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Drama Fiction Funny

[childhood trauma, very little detail, anxiety attack]

I sit in my old beater, windows rolled down and sweat beading over my body in the sweltering summer heat. My clothes are already starting to stick to me.


The courthouse is only 10 minutes away.


Why are you still sitting in this empty parking lot?? If you don't leave now you'll be late.


I try to will my arms to move but they don't, as if they have gained a separate sentience from my body and now simply refuse to comply. Really? Just move!


Nothing happens.


I can't stop thinking about the money I need.

Money for rent.

Money for groceries.

Money to fix the AC in this old Honda so next time I have a mental breakdown in an abandoned K-Mart parking lot, I can do it in lovely air conditioning.


Money is the root of all evil, the words echo through my brain. An old timey way of saying rich people are the worst.


Or at least, that's my interpretation.


Nice try, that voice in my head says. My anxiety, an annoying voice I can never get rid of. You can't distract yourself from the here and now forever.

The click, click, click of my fingernails on the steering wheel is somehow comforting, probably because it's distracting me from what I know I have to do.


Racing thoughts and racing heart, my head filled with images of the worst possible scenario.


Suffering with anxiety, ADHD and depression all at the same time sure is something.


Just put your hand on the key and turn it, that's all you need to do. Turn the key, come on. You've got this. Just turn the key. Turn. The. Key.


Nope, nothing.


I glance at the clock.


10:28 A.M. Yikes, I'm late!


Hurry, hurry! The engines' tiny rumble is a familiar sound and I put the old lady into gear to head towards the courthouse. For one insignificant traffic ticket, this is an overreaction, even for me. This seems over the top.


It's not the ticket that has been worrying me, it's the money to pay for it.


How will I pay for it?


I'm already behind on rent, I haven't bought groceries in 3 weeks, just living off what's left in the pantry. The amount of rice, potatoes, and instant noodles I've eaten the last few weeks is enough to concern any dietician (where are the vegetables? I can hear my mom ask).


I have cause to dismiss this ticket. Or at least I think I do, according to that 40 minute internet search I did 2 nights ago. Besides, the ticket was bogus anyway. It was a yield sign, not a stop sign. But Officer Beerbelly wouldn't listen. With a condescending tone, he informed me I must stop at the yield sign.


Sarcasm being my main language, I couldn't help but roll my eyes and say, "You don't know what yield means, do you."


He did not like that. He started to recite random procedures at me, as if I'm the crazy one in this situation. My mouth gets me in trouble again when I say under my breath, "I can't believe we're arguing over this."


And that's when he gave me the ticket.


I knew better but my mouth spoke before I could stop it.


I am so lost in thought, I'm almost able to distract myself from the imposing front doors of the local courthouse. My neck gives a small creak as I look to see my car parked and waiting for me.


What if you just walk back and get in the car? Just drive away from here? No one will know. No one will care.


I shake away the intrusive thought and glance back at the courthouse. All you need to do is go in there and argue your case.


It should be so easy but it's not. Why is this so hard? It shouldn't be so hard.



One second, I'm standing in line at the entrance of the courthouse, waiting to walk through the metal detectors and the next second I'm back there.


Back in the small house and it's me and my sister hiding from the yelling and noises happening in the living room. She's really brave, she even goes out there to yell "what's going on out here!?'. I'm too afraid to leave our room, so I stay hidden.


I can hear mom struggling. Each sound is just one more punctuation at the end of an important fact: Arguing is not safe to do. Avoid at all costs. This is what happens when you argue with him, my eight year old brain told me. Not safe. Avoid.


So why did you mouth off to that cop? my brain asks.


Why? Simple. Because I was already late, he was dumb, and I have no self control- that's why.


"Miss. Miss? Take everything out of your pockets. Put it in the basket, when the light is green, you can walk through the metal detector. "


I nod, wordlessly.


Great. Now my internal conversations are getting so intense, I'm forgetting where I am.


I get through everything without being pulled aside and wanded, thank goodness. I gather my things and pause at the sign in the hallway. I squint at the letters and the font gets bigger while I'm leaning in, as if a closer proximity will make deciphering the direction I should go easier somehow.


