i know ya’ll hate when i draw out tales like this…but trust me, when part two goes up, you’ll be thankful for the wait. Think of this like …like one of Master’s ‘half-o’s.”….preparation for the fun stuff! ~nilla~
She pulled into the podunk gas station in a cloud of dust. Taking a last chug of water from the bottle beside her, she swiped at the grime coming in her windows and landing on her overheated cheeks.
“Hep you ma’am?” spoke a lazy drawl through her window.
“20 regular,” she replied, not looking at him. She dug in her purse for her wallet, took out the lone $20 bill there. She’d need to find an ATM soon or she’d be fucked, she mused. Tuning out the sounds of the gas cap coming loose, the steady gurgle of gas dribbling into the tank, she picked up her phone, checking for texts.
“Caint use your cell while I’m fillin’ the tank,” drawled the voice.
“Fine, whatever,” she pouted, stuffing the phone back into her purse.
Waiting, she watched the silver shimmers of heat rising from the highway. In the distance, dusky blue mountains pierced the sky, her destination. From here it almost looked as though some of those enormous monoliths still bore snow caps. Snow. Heat made beads of sweat pop out along her underarms, and in the creases of her legs. The imagining of falling into a snowdrift helped. For a moment, at least.
It seemed to be taking forever to put the gas into the tank, or maybe she was just that impatient to be off. At last she heard the nozzle being removed, the snick of her gas cap screwing on, the final sharp clip of her cover being secured.
“That’ll be $40.00 ma’am,” drawled the voice.
“FORTY?” She exclaimed. “Forty?? I told you $20.”
“No ma’am, you were clear as day. Said $40.”
“Well, I don’t have $40. I have $20.” No way was she parting with her emergency $10 until she found an ATM.
“You must have an ATM nearby. I’ll run to that and …”
“No ma’am, no ATM’s ’round here. You’ll need to go in and talk to the manager. He’s right in the office.”
“You better bring your scrawny ass in there too, this is your mistake.”
He leaned into the car unexpectedly, tugging her keys free of the ignition.
“Just in case, you understand, ma’am,” he spoke a scant inch from her face.
“Out, you oaf!”
She leaned back against her headrest, waiting for him to move away so she could exit the car. The fucking asshat! She needed to be on her way. She was tired, and didn’t want to drive through the desert in the dark. The fucking idiot! Sliding out of the car, she tried to tamp down the mad, but truthfully, her temper was nearly as hot as the pavement outside.
A lone bell clanged on the glass of the door. A long scribble of etching showed that it had hung there forever. The place smelled of grease–both automotive and food. It smelled of men, of gasoline, of places that were more than a little icky to her. She wrinkled her nose.
“Office is through there,” he pointed to an open doorway leading, she supposed, into the garage. She stepped through, cautious. More smells. A car up on a lift, missing all the tires. No one was in the open floor, so she supposed the kid who was a fuck up was also the mechanic. She saw the door to a small bump-out along the side wall. Through a grime-smeared window she saw someone sitting in there.
A skinny arm reached around her as she approached the door, opening it without even a cursory knock. She jumped a little, forgetting he was behind her.
“Yo, boss, we gotta problem. Little lady here told me she wanted $40 in the tank, then when I was done, told me she’d said twenty.”
The man at the desk looked like Santa. Longish white hair, a beard, jolly cheeks and all. Yet rather than merry and blue, his eyes were green as marbles, and fierce. He might have had the appearance of a jolly old elf but that impression only lasted until he looked into you. The sudden flutter of nerves shivered up her spine.
“You’re trying to welch out on paying me?”
The tone was deceptively mild.
“No…no sir. I said for him to put $20 in the tank, not 40. I’m sorry about the mistake but it was his, not mine. I just don’t have another $20. If you want to follow me to your bank so I can use an ATM I’m happy to …”
“I’m busy here, girl. I can’t just up and run 20 miles into town because you thought you could steal gas from me.”
“Well,” she said, feeling the upsurge of anger in her belly, “I don’t know what else to tell you. Pump it back out of there, then.”
The young man spoke up.
“Caint do that–puts impurities from your gas tank into the storage unit underground. ‘Sides, there’s a law about that.”
She took a huffy breath, raising her arms in a big shrug, before dropping them to her side with a sigh. The Elf, Randy, the tag on his shirt said, picked up the phone.
“Looks like I gotta call Ed.”
“Who’s Ed?” she asked. “I just want to fix this and get the fuck out of here!”
“Tsk, language,” Randy said, turning the dial on the old black rotary phone on his desk. “Oh hey, Maxine, could you send Ed over this way? Yup, got a situation here. Great. Thanks.” He hung up the phone with a clatter.
“He’s not far from here, Maxine will call him and he’ll be right over.”
“Who the f-.” she paused, blushing at the prior admonishment. Damn him for making her feel 16 again. “…hell is this Ed?”
“He’s the sheriff, ma’am.”