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Sparkle Balls

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Davis narrowed his eyes as he lined up his shot, his breath coming slow and even in preparation.

“You gonna go or what?” asked Karen beside him.

“Patience, rookie, this is about mental control as much as anything else.” He leaned down for a better view.

“You can do it!” urged Karen, a hint of nervousness behind her grin.

Davis tensed his fingers, “Don’t psych me out.” Carefully, he shifted his stance, double checked the position of his partner’s hands, and with an expert flick, sent the paper football flying perfectly between her outstretched fingers.

“Aw man,” she groaned, scooping up the folded paper triangle.

“Hah! One more point and the title is mine.” He swept an arm out, indicating the whiteboard on the wall with Dog River Police Football Champion written on it in green ink, the word Paper wedged in sideways in red.

“I still say if it was real football I could take you,” Karen said and tossed over the paper football.

Davis hunched down to line up his final shot, “Football’s too variable. So many things can affect the outcome. This is a true test of champions,” he tapped a finger to his temple, “It’s about keeping your cool, not letting anything distract you or break your concentration. Now put ‘em up.”

With an exaggerated sigh, Karen raised her hands in the goal post position “Come on, it’s all about instinct. Don’t over-analyse it, feel the shot.”

“Who’s about to win the game?”

“Fine.”

Davis shook out his arm, adjusted the football, and tensed his fingers for the shot. Just as he was about to execute the prize winning flick, there was a loud knock on the station door. The football barely cleared his fingers and fell flat before reaching Karen’s hands.

“Do over!” he called instantly.

“No way,” laughed Karen, “It’s all about mental discipline and concentration right?” The door swung open, “Hey Fitzy.”

The Mayor of Dog River waved nervously. “Davis, why didn’t you warn me?”

“’Bout what?”

“The parade!” replied Fitzy, wringing his hands, “The Dog River Days parade! I’ve been getting e-mails all morning from people wondering where they should set up, most of them think it’s this weekend! How was I supposed to know?”

Davis straightened, looking confused, “It is this weekend. I did warn you about it. I sent you an e-mail months ago, several of them in fact, and weeks ago, and days ago.”

“Well I didn’t get it!” Fitzy sputtered, “My, uh, my secretary must not have sent them on.” There was a rather large folder in Fitzy’s inbox that all e-mails from Davis were auto-sorted into. It was titled Police, but Fitzy liked to think of it as the “Blah-blah Filter.” “Why didn’t you get Karen to tell me?”

“I did!”

“He did.” Agreed Karen from her own desk where she was looking up the appropriate forms for closing down a municipal street for a community event. “This one’s on you, Fitzy.”

“B-but… I… uh” There was another large folder in Fitzy’s inbox that all e-mails from Karen were auto-sorted into. It was titled Important Police aka Blah-blah 2. “Fine. Fine, I’ll take care of this. I’m the mayor, it’s what I do.” He straightened slightly and turned to the door, “Just make sure the regular parade route is blocked off. And, uh, have a cruiser ready, we’ll need something between the fire truck and Chad Rempel’s tractor.”

Once the mayor had left, after fumbling with the door-handle for a minute, Davis stood, clapping his hands together eagerly, “Oh this’ll be good!” He headed to the back room and started rummaging through the storage closet.

“Whatcha doin’ there, boss?” asked Karen, leaning around her computer.

A couple of minutes later, Davis came back out, his voice slightly muffled by the stack of boxes he carried, “Getting the official parade supplies.”

“What?”

Setting down the stack with an “oof”, Davis started to rummage through the boxes. “Parade supplies, rookie. We’ve gotta add some bling to the cruiser.”

“Some bling?”

“Yeah, bling! Some flash, some pizazz, some excitement,” he pulled out a few different coloured streamers and turned to a new box, opening it slowly, “Some sex appeal.”

Karen blinked, she thought she recognized what Davis was pulling out of the box, “Is that a glitter cannon?”

“Oh yeah.”

There was silence for a moment in the police station, then Karen shook herself from her thoughts, “Isn’t the cruiser already pretty exciting?”

“Of course she is!” affirmed Davis, finally putting away the glitter canon and returning to the boxes on his desk, “But this is a parade Karen; we need to up the ante. You don’t want people thinking we’re less exciting than Levi Steinhauer and his miniature horses do you?”

“Well, no,” she said hesitantly, “Since when has Levi had miniature horses?”

“Exactly.” Davis nodded as if that explained everything. He put the last empty box on the ground, frowned at it, then turned back to the desk. There were two piles, one in a place of honour right next to his chair, the other off to the side and spilling onto the empty boxes on the floor. The ‘good’ pile was far smaller but included the glitter canon and at least three bulky packages of stick-on rhinestones. Davis checked over each item in the good pile, then started sifting through the reject pile, his frown deepening.

