Short Stories

Lovely Rita
by Jeff Kalhagen

Attention, please. Would the cadets please stand up, flip open your ceremonial ticket books, and repeat after me:

We are the meter maids, we stand proud and true
We get no parades, and little respect too
If your meter is a-blinkin', you're simply testing the man
'Cause no matter how much you whine, we just don't give a damn.

Thank you. Please be seated.

Ladies and gentleman, standing behind me are 21 of the bravest human beings I've ever had the pleasure of training. Eighty-seven hopefuls applied this year for the time-honored and prestigious position of a Madison Meter Maid. Fifty-four were eventually accepted after extensive background checks. And after six unfortunate, but, as it turns out, advantageous deaths—trust me, I have no idea how those people lasted as long as they did in life—21 students eventually passed the rigorous model put in place by yours truly, and are now full-fledged meter maids.

Cadets, as the weeks of training wore on and as your psyches became as fragile as Fabergé eggs, I'm sure you questioned our method at times. What exactly does crawling under barbed wire as we fire live rounds over your heads have to do with being a meter maid? Well, nothing. But Jerry here has a gun license and it sure weeds out the undedicated in a hurry.

(Jerry speaks up: "You got that right!")

And why did we train you all in hand-to-hand combat, plastic explosives, and deep sea diving? Could it be that we're just sadists and enjoy watching our fellow human beings suffer? Well, that goes without saying—why else would we have become meter maids in the first place?

The God's honest truth is we suspect there is a loophole in the budget, and we're flush with cash. And as you'll soon find out, nothing can light a fire under a citizen's butt more quickly than a parking ticket. So why not know how to kill a man 88 different ways with only a pen and rubberband?

The meter maid founder and our spiritual leader, Jebediah Nickel, conceived of and practiced a code that lives on to this day through all of us M-cubes. He started with horses and buggies, writing tickets with zero jurisdiction and no support from local law enforcement. He was, as you all know, ultimately shot in the back for being a quote-unquote "Yankee jackass." But I trust you all will remember his words, since while transportation may have changed, human nature, I can assure you, has not.

You've promised to display a poor attitude when confronted by hardworking citizens who forgot to plug their meters. They will spin wild tales to discombobulate your finely honed instincts. Lies, all of them! Trust no one! Love nothing! That is the meter maid way.

So, as you celebrate your accomplishment tonight, remember what Jebediah the Great always said: "Embrace your disdain"—for everyone, except your fellow Meter Maid.


© Jerry Peterson.