The Meter Man scoured the parking lot for parking tags. With the midday rush finished, the university felt calm in the early afternoon. Leaves had turned from deep green to a multitude of oranges and reds and yellows over the last few weeks. Small piles clustered the edges of the lot which added a vibrant presence to an otherwise desolate spot on campus. Lone leaves drifted by The Meter Man as he continued his patrol. Sometimes, he caught one under his boot, crunching it with indifference.
So many students thought they could park and run. I just gotta drop something off real quick they would say. It caused a ruckus with the faculty and staff. The students didn’t care. Some thought they could stay for a class or two and avoid the twenty-dollar fine. What bandits thought The Meter Man.
His cold blue eyes found prey. An orange Mustang. No tags. The Meter Man tugged his University Parking hat down, ready to work. He strode confidently to the car in his dark blue uniform. The ticket machine swayed against his hip with each step. A program on it was loaded and ready to scan. Pride filled his chest at the other vehicles that hung their tags properly. He was the law of the land in these parts, and when he needed to draw his weapon of justice, he did so with utmost joy.
Across the long stretch of concrete, a student walked onto the lot. Her eyes stared at the faded yellow lines of paint, following bars of them towards her 190-horsepower baby. Keys clenched in her hand; she stole a glance at The Meter Man. Eyes locked they both stopped walking.
There was silence save for the cold wind that swept hair into the woman’s face, masking her. This broke their stare. The Meter Man spat on the ground between them, a gesture kinder than the words he thought.
“I’m just leaving,” she said coolly.
Standing with his legs shoulder width apart, he tucked his thumbs into his belt loops and smiled. She tensed. She had two options. Through her hair, her eyes scanned the lot and looked out onto the bus stop.
A small gathering of students stood watching, waiting. Phones ready, they would share this tale. For some, it would be a warning. For others, it would be a challenge. Either way, people would know the tale of The Meter Man and The Mustang.
“Is this your vehicle, ma’am?” He pointed to the car.
Tucking her hair coyly behind one ear, she jingled her keys. “That’s my ride.”
He unholstered his ticket gun.
The screen was up. He clocked the first plate number into it.
Opening the door, she threw her bag inside.
He punched in another number.
Keys jammed into the ignition; she whipped the car to life.
Two letters later, and he almost had her.
They made eye contact through the rearview mirror as she started to back out of her spot.
Forced to sidestep the car, The Meter Man lost sight of her license. She grinned up at the kids by the bus stop. Unamused, The Meter Man ran towards the back of the car. Exhaust fumes defiantly spat in his face as the woman sped off and out into the day, leaving the forlorn man in the wasteland of his lot.
Kati Baker is practically a local cryptid from West Virginia. She is an outreach STEM educator while pursuing a job in the video game industry. She writes for fun.