Madison Cornbread was a petite, pretty young 22-year-old woman who had the world in front of her. Though life in Driftwood County was rather dull for someone her age, soon she planned to start classes at the University of Alabama. She’d been saving up through various odd jobs, including babysitting.
Things were starting to go her way. She’d been out the night before at the Grassy Knoll Pub celebrating with friends, met a cute guy, and went back to his place. Now, at about ten in the morning, Madison drove towards her parents’ home where she planned to clean up before getting to the day’s needed events.
Cornbread’s sunny disposition changed to a bundle of nervous energy when she saw red and blue lights in her rear view mirror. Oh shit, cops, she thought. What’s their damage?
Madison checked her speed. She was five miles under the limit. As far as she knew all the lights on her 2018 Toyota Corolla were functional. Maybe it was someone else or the cops were trying to get by her.
Those high hopes were dashed when a siren barked and a voice came over a speaker.
“You in the Corolla. Pull over. Now. ” the voice said.
Madison did as she was told, fumbling for her license, registration and proof of insurance as two Driftwood County police officers approached her vehicle from either side.
One tapped with a baton on Madison’s driver side windshield. She lowered the window.
“License, registration and proof of insurance.”
Madison handed over all the documents. The cop studied them carefully. His name badge said “Jensen.”
Officer Jensen peered at Madison through mirrored aviator sunglasses. “Is your name really Madison Cornbread?”
“Do you have any idea why I stopped you?”
“No sir. In fact I was just about to ask you that. ”
“Hold on here while we run these documents.” Officer Jensen then returned to his police cruiser while the other cop stood beside Madison’s passenger door.
A few minutes passed before Officer Jensen returned to Madison’s driver side window.
“Step out of the car, please.”
“Am I being arrested?”
“Not just yet. What you are is being detained for questioning. Please place your hands behind your back. ”
“Are handcuffs really necessary, Officer?” Madison began to sweat bullets. I can’t believe I’m getting arrested, she thought. Or… detained, or whatever this is.
“Boy, you have no idea who you pissed off, do you?” Jensen said as he shoved her in the back of the cruiser. “Someone wants to have a word with you.”
Thirty minutes later, Madison Cornbread sat in Interrogation Room 2 of the Mud Lick Sheriff’s Department. A door swung open and walked in the region’s top cop, Sheriff Roy Templeton.
Sheriff Templeton took up a seat across the table from Madison.
“Ms. Cornbread, ”he said. “Does the word ‘commitment’ mean anything to you?”
“Sir, I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Madison began, “and I would like to know if I’m being charged with a crime.” Madison remembered that phrase from a TV show she’d seen once.
“If I could charge you with felony incompetence, I would, but right now I’m asking the questions, Ms. Cornbread. Is that okay with you? ”
“Well thank you very much for that vote of confidence, Ms. Cornbread. Do you mind if I’m in charge for a little while? ”
“No sir.” Madison felt a rock form in her gut. Something weird was going on.
“Where were you this morning at 0800, Ms. Cornbread? ”
“I was with a friend.”
“Ms. Cornbread, do you remember scheduling a babysitting job for today that began at 0800? ”
“That’s 8 AM to civilians, ma’am.”
Oh shit I blew off a gig, Madison thought. And then when she saw the name Templeton on Sheriff Roy’s uniform, she remembered. The Templeton family. I was supposed to watch a Roy Junior today and I totally forgot after the booze and the guy from last night.
“Sheriff, uh, Mr. Templeton, I… ”
“Sheriff Templeton is fine, Ms. Cornbread. ”
“I can explain. You see, my phone was dead this morning and I couldn’t get a message to anyone except through the Bambizzle app on my laptop. I tried to message Mrs. Templeton on there but didn’t get a response. “
“A young lady like you sees a dead phone and decides the best thing to do was to message Arlene on some app you had on your laptop? Ma’am, I’ll remind you giving false statements to police officers is actually a crime. “
Madison fell silent again, her face turning warm and bright crimson.