What did that paperwork say? Geeze, I can't remember anything anymore. It's a good thing I took a quick note to remind myself.


Second floor, room D.


To the second floor I must go then. I used to imagine walking around a place like this with fancy heels on and a sense of purpose as I walk. You don't meander in a place like this. This is the sort of building you took strides in, and maybe the occasional sprint.


I finally find the elevator and press the faded button to go up. I don't have to wait long. Before I can look around at the ornate settings of the courthouse hallway, the small arrow above the elevator lights up and the doors open.


My black flats make no sound on the marble floors as I exit the elevator and follow the hallway signs to room D.


Do I just walk in? What's the standard procedure here? Can I burst in, like in the movies? It would be cool to do but I should just go in and find a seat, I think.


Now comes the hard part. What should I say? Just tell the truth. Say what happened, that's it.


I find a seat in the middle of the room and sit on an empty pew. I'm so lost in thought that I miss my name being called by the clerk.


"B. Miller?"


That's me! It's strange hearing only my first initial instead of my full name. I'm not sure how this works but I'm fighting the urge to yell, "I object!" like they do on TV. My knees pop as I stand.


"Yes, I'm here."


Could they hear me? Did I speak loud enough? No one else is moving. Do I go up there? The soft pat pat of my shoes is all I can hear as I walk down the aisle towards the judge. Oh jeez, I am freaking out. My heart is in my ears as I approach the front of the room.


Here goes nothing.


"Sir? Your Honor? The ticket I got was bogus-"


"Ms. Miller, you'll have time to speak after we hear from the officer. He speaks first."


The cop gets to speak before I do?? Of course he does. Why am I not surprised? Where is the justice?


"Fuller? Is Officer Fuller here?"


Silence. The judge looks out over the room but no one moves. "Is the officer for this case present?".


I hear my own breathing but that's it because no person speaks or stands. Is the cop not here?? I can't believe he didn't even show up! I rearranged my schedule to take the day off work just to be here and he doesn't even come?!


The job I would have done today was a big client. I would have made enough for groceries and the water bill and with money being tight, I need every day of work for a while until I can get back on track.


Seconds have gone by with silence. It's so quiet, you could've heard a cotton ball hit the floor.


The judge informs me, "Ms. Miller, this traffic violation is for failing to stop at a stop sign. You are fined $365.18 unless you have direct evidence suggesting otherwise."


The inside of my mouth feels like the Mojave Desert and I wasn't allowed to bring my water inside. I'll go straight to the water fountain after I'm out of here. I take a deep breath, look right at the judge and speak.


"Your Honor, this ticket was bogus. The sign was not a stop sign but a yield sign. No one is required by law to stop at a yield sign. Drivers yield to the traffic coming but if there is no traffic you do not need to stop or even yield, you can simply go. This is common knowledge. Everyone knows this to be true except, apparently, for Officer Fuller who saw fit to give me an unnecessary ticket for something that wasn't even against the law."


Be cool, be cool. Don't get too sarcastic with an actual judge! His Honor clears his throat and squints at me. Oh no, that can't be a good look.


"Ms. Miller, do you have evidence the sign in question was a yield sign and not a stop sign?"


Ah crap. Evidence? No one said anything about evidence! Why did you not know this? My inner anxiety voice is really testing me today. You're a stupid girl.


"Evidence? What kind of evidence?"


My confusion must have given me a comical expression because the clerk smiled and looked down after I asked it. The judge sighed, the wrinkles etched in his face with an obvious annoyance. Grey eyes stared at me and his facial expression was something along the lines of: I can't believe I have to put up with this today.


You and me both, man.


"Evidence that supports your claim Ms. Miller. A photo, perhaps? A supported claim like that would be enough to prove the ticket was, as you say, bogus."


"Uhh…I didn't–it's", I pause to steady myself. " No. I don't have a photo with me. I didn't know. I'm sorry."


Why didn't I think to bring a picture with me? Why even carry around this phone with me if I'm not gonna use it? Even a phone as old as mine still takes pretty good pictures.


