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continued from page the woods ….

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the woods in a van with a tiger painted on the side. Susan and I held on for dear life as the van bounced around on the dirt road like the General Lee in an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard.

A few minutes later, someone shouted, “Turn here. That’s the way back to the paved road.”

As Kelly turned, the van seemed to go up on two wheels. A few seconds later, we careened around a curve, and that’s when we saw the flashing blue lights of three sheriff’s cars blocking the road. It was a scene straight out of Bonnie and Clyde.

The van screeched to a halt, and we all lunged forward.

“Oh Lord,” I said.

“Get the hell out of the vehicle,” a deputy yelled, stomping over to the driver’s side window. “What in the hell were you doing? Didn’t you hear them yelling for you to stop? You could’ve killed someone.” As Kelly got the tongue lashing of a lifetime, the rest of us sat as quiet as mice in the back, trying to go undetected.

“We aren’t in trouble, are we?” Susan whispered to me. “We didn’t know he was going to do that.” “Guilt by association,” I whispered back, feeling queasy. “Oh Lord.” One of the deputies moved from window to window, shining his flashlight into the van. He paused at the back, his light illuminating the van for several seconds.

“Don’t you know some Laniers in the area?” we heard the deputy ask another.

That’s when I realized he had seen my last name stitched on the back of the windbreaker Susan was wearing. “Oh Lord. My parents are going to kill me,” I whispered to my friends.

A few minutes later, they let us go, and Kelly drove us all home. I went straight to bed and prayed hard that night, begging God not to let my parents find out. I held my breath for days fearing someone at the sheriff’s office would eventually call and tell my mother or father about the incident. After about a week, I realized no one was going to call. Hallelujah!

Word spread around school that my geeky friends and I had been caught up in a crazy police chase through the woods in a van with a tiger painted on the side. Everyone was talking about it, and we became celebrities, of sorts. I was a good girl, but somehow, trouble always seemed to find me. To this day, I don’t know what possessed Kelly to do what he did that night. It was totally out of character for him. I never went anywhere with him again. And I don’t know why the deputies let us go without calling each of our parents. That was a Halloween miracle in itself. Most of all, I don’t know why anyone would paint a tiger on the side of a perfectly good van. That’s the part I find truly perplexing, but it makes for a more amusing memory. Oh Lord.

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