Precautionary Stop

“Hold still. This won’t hurt.” The officer tapped the camera attached to the side of his helmet. A red light turned on. The officer stepped back, looked me up and down while the camera recorded my features. I focused on my right big toe, and then each toe across the foot, then over to the left foot and back again. A technique I’d learned early on to keep my expression blank. No sense giving away any information I didn’t need to, like how nervous I was, or that my heartbeat raced on ahead of me. Stay calm, a leaf on a still pond.

“You’re overdue for your monthly mental health evaluation,” the office said. “It is important for your well being to receive regular counseling.”

“Yes,” I said. “Things have been a little busy at work. I’ll see to it right away.”

“If you are experiencing work-related stress, all the more reason to maintain your prescribed level of counseling. I’m noting your willingness to comply in your public record along with your failure to keep your last appointment. This amounts to a warning. Additional failures to comply will result in compulsory retraining.”

“Yes, officer.” Big toe down to little and back again. A leaf on the water.

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