Rest stop


He pulled into the gas station, the first one he’d seen along miles of interstate highway. He cursed silently as he noticed the pumps didn’t take credit cards, remembering the old-fashioned mechanical gauges that spun round with each tenth of a cent.

He popped off the gas cap and prepared to fill ’er up. Soon he’d be home for good, college behind him and the future ahead.

The sweat began to form on his brow as soon as he had stepped outside the brown ’88 Olds. Through the windows, piles of dirty clothes thrown in dented plastic milk crates filled the inside.

His ass hurt from the long driving sessions. He squinted in the June sunshine. Looking around, the station was dirty, cracking under years of use and neglect. It seemed like the last outpost on Earth, abandoned, lonely.

The dials slowly turned, tallying the gallons and dollars and cents and fractions thereof.

The tires looked a little low on air, but he didn’t bother to check them. He’d be home by nightfall, and the tire gauge was likely hiding under unsold unread textbooks on the floor of the back seat.

The day before was a blur of goodbyes and packing and tossed caps. He had made it, he had graduated, but barely.

Now he was speeding back to his little hometown with big plans. Get in touch with the guys, go drinking, hang out at the pool. And then … and then …

Well, he’d have to get a job, of course. That part would work itself out, even he wasn’t big on the whole corporate sellout deal.

The pump stuttered in his hand, and he nudged the dials closer and closer to $15.00 exactly. $14.97. $14.99. $15.00. $15.01.


Inside, he woke the attendant in the grease-stained jumpsuit to run his credit card. He took a Gatorade from the cooler and a bag of chips to the counter. The guy behind the counter handed him the receipt and carbon, not bothering to get a signature or even look up.

Back in the car, he fired up the A/C, such that it was, and opened the bottle for a hearty swig.

He looked for the way back to the interstate. The road shimmered before him.


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