The police car slid into the parking lot, blue lights flashing. The red flashing lights of the ambulance lent a deeper sense of emergency to the scene.
Officer Mallard jumped out of his patrol car, the weight of it still shifting. He flew into the motel office.
"Shots fired..." he directed at the hotel manager. "Which room?"
The shaken and terrified manager motioned to the other three people situated around the room. There was a tired looking middle-aged woman, a little girl about 10 years old with cornrows and flashing eyes, and a grandmother with a belligerant look on her face. Officer Mallard smiled.
"Well, Happy Birthday, Miz Pepper. I see you're having the usual celebration. Now why don't you help me fill out my report, so you can get some rest."
He greeted the other females as well.
The woman and her daughter responded only by shifting positions. They looked exhausted.
He turned his attention back to the older woman.
"So... Miz Magnolia Pepper. How old are you this year?"
"I am 39 years old," she announced with a straight face and tightened lips.
"Now Mama P, how can that be? Jimmy Ray is 39 himself."
The Lord works in mysterious ways, son."
"Well that he does, but just to be on his good side, I'ma put down 62."
The old woman tightened her lips even more and glared at the officer. He shut his notebook with a snap.
"Okay, that's all I need. Why don't ya'll go on back to your room and get some sleep. And Happy Birthday to you again."
The three women shuffled out with a dramatic sense of dignity. As the door shut behind them, the manager of the motel exploded.
"I've got a shot up room here! Is that all you're going to do?"
Officer Mallard raised his hand.
"Let me explain something to you... Jimmy Ray has a powerful thirst for drinking. Every year on his Mama's birthday, he has to go out and get her a real fine present. Else she might get mad and kick him out. But if he spends all his money on a gift, then he has no money to buy his beer. That puts him in a real nasty mood, and he starts shooting at her, and she shoots back at him."
The manager closed her eyes and shook her head.
"But why doesn't he just buy his beer and give her a gift of peace?"
"Well how else is she gonna know he loves her? They always miss each other, see?"
He gave a salute and headed back to his vehicle. The ambulance had pulled out as soon as they found out who was involved.
The motel manager opened and closed her mouth like a gasping fish. Finally she just sat down and stared.
--by Shayla Kwiatkowski