Damn Cameras

by Adele


Adam slept in that Saturday. Rod had already left to do the grocery shopping and the house was empty when Adam finally dragged himself out of bed and down to the kitchen. Once there, he saw a single envelope sitting on his placemat. That was odd, though not extremely so. Rod always brought in the mail and immediately put the bills in the bill basket and anything addressed to Adam that was clearly garbage on the junk mail pile. Junk mail collected there until Adam got around to sorting through it, which in practice meant all the potentially useful coupons had expired and the catalogs were slipping off the top of the pile to fall on the floor and trip up Rod coming in the door, prompting him to beg, "Adam, would you *please* sort the goddamn mail? " Junk mail addressed to Rod went straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin with no stops along the way.

All of this to say the only way an envelope would end up on Adam's placemat was if it were addressed to him and neither a bill nor junk. None of Adam's friends had sent something snail-mail in at least five years, so what was it? Adam looked at the return address and immediately got a sinking feeling in his stomach. The letter was from the Metropolitan Police Traffic Unit.

"Oh, shit, " Adam thought as he ripped the envelope open with his thumb. "Shit. " He removed the single sheet of paper. "Shit. Shit. Shit. " And unfolded it. "Shitshitshitshitshit. " Three small, slightly blurry, photographs dominated the page. The reproductions weren't great, but it was still easy to see Adam's car about to enter an intersection, Adam's car in the middle of the intersection right in front of the, undeniably red, traffic light, and a close up of Adam's license plate in case there was any doubt that it was, in fact, his car.

Adam's first reaction was outrage. Goddamn traffic cameras. Those things should not be legal. They were just an extortion racket to make money for the city. The police had no proof he had even been driving his car at the time! He had been, of course, but they had no *proof*. There were no known witnesses. No human ones anyway. He should not be able to get a traffic ticket from a machine.

Adam looked at the pictures more closely. He had been making a right turn. Maybe he had stopped, or at least paused, before entering the intersection and the cop reviewing the tapes had been in a bad mood. It was impossible to tell from still photographs. Adam read the text of the letter. Mixed in with the legalese explaining his rights (Ha!) and instructions for paying his fine (notice how easy they made that!) was a web site address. Adam logged onto the Internet, pulled up the page, and entered the citation number from the letter when prompted.

Sure enough, there was a video. Adam clicked the play button. Okay, no stop or pause. If anything he had been accelerating as he rounded the corner. Well, he had been trying very hard to make the light. Maybe the light was still yellow when he entered the intersection. That was legal, you know. Adam watched the video again. The car that entered the intersection ahead of him might could have made that argument. Possibly. But Adam? No way. Adam replayed the video one more time, mostly just to torture himself. Damn traffic cams...

Adam put the citation letter in the bill basket and warmed up a couple frozen waffles for breakfast. After eating he sat down at the computer, balanced the checkbook, and paid the bills that were coming due. He did not pay the traffic fine. He knew he wasn't really going to try to contest the violation and the fine wasn't going to go away, but he was still seething over the injustice of it all and couldn't make himself pay it right away.

After he finished with the bills, Adam went outside to mow the lawn. He mowed the much smaller front yard first. The house was on a fairly large lot that was deeper than it was wide. The backyard sloped gently away from the house down to a water easement about three-quarters of the way back, and then rose more steeply to the rear fence. The yard ended at a tree line the developers had left standing when they converted what had been farmland to a subdivision not that long ago. Most of the time it was really nice to have a stand of mature trees dominating the view out the back windows. However, there were a few small disadvantages.

There had been a major windstorm a couple nights ago and the backyard was covered with sticks, leaves, and other debris. Adam realized he was going to have to pick up at least the sticks before he could continue mowing. Adam walked back and forth, gathering branches and putting them in one big pile near the compost bin. He had just dropped off an armful when Rod, having returned from the store and put the groceries away, stepped out on the back deck and called out "Hey " to Adam.

"Hey, " Adam called back. Rod walked down the deck steps and came out to meet Adam. Rod wasted no time, immediately saying what he had walked outside to say: "I see you got another traffic ticket. "

"Yeah, " Adam admitted. There was no point in trying to deny it.

"Was it the same intersection where you got one before? "

Adam winced at the reminder that this was not the first time he had been caught by the damn cameras. "No, " he said, "It was the intersection of School and MLK. "

Rod was surprised. "The intersection where I warned you that they were putting in cameras and told you to be extra careful? " he asked incredulously.

Adam was starting to get a little agitated and his voice began to creep up. "Yes, and I have been careful, but that morning I was rushing to get to work on time and not thinking about -- "

"What time was it? " Rod interrupted.

"Huh? "

"Those traffic cameras always put a time stamp on the videos and the stills. What time were the pictures taken? "

"Nine o'clock, " Adam muttered.

"So you were already late. "

"That intersection is two minutes away from my work! " Adam exclaimed.

