Owen Etter

Adoption, or Something Like That

March 4, 2021

I pull a California stop at the next red octagon I encounter, which earns a slight eye roll from myself at my own driving and a smart comment from Rachel in the passenger seat.

“Nice stop,” Rachel says, a smart tone behind her voice as she glances up from her phone.

“I know, I’m about to win driver of the year if you didn’t know,” I remark back.

“Uh-huh,” Rachel says, “that would be a real miracle.”

“Yeah no kidding,” I said. “Eighty-five on the Interstate is a regular.”

“The adrenaline rush from that is fantastic though,” Rachel said.

“I like how you encourage my bad driving habits,” I remark.

“I don’t just encourage them, I take after them,” my best friend informs me proudly.

“Uh, that is not something you should sound so proud about,” I say as I take another turn on the dark county road I’m driving on. “Anyways, what do you want to do? We’ve been driving around for a while now without a plan.”

“I don’t know,” she says. “Something exciting, that will give us an adrenaline rush.”

“Not drugs,” I said, feeling my eyes widen. “Never that.”

“No stupid, not drugs,” Rachel says with a laugh.

At the same moment that she says that we pass a pile of abandoned traffic cones on the side of the road. We immediately eye each other without having to say anything at all and have the same idea.

“Go back,” Rachel says excitedly. “We can take one and add it to our cone tree for Kylie.”

At the start of Christmas break, Rachel and I had come up with a brilliant idea to create a Christmas tree out of traffic cones for Kylie, our other best friend. Of course, this hypothetically involved a little bit of theft, but Rachel and I had mutually decided that if we didn’t ever get caught or tell anyone, it wasn’t theft at all. In fact, Rachel had once called it ‘cone adoption’, which was a fair enough term because that’s really all we were doing. All the cones we had adopted looked like they had been dropped off on the side of the road like an abandoned puppy to be found in a basket, so really, we were doing the cones a favor. It’s not like anyone had a problem with it either, since we hadn’t been caught.

I snap back to reality and reply with, “We’ll find another pile or something, we’re too far past it and there’s nowhere to turn around.”

“Okay, sounds good,” a now giddy Rachel says.

It takes around another twenty minutes to find a cone, and when we do, it’s almost a perfect opportunity. A bright orange, brand new-looking cone is sitting next to a black iron gate off the side of the road. Keep in mind though, it was almost a perfect opportunity. We were on a road that was more populated than the other county roads, which didn’t allow for me to pull off out of sight to avoid oncoming traffic and hide what we were hypothetically doing, because Rachel and I would never, ever commit a crime.

I pull my car onto the dirt patch in front of the gate and unlock the doors, allowing Rachel to get out. I can slightly pull off the road, which brings a little bit of comfort, but we are also still in plain sight. I turn my headlights off to slightly avoid being detected. Rachel hops out of the passenger seat and darts towards the cone. She is about to grab it when she freezes, staring at something. I scan the scene in front of me to detect what she’s looking at and see a camera.

Oh, s***.

“Maddie, Maddie there’s a camera!” Rachel whisper-shrieks as she gets back into my car, slamming the passenger door. “Go go go go!”

I don’t even bother to reply as I shift hurriedly into reverse and pull back out onto the main road. As I do so, a car turns out of the neighborhood on the opposite side of the road and gets the full getaway scene I’m playing out in my car. This really couldn’t get any less slick, could it?

I was wrong, of course, but that isn’t surprising. In addition to the car seeing Rachel and I absolutely taking flight from the iron gate, I noticed a mail truck parked on the side of the road, which had probably seen the whole ordeal take place. Not to mention the whole motive for our fleeing, the camera, which I’m one-hundred percent sure got a perfect snapshot of both my front and rear license plates, along with Rachel’s face.

This is just superb, I thought while gunning it down the road, going ten over the speed limit. I wonder what my parents will say when the property owner calls them and tells them we attempted to steal their traffic cone. Though, you didn’t actually steal it. You could say you were just looking at it because you didn’t actually commit a crime.

“Uh, well,” Rachel starts, “that was unsuccessful.”

“Yeah,” I agree, my heart rate still elevated. “Hopefully the camera wasn’t working, or they didn’t get your face or my license plates.”

“Crap, I didn’t even think about that,” Rachel said.

We both sat in silence for a minute, because we were still in a slight dilemma: we needed cones for Kylie’s hypothetical cone tree. Then, on cue, Rachel and I grinned at each other.

“Wanna go back to the other pile?”

“Yes, obviously. But we’re just taking them to daycare, remember?”

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