"Oh, it's under the bomb."

Derek and I used to work for the same company, Leading Edge Products, in Westboro, Massachusetts. This was when I also lived in Worcester. We commuted to work together whenever our shifts coincided, which was pretty much all the time. The commute from Worcester to Westboro and back involves twelve or fifteen or so miles on Massachusetts Route 9, a divided but not limited-access highway, and takes around half an hour with good weather and traffic conditions.

One chilly day in the fall of 1994, we were driving home from a late shift at Leading Edge. It was around 9:30 in the evening, quite dark out, and we were riding in Derek's old Ram Charger, affectionately dubbed "Gordo the Goat Beast". Gordo had a headlight out at the time, but Derek hadn't gotten around to getting it fixed yet.

As luck would have it, we got pulled over.

It had been a long, trying day, and we were both getting tired and punchy (see the 3-AM Phenomenon), so we found this happenstance immensely amusing, rather than annoying. The policeman came up to the truck and shined his light inside the driver's window to see these two giggling large guys, in a Ram Charger whose floor was covered with all manner of clutter that could be concealing anything, and immediately went on the defensive. He could sense that there was something not quite right about us.

Derek managed to roll down his window and ask the officer what the problem was; the officer replied that he had a headlight out, and asked for his license and registration. Derek produced his wallet from his pocket and got his license out, then turned to me and asked me to get the registration slip out of the glove compartment.

I opened the compartment and was promptly confronted with a prop from the last live-action role-playing game Derek had been involved with: a bundle of five or six cardboard paper-towel cores, painted red and bound together with black electrician's tape, and garnished with an alarm clock and a bundle of brightly colored wires.

Without missing a beat, Derek glanced over and added, "Oh, it's under the bomb."

So I plucked the ersatz bomb out of the glove compartment and tossed it offhandedly over my shoulder into the chaos that was the back seat. Instantly the policeman jumped back, yanked out his sidearm, leveled it at Derek and me, and bellowed, "GET OUT OF THE CAR! PUT YOUR HANDS ON THE ROOF! MOVE!"

Well, you can imagine what happened next. In the state Derek and I were in, we couldn't get out of the damn car - we were too busy gasping for air, laughing like fiends and sliding out of our seats onto the floor of the truck as the absurdity of the situation consumed us. I mean, here we were about to get shot over a stupid cardboard prop and we couldn't stop laughing long enough to comply with the instructions of a peace officer!

Obviously, the officer refrained from shooting us long enough for us to get out of the truck and do as he asked. He looked into the truck, determined that the bomb was fake, listened to Derek's explanation of just why he had a fake bomb, and then declared his intention to search the truck.

Derek had had Gordo for a year or so by that point, and had NEVER cleaned it. Fast-food wrappers, discarded magazines, books, laundry that fell out of the laundry bag unnoticed and went unpicked-up out of laziness, a small TV set, props from LARPGs, you name it, it was on the floor of that truck. The officer prodded part of one pile, making it collapse and disgorge a half-eaten, mummified cheeseburger onto one of his shined trooper boots, and decided he had better things to do with his evening, at which point he admonished us about the folly of carrying around fake weapons, told us to get the headlight fixed, and departed.

Five or ten minutes later we had recovered enough that we could continue on our way as well.

(I related this anecdote at Derek's memorial service, to the great amusement of most of his family and friends. It's good to know that most of his relatives are hip enough to who Derek was that they understood why we found it so entertaining at the time. :)

Benjamin D. Hutchins