"A Twist of Faith"
Jawad took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down: 73 in a 55 zone. Fourth time in as many months. How could a guy get caught so often? When his car had slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jawad pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will tweak his backside with a mirror.
The cop was stepping out of his car, the big pad in hand. Ali? Ali from mosque? Jawad sunk farther into his trench coat. This was worse than the coming ticket. A Muslim cop catching a guy from his own mosque. A guy who happened to be a little anxious to get home after a long day at the office. A guy that was scheduled to play cricket with him tomorrow. Jumping out of the car, he approached a man he saw every Friday, a man he'd never seen in uniform.
"Salaam,ya Ali. Fancy meeting you like this."
"Wasalaam, Jawad." No smile.
"Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to see my wife and kids."
"Yeah, I guess."
Ali seemed uncertain. Good.
"I've seen some long days at the office lately. I'm afraid I've bent the rules a bit, just this once. Farah said something about chicken tikkah and kabobs tonight. Know what I mean?"
Jawad toed at a pebble on the pavement.
"I know what you mean. I also know that you have a reputation in our precinct."
Ouch! This was not going in the right direction. Time to change tactics.
"What'd you clock me at?"
"Seventy-one. Would you sit back in your car, please?"
"Now wait a minute here, Ali. I checked as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65." The lie seemed to come easier with every ticket.
"Please, Jawad, in the car."
Flustered, Jawad hunched himself through the still-open door.
Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. Ali scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn't he asked for a driver's license? Whatever the reason, it would be a month before Jawad ever sat near this cop again in the mosque. A tap on the door jerked his head to the left.
There was Ali, a folded paper in hand. Jawad rolled down the window a mere two inches, just enough room for Ali to pass him the slip.
"Thanks." Jawad could not quite keep the sneer out of his voice. Ali returned to his car without a word.
Jawad watched his retreat in the mirror. Jawad unfolded the sheet of paper. How much was this one going to cost? Wait a minute. What was this? Some kind of joke? Certainly not a ticket. Jawad began to read:
Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when killed by a car. You guessed it - a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail, and the man was free. Free to hug his daughters. All three of them. I only had one, and I'm going to have to wait until heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I've tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I need to do it again.
Even now, pray for me. And be careful, My son is all I have left.
Jawad twisted around in time to see Ali's car pull away and head down the road. Jawad watched until it disappeared. A full 15 minutes later, he, too, pulled away and drove slowly home, praying for forgiveness and hugging a surprised wife and kids when he arrived.
Life is precious. Handle with care.