I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding Regular to the tank when….
I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding regular to the tank when I remembered that summer day, back in 1966, when I could fill up my tank for what the first gallon I just pumped cost; when gas wars were between stations and not nations; and when rubbing two quarters together in my pocket meant I had enough money for a burger and a shake. Or a quart of beer.
At seventeen cents a gallon, even on a student’s stipend from home and part time work while in college, I could cruise the A & W Drive Inn. A tank of gas lasted a week, unless there was a road trip involved. Unlike the road trips of my youth, yesterday’s road trip was to the office, where my life was measured in quotas from the production department, and not quotations from freshman English class, thoughtful words offered to spark my creativity and fuel my dreams.
So here I sit at the end of today’s road trip, not in my usual parking spot in front of my former employer, but in front of an abandoned A & W Root Beer drive-in. I made it five hundred miles on yesterday’s tank, driving generally in a westerly direction. The first fourteen took me past my office, and the next 476 to this town who’s name I haven’t yet learned. It’s not important.
The sign on the broken window gives a real estate agent’s name and number, and states the property is for sale. A faded sign quotes a nearly forgotten slogan, “That frosty mug sensation.” I jot the number on my hand and turn toward a motel’s blinking neon sign offering “Free HBO”. I hope root beer stands don’t have quotas.
Jeff, I love this road trip tale. it bring back such good memories and is also filled with such hope. I do enjoy your writing so much. thanks
I like this. Reminds me the old A&W in Anchorage, owned by a high school classmate’s father. Lots of memories evoked here.
I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding regular to the tank when I finally decided to take action to secure my financial future. I have had a less than stellar career in Waste Management. I started as a Garbage Truck driver and made great money for the short hours of work required each day. There was no stress, except when the weather was unforgiving and I enjoyed the people on my route. My big mistake came when the corporate suits offered me a chance to move up the ladder of success. Long story, short, I lost my shirt in a landfill. The only redeeming aspect of the landfill debacle was a mild back injury that allowed me to collect Social Security Disability for the rest of my days. Not a bad deal for a single 30 year-old with a receding hairline. I thought I would be set for life, until my first benefit check came. It was only $1,200.00 per month. Who can live on that? Shoot, my cable bill is more than half that amount. How can they expect me get by on $1,200.00 per month. Obviously I needed to find an additional source of income if I was going to be able to live in the manner to which I had become accustomed.
The answer came to me last night while I was watching Swamp People. A commercial came on that seemed to be directed solely at me.
ATTENTION ALL PATIENTS WHO HAVE TAKEN THE MEDICATION…..
If you have been diagnosed with;
You may be entitled to a cash settlement.
Call the Law Firm of: Billmore and Lytell at your earliest convenience to join the class action suite. Time is of the essence in this very sensitive matter.
Call us and we will set you up for life.
I made up my mind, right then and there, while I was pumping Ethel…I’m calling those guys first thing in the morning and hopefully get exactly what I deserve.
Personally, I’d have thought that watching TV while pumping Ethel was kinda rude. Unless she was chewing gum and filing her nails at the time.
Oh, you naughty boy.
Fig, you and Gullie just ain’t right in the head !
Psst, Peanut. I think the word you wanted was “ethyl.” And you’re right about our heads.
You have a gift for making up names–Billmore and Lytell–that reminds me of J.K.Rowling. That’s half the fun of reading Harry Potter.
From somewhere I am reminded of a similar firm, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe,
I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding Regular to the tank when my Iphone began playing Fur Elise, the Beethoven piece that helped me fall in love with my darling wife. She used to play it for me on her mother’s fake Steinway baby grand. As I pulled the phone from my shirt pocket, a small spark of static electricity jumped between it and my earlobe. Just enough to ignite the fumes near the gas caaaaaaaaaap.
Oh my goodness…what a sweet beginning and what an explosive end.
Yep. I think about that every time I see folks filling their gas tanks and yakking on the phone. Nice one.
Something I wrote last February, which I shall affectionately anoint an Oldie but Goodie:
I stand in the afternoon sunshine, eyes closed, jacket unzipped, no hat or gloves. In my heart, there dances a chimera.
With the rays of the sun warming my face, I am almost beguiled into believing that winter is soon over, is almost a season well on the way to being chased out of town by the lengthening daylight and the rising temperatures of spring.
Reality clamors for attention in a more sensible part of my brain, but I ignore it until the loud click of the gas nozzle indicates my truck is full. That rude interruption into my fantasy brings me back to the Costco gas station in Anchorage, the reality of $3.50 a gallon gasoline, and that the day is February 7 in Alaska. February, mind you. In Alaska, I repeat.
I replace the nozzle and the gas cap and look around the parking lot. Everywhere I look, Alaskans are acting like it’s spring. No one wears hats or gloves. Jackets and coats are unzipped. Chimeras can’t be seen but I’m guessing there are many hanging out in this snow covered lot today, all working their way into receptive and willing hearts and minds.