“That’s the problem with you young people today,” the Sheriff started. “No sense of responsibility or commitment. I don’t know how your mommy and daddy raised you, but when I grew up we were taught to live by our word. “
“I stand by my word, Sheriff! I just had a weird morning and no way to contact Mrs. Templeton! ”
“Why don’t I believe you? First, yesterday you were twenty-five minutes late to watch Roy Junior so Arlene could get her hair done. Then today, when I’m expecting you by 8 AM, you do this thing the millennials call ‘ghosting’ to my family. No call, no text, no email, nothing. If I wasn’t able to put an APB out on your car, there’s a good chance we might not be having this little chat today. Isn’t that right Ms. Cornbread? ”
Madison kept her mouth shut.
“You know what happens when someone in my department ‘ghosts’ someone on whom they rely? People end up shot or dead. Communication is a foundational component to any successful enterprise, Ms. Cornbread. ”
The Sheriff stood and began pacing the room. “Instead of being at work on time this morning, which is important if law and order are to remain fixtures in my town, and instead of my dear Arlene making it to her volunteer appointment at Mac Jones Story Hour, I found myself dealing with your OPF. ”
“Other People’s Fuckup,” Sheriff Roy continued. “When I pay someone for a service, and pay them quite well — fifteen dollars per hour in your case — and that person royally shits the bed, then I have a problem. If you were someone from the Church doing this for free I might have a bit more leeway with you, but you’ve taken money from my family in anticipation of a job. And now I stand here feeling like I’ve been robbed. You do realize there’s a crime called ‘Theft under $ 500,’ Ms. Cornbread, and that as far as I’m concerned you’re guilty as sin? ”
Now Madison found herself welling up in tears. “Are you seriously going to charge me with a crime because I didn’t show up at your house on time? I’m sorry, I swear! It was a bad judgment call on my end and I shouldn’t have gone out with that guy last night! ”
“So that’s what it was then,” Sheriff Roy grimaced. “Promiscuity and most likely alcohol consumption over a job you committed to doing two weeks ago. No wonder this country’s going to hell in a hand basket, and no one gets to tell me today the root cause is ‘Boomers.’ You young people aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire with your entitlement issues. ”
“I’ll do the rest of the week for free,” Madison began, trying to find her way out of this mess.
“No, you’ll never babysit another child in Driftwood County as long as I’m around,” Sheriff Roy said. “I may not be able to stop you from taking on new gigs, but I can make sure people understand the depths of your idiocy.”
Sheriff Roy produced an iPhone from his pocket and opened the Bambizzle app.
“When Driftwood County found your car, I asked everyone in my department to give you a one star rating on Bambizzle. Arlene was so upset she got the church knitting circle to join in. A phone call I made a few minutes before I came in here had all of the Dismal Seepage Sheriff’s Department in Arkansas ‘rate’ you as well. ”
Sheriff Roy slid his phone across to Madison so she could see the screen.
She was currently the poorest-rated child-care provider in the area on the app, with 58 one star reviews.
Per Bambizzle’s User Agreement, a provider’s account was suspended after ten one star ratings from users. Twenty and service providers across gig platforms would think twice before offering you any job.
Sheriff Roy retrieved his phone. He then unlocked Madison’s handcuffs.
“You’re free to go, Ms. Cornbread. Get out of my sight. And if you’re a praying sort, pray your ass never sees the Mud Lick town line again, or I’ll start thinking of creative ways to put you behind bars. “
Madison stood, collected herself, and left as quickly as she could.
Sheriff Roy watched as Madison Cornbread rode away from the station in a Guuber driver’s car. As he watched, Deputy Ernesto Miranda sidled up to the Sheriff.
“Was all that really necessary for a stupid kid who blew off a babysitting job?”
Sheriff Roy turned to his top deputy. “No one fucks with my childcare and gets away with it, Deputy Miranda. Sometimes examples have to be set. That’s what we did today. “
“Yessir,” Deputy Miranda nodded before returning to his paperwork.
You didn’t fuck around with child care in Mud Lick. That was an unspoken rule.
Especially if the kid was Roy Templeton Junior.