Probable Cause

Darius squinted against the glare of headlights bouncing off the rear-view.

The man tapped a heavy flashlight against the driver-side window. Darius rolled it down.

“Officer?” he said, trying to keep the fear from his voice.

“Hell boy,” said the man behind the flashlight. “I’m the sheriff. You blind?”

“My apologies, Sheriff.”

“This sure is a nice car, boy. Where’d you get a car like this?”

“I bought it in the city.”

“A city boy. Hell, this here is nicer than the mayor’s car. ’52?”

“It’s a 1953, sir.”

“Umm-hmm. Let’s just have you get out while I look it over, boy.”


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  1. Iain Kelly

    Well, I suppose he has to wonder how he could afford it. In my mind while reading, Darius, as well as being from the city, was also black and the sheriff white… but maybe I’m adding something to the scene that’s not there.

    • J Hardy Carroll

      No, that’s exactly it. Any black man driving a nice car in the rural south (and even in some northern cities) was prone to questioning, arrest, and even a beating or worse. It wasn’t until 1962 that there was any federal protection for black people in America. Up until that time, any white could do whatever they felt like to a black person with little fear of consequences. It is a national disgrace, one of many in the US. Countless, actually.

  2. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    The sheriff’s words tell us a lot about the driver and of what race he is.You had my blood boiling and my pulse racing in a 100 words.



    PS I see your friend beat you to the list this morning. ;)

    • J Hardy Carroll

      He’s quick, that guy. I had him write the story for the NYC midnight contest. He pulled out 2500 words yesterday…twice, since the first copy got lost in the cyber. Thanks for reading!

  3. Na'ama Yehuda

    Well done — you could feel the tension. You could ‘see’ the likely color of the driver and the sheriff … UGH. So true for so many. I know men who’d been stopped ‘for driving while black,’ with similar derision and intimidation, especially in rural areas in the South. Some still experience same.

  4. pennygadd51

    A great story which highlights a very serious issue. Black and minority ethnic groups still face discrimination, prejudice and often worse. The whole tone of your story is excellent, with the casual cruelty of the sheriff expressed powerfully by the voice you have chosen for him. Kudos!

  5. Dale

    Without giving the official details, you gave us the necessary to fully understand what was going on. Heaven forbid a “boy” drive a nice car…

  6. 4963andypop

    I’m a bit worried for Darius. That sheriff has called him ” boy” too many times and Im starting to hear banjos play like in Deliverance. I bet he doesnt have a camera on, either.

  7. Lynn Love

    Why am I imagining a young black man driving this car? A young black man in a whole lot of trouble. If this is set any time near the make of his car, I’m very worried for him. Brilliant sense of unease built on very little overt threat. Great stuff Josh

  8. subroto

    There is a sense of menace behind the Sheriff’s casual conversation. No mention of race is made and yet the readers can guess/imagine the back story. Very well done.

Don't just stand there.