Opting Out explores a dark glimpse into the future of the health insurance industry and takes you on a quick ride down the slippery slope. The other stories contained within these pages range from the heartwarming to the supernatural, guaranteed to keep you turning those virtual pages.
Excerpt from The Cold Shoulder:
Highway 19 between Alvine and Sparks was a quiet, scenic stretch of road during the daylight hours. After dark, this road in southwestern Minnesota was merely a lonely passage that separated miles of cornfields. In the dead of winter at two O’clock in the morning, the highway was as desolate as if it’d been carved upon the face of the moon.
Al Merit had been the Sheriff in Alvine for nearly a year. He was well-liked in town and enjoyed his work. He was heading home after spending an interesting evening with a female acquaintance and he was driving the cruiser. This, in itself, was not a problem. He’d been told that he was free to use the car, that it was a perk of the job. He just didn’t feel right about it tonight. He’d been nervous about his first date with Cathy Lane and had consumed more than his customary two beers. He wasn’t drunk, but he was buzzed and he knew it. He now deeply regretted his lapse in judgment.
Al could see the flashing red light up ahead, miles away, signaling the intersection at Highway 42. The blood-red light looked out of place in the passing countryside, where everything was black and white at this time of night. The snow-covered farms had been put to bed hours ago and he hadn’t passed a car since he’d left Sparks. The last Al had heard, the temperature was -18 degrees and a nasty wind had kicked up, which made it feel much colder than that. The flashing light marked the halfway point. He switched on the radio and found a station playing Glen Campbell’s new song, Rhinestone Cowboy, Al found himself singing along.
He noticed the figure nearly a mile from the intersection. Al strained his eyes, but knew in an instant that he was seeing a man walking on the shoulder of the road. Al shut off the radio and cursed his luck. The last thing he needed was for someone to smell beer on his breath. He fumbled for a stick of chewing gum, wondering what the man was doing out in this weather at this time of night.
“Son of a bitch,” he muttered to himself as he drew closer. The figure was definitely a man and a giant of one, at that. Al slowed the cruiser to forty, then to thirty, leveling off at a slow twenty-five MPH. The man had just passed through the intersection and was bathed in intermittent flashes of red light. He was heading towards Al, hands thrust deep in the pockets of a fatigue jacket. Oh shit, thought Al. The country had been flooded with the return of soldiers from Viet Nam and many of them had come back damaged from their years of fighting. He’d seen it first hand and it always put him on high alert. This time was no exception.
A chill ran down Al’s spine as the car crept nearer. The man wore no hat and his hair was long and wild, trailing behind him in the stiff January breeze. He wore a long beard and it looked matted and tangled. Al shuddered when the man stopped walking and turned to face the road. He was expecting him to stop; to offer assistance, which is exactly what he should have done.
Al was suddenly afraid. The man looked to be close to seven feet tall and he appeared to be quite solid under his olive-green jacket. Al was dressed in his Saturday night go-to-town clothes and he wasn’t carrying his gun. The shotgun was locked securely in the trunk. Al fought the fear; it wasn’t the first time he’d felt it. The fear came with the job and any cop who told you different was a liar. At twenty feet away he was looking directly into the man’s vacant, dark eyes and Al felt as if he were looking straight into the face of death. This type of fear was new to him. He couldn’t come to terms with it, couldn’t coax his right foot into stepping on the brake pedal of the Ford LTD. Al felt his body rocked by a spasm of shivers.