by Robert Gunther
One time I was driving my car and I stopped at a red light. While I was waiting for it to turn green, this bum came out of nowhere and starting smearing some sort of grease all over my windshield. I had heard of this trick before — the guy expected me to hand over a dollar or two before he’d wipe the glass clean — but I thought that this practice had been largely phased out years ago when the city started cracking down on these street-side hustlers. Sure enough, the guy came around to the driver’s side window and held out his hand. I said to myself, you know what Rob? You’re not getting pushed around by anyone. Not today. And I told the guy to take a hike. The cars behind me started honking, so I assumed the light had turned green, but I couldn’t really tell, because that guy had done such a good job of greasing up the windshield and obscuring my view. I put my foot on the gas and immediately crashed into something.
Of all the things to crash into, it had to be a police horse. What a mess. I got out of the car. The horse was on the ground, clearly in agony. Its front leg was broken. These two cops were just staring at me, their mouths wide open. One of them started to cry and knelt down to try and comfort the horse. “Biscuit!” he wailed, “Oh my poor, precious Biscuit! You’ll be OK! Everything will be OK! Just hold on, I’ll –”
BAM! The other cop took out his pistol and put the horse down with one shot to the head.
“Joe! How could you?” the first officer was sobbing, “We could have saved him! We could have — Biscuit!”
“Jesus Johnny, I had to! You know police horse protocol. Broken leg. It’s the same as at the races. We had no choice!” the second cop said. Now he was starting to cry also.
“No! I could have saved him! I could have –” and they both collapsed into each other’s arms, hysterical.
Meanwhile, I had found a rag in the back of my car, which, surprisingly, hadn’t really sustained that much damage from the horse. I mean, yeah, there was a dent, but it was totally drivable. I was trying to wipe the windshield clear so I could make a subtle getaway while the cops consoled each other, but the grease was just way too thick and wasn’t coming off.
But then the officers both turned their attention on me and said, in unison, “You!”
“Listen boys,” I raised my hands out in front of me, “I can explain.”
I turned to point at the homeless guy with the squeegee, but he was gone. The next thing I know I’m in handcuffs standing before a municipal judge. Some court appointed attorney was standing next to me, whispering in my ear something about a plea bargain. I tried to tell him about the windshield, how it wasn’t my fault, but he seemed totally overworked and completely disinterested. If I agreed to a deal, my license would be revoked and I’d have to pay a pretty significant fine. But I said to myself, again, I said, Rob, you’re not getting pushed around. Not today you’re not.
I told the judge that I’d like to waive my right to an attorney, and that I’d be representing myself. The attorney shrugged and walked away and I began immediately on setting up my defense. The judge banged his gavel and sentenced me to three months behind bars.
When I got out of jail, I discovered that I had been quickly replaced at work. Since I had no way of paying my rent, my landlord busted into my place and threw out all of my stuff. I found myself wandering the streets, unable to come to terms with how my very normal life had taken such a bizarre twist. The days blurred into the nights and I feared that I was starting to lose my concept of time and date. I had a full beard. My one pair of clothes was reduced to rags. After days of begging on the streets, I finally saved up close to five bucks in spare change. I decided that I needed to turn things around. I used the five bucks to buy a squeegee and some Windex at a ninety-nine cent store. I figured I just needed to clean windshields for a while to save up some money for a new shirt and a razor.
The light turned red and I approached the car. I got the windshield all dirty and then walked around to the driver’s side window. But the guy in the front seat was shaking his head. He whispered to himself, “Not today Rob. Not today.” And I realized all too late what was going on. I tried to clean off his windshield, to get his attention, to tell him to hold on for just a second. There was still time to change everything. But the grease was too thick and wasn’t coming off. Somebody behind him honked, and he ran right through the light, right into Biscuit’s front leg, right into our twisted, broken future.
I freaked out and made a break for it, but I got stopped by some different cops a few blocks away. They told me that it wasn’t the 90s anymore. They told me I couldn’t go around bothering drivers with squeegees. I started freaking out, telling them about the horse, about the car, about the plea bargain, about how my landlord threw all of my stuff out. They told me to stop flailing around, to stop resisting arrest, to stop asking what the date was, to stop struggling so much. One of them took out a taser. I lost control of my bodily functions the second those barbs dug into my skin.