstantial predisposed thick-necked genome. The constable looks down on the flailing ‘perp’, with embarrassment, chagrin, and something akin to the pity one feels for a dewy-eyed gazelle, on an African savanna, just before David Attenborough says something pithy about ‘natural selection’.

In fact, what the officer is thinking is, ‘Pitiful.’

Surveying the scene with the sort of satisfaction a cat gets from snagging a lady’s last pair of nylons, the first officer clicks his tongue, in the direction of his partner, and points, ‘Indian style’, with his chin, at the results of his own diabolical innovation: a roadside sobriety test, as daunting as any, exulting, “I call it, the IKEA. Catches out the stoners, every time.”

~ Tim Burchfield



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