Rod spoke slowly and clearly as if explaining basic addition to a four-year-old, "So, at nine o'clock, if you were sitting in your car instead of at your desk, you were late. "

"Well, technically, yeah, but... "

Rod waited patiently to see how Adam would conclude this argument. Adam realized he had no conclusion that was remotely rational much less convincing, so he changed tactics entirely. "What time I arrive at work is work stuff, " Adam stated definitively.

Rod decided it was time to pull the conversation back on track. "You're right, " he agreed, "and while Brian would probably appreciate it if I did something about your constant tardiness, I'm not going to. My only concern here is the ticket. You threw away sixty-five dollars, Adam! Didn't you have anything you would rather have spent that money on? Because, I know I did! "

Adam cringed. "Yes, I did. I screwed up. I'm sorry. "

Rod sighed. Then he took a couple steps over to Adam's pile of sticks. Rod pulled a sturdy, flexible branch that had been stripped clean of leaves by the wind from the top of the pile. He slashed the switch through the air experimentally. It made a chilling "swoosh " sound that sent a shiver up Adam's spine.

"This will do, " Rod said. He didn't wait for Adam to work up his courage or make him repeat his statement of guilt. Rod grabbed Adam's upper arm and half guided, half pulled him around the house and into the garage. The garage was a two-car garage and Adam's car was parked out in the driveway, so there was plenty of open space. Rod let go of Adam and quickly mounted the two steps below the inner door into the house. Rod switched on the light and pushed the button to lower the overhead door and avoid giving the neighbors a show.

"Take off you pants, " Rod ordered.

Without speaking, Adam pushed the stained, worn-out sneakers he used for yard work off his feet with his toes. He unbuttoned his denim shorts and slipped them off to lie in a wad on the concrete floor. Then Adam hesitated, but Rod was watching him closely and said, "Boxers too, " almost immediately. Adam didn't protest, just slid off his underwear and let it fall to the ground to join the shorts.

"Bend over the hood of my car, " Rod directed. Adam looked decidedly unhappy about this command, but he obeyed. Rod pushed Adam's T-shirt up around his waist fully exposing his butt. Then Rod took one large step back, and without any warning, swung the switch striking Adam right across the center of his ass.

The pain was sudden and shockingly intense. Tears sprang to Adam's eyes and he yelped. Instantly, his mind was flooded with an overwhelming sensation of regret and a desperate desire to *take it back*. He wasn't sure whether "it " was running the red light, reading so long over breakfast that day (and most days) that he was late, willingly bending over the car and making himself a target, or even agreeing to this ridiculous aspect of their relationship in the first place.

Adam had no chance to analyze anything before another mind-wiping line of pain exploded across his cheeks a fraction of an inch below the first one. More blows followed too fast to count, each one jerking Adam's attention to another narrow strip of skin before melding into, and increasing, the overall throbbing of his entire ass. In no time Adam was gasping and twisting, frantically struggling to avoid screaming or bolting.

The one good thing about a switch, if it could be called "good ", was Rod could cause enough pain with it to satisfy himself in a relatively short amount of time. Rod said, "okay, " letting Adam know he was done before Adam loss control entirely and made a humiliating, and doomed, escape attempt. Adam took a deep breath and scrabbled his hands across the hood of Rod's car, instinctively seeking something to grab onto to help him deal. Rod heard Adam's rings knock against the car and snapped, "If you scratch my paint I swear I will thrash you again right now. "

With a supreme act of will Adam closed his hands into fists and stilled them. Through clenched teeth he snarled, "You are a cold-hearted bastard, you know that? "

"Lucky for me, that's what you like, " Rod replied.

For several minutes both men were silent. Adam still had not risen from his bent-over position. Rod said quietly, "Get dressed and finish mowing the lawn. Then go online and pay your fine. "

"How do you know I didn't already - oh, never mind. "

Adam stood up slowly and painfully. He retrieved his boxers and stepped into them. Then he carefully pulled up his shorts, wincing as he zipped them up. Adam pushed the button to raise the overhead door. He was heading outside when Rod's voice stopped him: "Adam. Shoes. "

Adam froze. He wanted so much to fight, to rebel. It didn't matter that he was already hurting and that he was clearly in the wrong. He actually considered saying he would mow the fucking lawn barefoot if he wanted to. The obvious hopelessness of the situation prevented him. When it came to Adam's safety Rod was completely inflexible.

Adam trudged back to his shoes and sank down to sit on the concrete. He started untying a sneaker. Rod broke the switch in half then put the two pieces together and broke them again. He tossed the sticks into a yard refuse bag, then crossed the distance between him and Adam in three long strides. Rod crouched down next to Adam and caught Adam's chin in his palm lifting his face. Rod kissed Adam firmly, passionately. Rod put his other hand behind the back of Adam's head and kept kissing him. Rod didn't stop and finally, once again, Adam gave in to the hard, mean, implacable man he adored.

~ Adele

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