(This is a work of fiction. Under 1000 words, it qualifies as a form known as flash fiction.)
I’d finally given up finding a radio station with decent music, so I plugged my iPod into the dash and cranked up the latest podcast I’d been wanting to hear. I had the windows closed against the dry dusty Texas summer as I tooled along, enjoying the open road. Suddenly I saw a flash of blue and red in my rear view mirror.
I pulled over to the side of the road as I turned off the podcast. My heart hammered in my chest as I waited. What could the problem be? I found myself gripping the steering wheel at 10-and-2, but still couldn’t keep my hands from trembling. I was certain I hadn’t been going too fast. All my lights were in perfect working order. What was going on?
The cop took his own sweet time. After what seemed like an eternity, his door finally opened. He took another minute to assure that his hat was firmly in place, then slowly sauntered up to my window.
“Howdy, ma’am,” he began.
“Yes, officer?” I answered, the trembling in my voice barely audible over the pounding of my heart in my ears.
“Ma’am, do you have a gun in the vehicle?” His voice was low and gravelly, with a no-nonsense tone to it.
“No sir. I don’t own a gun.”
I didn’t. Never had. Never saw any reason to. I knew lots of other folks who thought they needed a gun in case the government ever got out of control. Too late for that. And the guns don’t help anyway.
“No gun in the vehicle?” he repeated.
“Do you have a firearm in your handbag or anywhere on your person?” he continued.
“No, sir. I said that I do not own a gun.”
“I see. Ma’am, would you please step out of the car?”
He opened my door. I got out.
“Please go stand over there, and keep your hands where I can see them,” he said, indicating a spot about ten feet away.
I was puzzled, but did as I was told. As I stood in the blazing sun, the officer quickly but efficiently searched my car. I wasn’t worried. There were no guns to be found. The glove box held nothing but old maps, a packet of tissues, a tire gauge, and an ancient first-aid kit.
After finishing his search, the officer came over to where I was standing.
“Do you have a gun on your person, ma’am?” he asked again, politely but firmly.
“No, sir. I told you I don’t own a gun.”
“I need to pat you down, Ma’am.”
“It’s the law.”
What the hell?
I put my hands on the hood of my car as he frisked me with professional detachment.
“See?” I retorted.
“Ma’am, are you aware that the State of Texas requires that all able-bodied citizens over the age of eighteen are required to own, maintain, and carry at least one firearm with them at all times?”
“What? I didn’t think that silly law was actually being enforced.”
“Oh yes, ma’am. We here in Orwell, Texas make it a point to fully enforce all of the laws regulating firearms at all times.”
“You can’t MAKE me buy something I don’t want to own.”
“Actually, ma’am, the courts have determined that if the Federal government can require you to purchase health insurance, the States are permitted to mandate other purchases that are conducive to the common good. The Texas Legislature has decided that because the more people have guns, the safer everyone is, mandatory universal gun ownership was the best way to ensure tranquility.”
“That may be your opinion, ma’am, but the legislature felt it was unfair for people like yourself, who refuse to arm yourselves, to rely on the rest of the populace for protection. Unless you have a Certificate of Exemption from a registered psychiatrist asserting that you have a disqualifying defective mental condition, you are required to carry a firearm with you at all times when outside your home.”
This was nuts! My whole body was trembling; whether with fear or outrage, I couldn’t tell.
“Wait, wait. I did see a psychiatrist once. Doesn’t that disqualify me?”
“No, ma’am. I checked. You are not registered in the official state database of the mentally ill.”
“It’s not my fault if my psychiatrist never got around to filing the paperwork!”
“Are you acutely suicidal at this time? We’re working to close that loophole, but at the moment, I am permitted to let you go if owning a firearm would present a clear and present danger to yourself or others.”
Hell, if I had a firearm, I’d be tempted to pop this bastard one right in the ass.
“Is that a threat, ma’am?”
Better dial it down some. What kind of a Kafka-esque pickle was I in here anyway?
“Tell you what, ma’am, I’m going to let you off with a warning today. Here is the official citation, along with resources for where you can purchase a gun and obtain the required training. You may even be eligible for a subsidy to help defray the cost if you meet certain income limits.”
“Um, thank you?”
“You’re welcome, ma’am. Make sure you don’t let me catch you without a gun next time. You have a very nice day.”