It's over. You wasted your only chance to make this fine go away, you stupid idiot. He's gonna make you pay for this ticket. But with what money? You still owe 210$ on rent from last month, plus fees. Not to mention you don't have much food in the house and on top of all that…


I let my anxiety inner voice drift away because my body was beginning to react. My heart is racing faster and my throat is closing up. My vision blurs with tears. I know what it means but it can't happen. Not now.


Oh God. I'm gonna have an anxiety attack right here. No, no, no. Oh God no. Not this. Please, not here. I can't have a breakdown right now.


"Without any evidence-I'm sorry, but I'll have to let the ticket stand. You must….."


I'm blinking back tears and so distracted by my hands shaking that I'm not hearing what he's saying to me. What did he say?


"You must pay the ticket" I hear the words echo in my head. I can't, and I won't. I shouldn't have to.


No!!


The quiet chatter elsewhere in the room comes to a halt. Oh no, did I just yell that out loud?? I think I did!! I speak again, rapidly blinking to keep the tears at bay.


"No. I will not pay the ticket. And I shouldn't have to!"


Stop. Don't yell at a judge!!! Be cool. You are falling apart right now!


"I was driving not far from here. I was turning right on 3rd Street off of Parker Ave and the sign on that corner is a yield sign," I emphasize the words, maybe a little too flippantly, feeling more confident now that I have the attention of the whole room. I paused, realizing something else.


"Besides, the officer who gave me the ticket failed to show up here today. Is that not evidence enough that the ticket he gave me was unsubstantiated and given falsely? If it was really a serious offense, wouldn't he have made a point to be here?"


Look at me, pulling out the big words! I knew I didn't watch all those judge shows for nothing! I'm feeling on top of the world. I can't believe I said all that!


Yea, and it's gonna get you in trouble, too.


The judge is silent. That can't be a good sign.


"Mind your tone, young lady," he advised sharply, the wrinkles around his eyes making them seem smaller but more serious somehow.


"I'm sorry, Your Honor but I do stand by everything I said. The ticket he gave me was unnecessary and a waste of both our time."


"Hm. Although you have no physical evidence, I'm inclined to agree. I'm familiar with that street corner and with Officer Fuller. I am declaring this ticket", he looks at me with a smirk, "officially bogus. You are dismissed."


Did I just win? I can't believe it, I won!! Thank God, I won!


"Yes! Thank you, Your Honor!!"


Ecstatic, I grab my bag where I left it on the Pew and make my way towards the doors leading to the hallway. I'm riding a natural high all the way back to my car. Nothing could kill this happiness!


You're still broke though, aren't you?


Not today, anxiety. You can't beat me this time! Not only did I stick up for myself today but I argued with an actual judge and won!! I pushed past my fear, my friends are going to think I'm making things up when I tell them about this! A buzzing brings me back to reality.


My phone. I had left it in the cup holder in my car. I picked it up and answered, recognizing the number as one of my jobs. The one I do on weekends part time but lately they haven't had any openings for me.


"Hey, it's me. Can you fill in for Shirley for a few days? One of her kids is sick." My boss, always a no nonsense, get straight to the point person.


"Yes I can. When should I come in?" Some extra work, today isn't so bad after all!


"This evening at 5. And I need you to cover from now thru the weekend, five days including today."


"So to Sunday? Ok, I can do that. I'll be there."


"Kay. Thanks, bye." Without further comment, she hangs up.


Winning the case today and more money from extra work? Things are starting to look up.



July 08, 2022 00:14

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5 comments

03:18 Jul 14, 2022

Hello Bree, Your heroine did a good job of making me anxious which makes your story excellent! Jay Rosmarin-Meyer

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Bree Adly
16:02 Jul 14, 2022

Thank you! I really appreciate it.

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Sullivan Dark
02:25 Jul 14, 2022

Hello Bree, I am also a writer on Reedsy and I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your story. I think that most of us have had a time in our lives where we did not know where our next dollar would come from; and it seems that is always when something happens that sends our anxiety levels to the moon. Fun story, I am glad your heroine prevailed and justice was served. J.D. Magowan

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Bree Adly
16:01 Jul 14, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words, life as a writer definitely has its challenges! Thanks for reading my story.

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Bree Adly
00:48 Jul 08, 2022

Thank you for reading my story! I hope you like it.

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