Karen did not like that frown, “Lose something?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he answered slowly, checking behind a handful of Tourism Saskatchewan window decals (Davis had picked them up free last time they were in Regina. They were shaped like bushels of wheat. He pointed out at the time that was better than being shaped like a potash mine). “I can’t find the Sparkle Balls.”

Something about that sentence set off warning bells for Karen. Before she could figure out why, her mouth asked on its own, “What are Sparkle Balls?”

“Oh, wait ‘til you see it. It’s a set of disco balls and multicoloured lights. You’re supposed to just plug ‘em in, but my cousin rigged it up to hook to the cruiser’s roof light so all the mirrors are spinning. You’re gonna love it. It’s perfect for the parade.” Giving up on the pile, he started digging through the boxes on the floor.

Karen bit her lip and pulled up Google, her sense of doom rising, “It wouldn’t happen to look anything like this would it?” She clicked on the image and turned the monitor toward her partner.

Davis’s face lit up in a grin, “Yeah that’s it! How’d you find the right Sparkle Balls?”

“Um, because I had to order one.”

“Why?” he asked, grin faltering.

“No reason,” Karen shifted guiltily in her seat. She clicked a new tab on her computer, then another one to avoid looking at Davis. It didn’t work. She glanced up to see him still watching her steadily. “What?”

He watched her for another moment, frown still on his face. He opened his mouth to speak.

“Fine.” She cut him off before he could get a word out. “I threw it out, okay? I was looking for something in the storage closet and it fell and broke. I was hoping the new one would come in before you noticed.” She crossed her arms and frowned at him. Stupid Davis with his stupid face making her admit to things.

Instantly she regretted her outburst. Davis’s eyes grew wide and the corners of his mouth turned down farther than she’d ever seen them go. “You threw it out?” he asked pitifully, “Why didn’t you tell me? What are we gonna put on top of the cruiser for the parade?”

“I dunno, the lights that are already there?” She turned back to the computer; maybe if she acted like this wasn’t a big deal, he’d forget about it, come up with something else to decorate the cruiser with, and stop making that face at her.

“Oh.” His shoulders slumped, “Okay, I guess.” Picking up the forms she had printed off, he trudged over to his desk and sat down to fill them out.


 

“Lacey, I need the best coffee you’ve got.”

Lacey, and a spattering of Ruby patrons looked up as Karen burst through the door of the diner and marched up to the counter.

“What’s all the hubbub?” asked Wanda, spinning on her barstool.

Karen waited another minute for the mid-afternoon crowd to go back to their own conversations before launching into her tale about breaking the Sparkle Balls and Davis’ reaction. “Now he won’t even look at me. And he’s been moping around the station all day. I need something to cheer him up so he forgets about the whole thing.”

Lacey frowned, one hand on the coffee pot as though considering the possibilities. “I don’t know, Davis takes this kind of thing really seriously, remember what he was like on Canada Day? A cup of coffee won’t be enough to bring him out of it."

“Ugh, yeah" groaned Karen

Wanda looked confused. "Why? What happened on Canada Day?"

Lacey waved a hand idly, "Oh, well Davis got really excited about getting some wagon for some mini horses painted the right shade of red so-" she stopped and stared at Wanda, eyebrows climbing up her forehead as a grin stretched across her face.

"So what happened?" demanded Wanda.

"Are you okay?" asked Karen, torn between being concerned for Lacey and wishing she would hurry up with the coffee already, maybe adding a donut would help.

"I know what happened before you did! I never know the stories of this town first. Oh!" She straightened her shoulders, grin settling into a smug smile, "So that's what that feels like."

"Excuse me, I was at a funeral in Lethbridge on Canada Day. Don't rub it in."

"Oh, you..."

"Yeah, Tanner was distraught, kept asking where cousin Jerry was. Thanks a lot."

"Oh, I... uh, I'm sorry, I... uh Scott needs more coffee." Grabbing the coffee pot she hurried to the other end of the counter.

Karen raised an eyebrow, and sat on the empty seat next to Wanda, "You don't have relatives in Lethbridge." There was a clatter from near Scott McHenry’s seat.

"I know. So, what are you gonna do about Davis."

“I don’t know” she groaned, “I ordered a new Sparkle Balls from the company, but it’s being shipped from China, won’t be here for another couple of weeks.”

“Could you replace it with something else? Someone’s gotta have disco balls, and those light things,” Wanda shrugged and gestured with a fry.

“Spinning, coloured, flashing LEDs,” supplied Karen.

“Yeah those. There’s probably a few of those kickin’ around town, can’t you rig something up?”

“Are you kidding?” Karen looked up at Wanda incredulously, “There’s no way that would go over well.”

“What? Can’t be that hard.”

“I’m sorry, do you know anything about electronics?”

