The Odyssey of Sheila S. as told to Homer Baldwin

May 31, 2o14
I was goin to the Cardinals game with Connie. We always meet in Alton—she’s from the Fosterburg area, me up on Elsah Hill. And I’ m nervous; I have to leave the house early, because added to my duties is, I am meetin up with this Mary Kay lady in the Schnuck’s grocery parking lot, to get my Aunt Jean her wrinkle cream. She is 84, and she says to me, “How would I look if I didn’t use Mary Kay wrinkle cream?” And I refuse to answer that. 
So I get into my silver Hyundai and turn the key. The f***in car is dead. I hadn’t closed the back hatch all the way couple of days ago, and now it’s dead. So I switch to my black VW Cabriolet, even though it needs a new muffler and is really, really loud, because I don’t have enough time to call for help for the Hyundai. 
Anyway, I’m drivin down Elsah hill and I pass this old black VW on the side of the hill, and I think, damn, it looks like my Cabriolet. I probably thought it had broke down. And I cruise on down into town, and there’s this cop car parked off to the left side, and I pass him, and then he puts on his blinkin lights, and I am thinkin, damn muffler. At least he didn’t put on the siren. 
He gets out and walks up to me. Do I know how fast I was goin? Turns out the f***ing old black VW was a speed trap. Have you ever heard of that before? I was busted by a ***damn Volkswagen! 40 in a 25, the cop said. So now I am drivin on a ticket, and I am late.
But I have to go to Schnuckie’s, to meet the Mary Kay lady for Aunt Jean’s wrinkle cream. It probably looked like a drug deal goin down, the Mary Kay lady passin me a pink paper bag and me handin over the cash.
So, alright, I have a ticket; the cop has my license; I got the Mary Kay pink bag. And I drive to the East Alton mall movie theater, where Connie and I always meet up when we go to ballgames. 
But Connie . . . We got our signals mixed up, and she calls me and she says, “Where are you?” And I say, “I am here; where are you?” Turns out, she ain’t here. She’s at our other meetin place, the one where we meet to go to concerts, the Jacoby Arts Center parkin lot. 
So Connie tells me, hang tight, she will drive to East Alton. And the ballgame is about to start. And that was that one May day where it was drizzlin and chilly, but hey, the Cardinals. So Connie and I finally meet, by the movie theater. 
I don’t want to drive on a ticket in St. Louis, so I get in Connie’s car with my cooler. I always carry a cooler with four beers when we go to Cardinals games, two beers each which we drink in the parkin lot after the game and wait for the traffic to thin out.
And we head down Route 3, and we are so late now, and I am starvin and Connie is too. So I reach in the back seat for a snack bar from my purse . . . and my car keys are not in the f***ing bag. I have left my car keys somewhere.
And we turn right around and drive to the East Alton movie theater, and there is my black VW Cabriolet with no muffler, and we see my car keys in the ignition. And the car is turned on; the electrical system is turned on. And it is pourin down rain, now. 
So I call Triple A., and they say an hour, and Connie and I sit in her car and eat the shelled peanuts we had brought for the game, and we throw the shells out the window. 
Then the Triple A guy shows up, breaks into the VW, gets my keys and locks it up. All right. So we head down Route 3 again, the Cardinals game is in the third inning, and . . . 
Connie and I look at each other, and she pulls over. 
And she says, “Too much bad shit has gone down today.” And I say, “20 bucks to park, and the game’ll be half over. If we go to the game, we’ll probably make them lose. Screw it.” 
So we drive back to Alton, to Fast Eddie’s Bonaire, and we eat a couple burgers and drink some beer and watch the game on the big screen.
Next day, I drive to the Jerseyville courthouse, to pay the ticket, $125—$225 if I wanted court supervision, but I couldn’t get a ticket for 24 hours. I thought I could handle that; I could hole up in my house if it came to it. I hadn’t had a ticket for six years. 
I look back and I think, if it wasn’t for the Mary Kay wrinkle cream, a ten minute diversion, I wouldn’t have got that ticket, wouldn’t have been hurryin. But the Mary Kay lady was goin on vacation on that Friday, and Aunt Jean needed her dang wrinkle cream in that pink bag. 
The Cardinals? 
Won. Of course. 

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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