“I know stuff about electronics,” said Hank, wandering up to the counter. “I can fix anything. What’re we talking about?”

“You’re right.” Wanda nodded, then turned back to Karen. “There’s no way this would go over well.”

“Isn’t there somewhere you could pick one up, instead of waiting around for the delivery?” asked Lacey, coming back over to give Hank his coffee.

“SparkleCo has a depot that might have them, emphasis on the might, but it’s in Vancouver.”

“Well there you go.” said Hank.

“What?” asked Karen, “You don’t even know what we’re talking about.”

“No actually, Hank has a point.” Wanda sat up straight, “I don’t know how, but he does. We’ll drive to Vancouver and get it for you.”

Karen made a face, “That is just stupid and ridiculous.”

“Well that’s ‘cause it’s Hank’s idea. Doesn’t mean it won’t work.”

“You’d drive for two days to pick up a parade decoration?” asked Lacey incredulously.

“Four days,” pointed out Hank. “Two there, two to get back. Probably five actually, after the second day of non-stop driving my back starts to hurt, and my truck makes funny noises, so I take more breaks.”

“Yeah, five days, the parade is Saturday, you’d never make it back in time.” pointed out Karen.

“Trust me,” said Wanda sagely, a grin stretching across her face, “We’ll make it.”

 

Two hours later, Karen was chewing her nails in the backseat as they headed west down the highway. During the planning, she’d convinced Hank and Wanda that only she really knew what to look for at the SparkleCo depot, then she'd phoned the police station to call in sick for the rest of the week. After another bout of arguing they’d decided that Hank’s truck probably wouldn’t last them past Lloydminster.

"So we won't go that way. It's faster to go through Medicine Hat anyway," argued Hank.

Karen gave him a side-eye, "It's a beat-up piece of crap that should've gone to the dump years ago."

"Come on, I've got friends in Medicine Hat, it's not all that bad."

"She means your truck, idiot." supplied Wanda, "And no you don't."

"Besides, there's no way I'm being stuck between you two in the cab the whole way," added Karen.

"I'm just saying, if we avoid Lloydminster, my truck won't break down. We're golden."

So they were borrowing Bent’s car. Wanda was currently on the phone either getting permission or forgiveness for the borrowing of said car and skipping off work for the rest of the week.

“Heh, sucker. Even conned him into babysitting on Friday when Lacey’s busy.” She cackled, closing her old phone with a snap.

 

Three hours later Hank and Wanda banned any further comments on speed limits or road safety. Wanda had used some sort of hat analogy, which Karen had protested.

"Shh!" interrupted Hank, "You're not a cop anymore, you're wearing the friend hat."

"She's not wearing a hat," said Wanda, not looking up from her crossword.

"No, but it's like you said, when you take the work hat off you stop being the person you are at work. But now she needs a new hat for the person she is not at work. So a friend hat. And friends let friends drive as fast as they need to, to help friends be friends and help friends.. be, uh.. friendly."

Wanda nearly dropped her pencil, "Until the end there, that actually made sense."

Hank grinned, "Thanks."

"But you guys," protested Karen, "If we get pulled over it'll take-"

"Do you want to be Evil Knievel?" interrupted Hank again, speeding up slightly at the daredevil's name.

"What?"

"Evil Knievel," the car lurched another 5km/hr faster, "When he wore a motorcycle helmet, he did tricks on his motorcycle. When he wore a crash helmet he raced a drag car. He didn't try to ride a motorcycle and a drag car at the same time."

"What, so I can't be a friend and a cop at the same time?" asked Karen, incredulous.

"No, that's not what I'm saying," replied Hank, "See, imagine if Knievel was a moose. That's like being a cop right. And being a friend is like driving a motorcycle or a drag car. Sometimes you do one, sometimes you do the other. But it's hard to do either while you're a moose. I mean, it'd be pretty hard to get a crash helmet over those antlers, am I right?" He smirked and turned to Wanda.

She was back to her crossword, "And just like that, he ruins it."

Finally, the gist of it was that Karen wasn’t allowed to act like a cop, sound like a cop, or think like a cop for the duration of the trip. To that end, Karen had stopped looking at the speedometer once it hit 140km/hr and kept climbing. She also had to stop looking out the window as well or she’d start counting telephone poles and guessing at their speed that way. There were a few discarded comic books wedged under her seat, but they smelled funky enough that she didn’t want to touch them.

 

Four hours later, somewhere in Banff, Karen gave up on sleep. They’d switched drivers just east of Calgary and Wanda had put her foot down, both figuratively and literally, that the driver picked the music. This had put an end to Hank’s repeated Rush CD so the car was finally silent. Unfortunately, this also meant the music wasn't distracting her anymore. Instead, every time she closed her eyes she saw Davis making that face. How could one man be so expressive! And what was it about his downtrodden, hangdog expression that made her just up and do whatever it took to cheer him up? She shifted and rolled, got tangled in her seatbelt, accidentally kicked the back of Hank’s seat, and finally got reasonably settled before Hank noticed he could lean his seat back even farther, leaving her less room for her feet. Leaning against the window she wondered briefly if it would all be worth it, but then pictured Davis cheering up from the mope he’d been in when she left to what she hoped would be excitement for the parade and knew it would be. If they could get there on time. IF.

 

Two hours later Wanda was driving 100km/hr up the side of a mountain with a posted speed limit of 80 and a posted recommended speed limit of 45. Unable to sleep and paranoid about falling off a cliff, Karen started flipping through the comic books.

 

Three hours later Hank woke up, decided heights made him carsick and they had to stop for half an hour so he could re-learn how to breathe.

"You had to wake up now, didn'tcha? You had to just go and wake up and look out the window. What, you were so well rested an extra half hour wouldn't do it?" yelled Wanda out the window at him.

"What's in half an hour?" moaned Karen from the back seat.

"We're practically in Kamloops, but noooooo this idiot has to go and wake up now, instead of somewhere with an actual washroom and where I can get some decent coffee. Or any coffee."

"We're nowhere near Kamloops," said Karen in what she hoped was a reasonable, but not too cop-like, tone. She had no idea where they actually were.

"I can see it. Good coffee and clean washrooms are calling my name. Just right over there." She pointed forcefully at a smudge in the distance. Karen was pretty sure the smudge was actually on the windshield, not in the distance, but didn't want to have to get out of the car to verify so kept quiet.

 

Four hours later they hit Abbotsford and Karen had to start looking up directions to the SparkleCo depot. They lost nearly an hour driving in circles to find a Tim Hortons.

"Just stop there!" begged Karen.

"That's a Starbucks," said Wanda.

"Then stop there."

"Local independent, good choice" agreed Wanda.

"There's a weird sign in the window," argued Hank from the driver's seat, "I don't trust it."

"The sign says Fair Trade," pointed out Wanda, "What's wrong with that?"

"I just don't trust it. Never have."

"You know it's Fair Trade, not Free Trade, right?" asked Wanda.

"Yeah, but we don't know what they traded for." 

"How about that place?" cut in Karen, desperate for both coffee and a way to get her driving companions to stop bickering.

"Another Starbucks," said Wanda.

"You know what, that's it." Hank fumed twenty minutes later, "That's the fifth Starbucks we've passed."

"Technically it's the third," groaned Karen, "We passed two of them twice."

"Whatever. I hereby declare the entire Greater Vancouver Area a stain on Canada’s reputation. All we want is a simple cup of coffee, and they're all up with their frouffy, high-priced, expresso-latte, fluffy soy coffee shops. It's disgraceful."

Karen was way too tired by this point to point out the flaws in Hank's argument. Wanda wasn't. "You're the one driving. We've been telling you to turn left this whole time and you keep turning right. It's not the city's fault we can't find a Tims. It's yours. In fact, just for that," they were pulling up to a red light. As soon as the car stopped, she opened her door and climbed out. "I'm going to that Fair Trade place we just passed, again. Find your own coffee. Coming Karen?"

 

When they finally found the SparkleCo depot, Karen was a nervous wreck. Her hands shook as she tried to explain exactly what she was looking for, but the lack of sleep combined with the certainty that she wasn’t going to find it and Davis was going to be mourning a ruined parade caused her to slur and stumble her words until she asked for “piney dizzy legs” and slightly more inappropriate variations on “spinning disco lights.” Eventually Hank and Wanda tag-teamed to help explain what they were looking for. Mostly Wanda, Hank was soon distracted by an artificial fireplace.

The 19 (done in 16) hour drive back was a haze of cramped sleep and stale timbits for Karen, and arguments about whether or not The Tragically Hip were from Saskatchewan for Hank and Wanda.


 

 

Saturday morning was as clear a day as any parade goer could hope for. Hank, Wanda, and Karen had rolled into town just in time to get coffee at the Ruby when it opened. Karen was able to grab a quick shower and prepare before getting to the police station before Davis.

He arrived to see her leaning casually on the cruiser, it's top covered by a black sheet. She was dressed up in a low-cut, bright red top and low rise jeans, “I hear you wanted some sex appeal for the parade,” she said.

"Huh?" he responded. She grinned and stepped aside, pulling off the sheet to reveal the Sparkle Balls. Four disco balls, six multi-coloured LED light fixtures that spun, flashed, and changed colour in time to music, all hooked up to the cruiser’s top light and ready for the parade.

Davis lit up. The phrase “kid on Christmas” crossed Karen’s mind, but she knew it wasn’t even close. He ran forward and caught her up in the biggest hug she’d ever received.

“It’s perfect,” he told her. “Just perfect.”