The temperature? In the high twenties.
We aren’t out of this yet, I remind myself as I pull the receipt out of the slot and look at the total.
Seven more weeks in which the temperature can easily slide way below zero, seven more weeks in which several feet of snow can fall, seven more weeks of winter. April?
April’s a crap shoot.
One never knows what April can bring. It can be gentle; it can be ferocious. Or, as Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” That’s April. Schizophrenia in nature. The only sure thing about April is that in thirty days it will be May, and May is much more reliable.
The drive into Anchorage was reality itself. In the space of five miles along Turnagain Arm, there wass one vehicle sideways in a snow bank, and holes where five others had been. Black ice coats the asphalt, invisible ice formed by sudden warm temperatures after weeks of below zero cold. I switch to four-wheel drive for better steering and braking.
The chimera refuses to leave. It dances over my shoulder like a sun dog as I drive through Anchorage to the far side of town. All the errands on my long list are crossed off, all but the most important: Visiting a housebound friend, and delivering groceries and a prescription to her.
She greets me at the door with a hug and I watch her walk back into her condo living room. She walks better than she has in more than a year. Four weeks after hip replacement surgery, four weeks after banishing horrendous pain from her body, and she walks with confidence. Her voice is free of the pain, her face is free of the pain, her body is free of the pain.
She is a new person and one with a bright future. I leave the springtime chimera with her, where it belongs, and drive home to Moose Pass.
Did I post this here before? It’s been around–on my blog, on the Elder Storytelling Place, published in Alaska Women Speak. Losing track.
Gullie, I’m not sure where I read this before as I follow you on your blog and Elder Storytelling, but it certainly deserves a second if not third read. Classics never get old..
Some really nice emotions and visuals here!
I might never know what caused me to turn around at the exact moment I did. Perhaps it was a moment of perfect serendipity, or maybe it was simply a coincidence, though I, with a wide vein of the romantic in my heart, find serendipity a more palatable explanation, coincidence being just too cold and distant for my tastes.
Sometime in the future I might be lying awake at 2 a.m., trying to figure it all out, and reach a point where “By George, I think I’ve got it,” and thank you very much Professor Higgins. But those early morning epiphanies have a way of growing wearisome after a while, as if the night-time devils were at play with your mind, leading you down some fantastical garden path of neo-understanding until one morning you wake up and wonder what on earth you’d been thinking when you told everyone who’d listen about that flash of purest reason and logic, neither of which have ever been your strong suit.
All I know for certain is that one minute I was filling the car with regular at a gas station I’d never stopped at before, and the next? Well, the next I was looking into the darkest eyes I’d ever seen, powerless to break away, even after that loud click signaled to all that the tank was full. No, I’d stood there like I was turned to stone—warm-blooded stone, though. Very, very warm-blooded stone.
Coffee? Yes, I’d like that. Kaladi Brothers? I’ll meet you there.
The coffee shop was close enough to walk to, but I chose to drive so I’d have my vehicle in case I needed to get away quickly or follow him wherever. I’ll admit I was still hypnotized by those eyes as I pulled into traffic and headed for the Kaladi Brothers parking lot. What came over me in the next block is what I lie awake nights pondering.
I was thinking about those eyes, just day-dreaming about losing myself in them during pillow talk, when I drove right on past the coffee shop, never slowed a bit, just kept right on going until I was out of town and on the long highway headed home, away from dark eyes and entanglements and broken hearts and memories of other dark eyes that had pinned my heart to his eternally.
Gullible – i truly liked this. I am a fan of long sentences which wrap my mind with both image and emotion, like the tendrils of a vine clinging to whatever hope it can find, pulling itself upward and higher for a better glimpse of life itself.
I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding Regular to the tank when I noticed the metal plate riveted to the frame just above the fuel cap. It said, “M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, Use only JP8 Fuel.” I thought I was being thrifty using Regular. Go figure.
I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding Regular to the tank, hoping it’d be enough to take me somewhere I’d be able to avoid the effects of Global Warming caused by so many people burning fossil fuels.
I was standing at the gas pump yesterday, adding Regular to the tank when I saw the dog. She trotted around the back end of my truck, sat down on the other side of the hose and gave me the look. She was young, clean and her appearance mesmerized me. Her brown eyes appeared to sparkle from a spattering of light blue chips. Her merle coloring with copper highlights on her face enhanced those eyes. A ribbon of white fur ran from the patch on top of her head, between those eyes, to her full white muzzle.
The loud clank from the nozzle shutting off jolted me from our connection, she didn’t appear to notice, she kept watching me. I removed the nozzle and replaced it in the pump, screwed my gas cap back on and secured the little door. She sat there and watched me the entire time.
“So, what cha doin’?” I asked her.
Her lips parted and she gave me a small smile, then started panting very slowly.
That made me smile, so I tried my best line, “Do you come here often?”
No answer, but she did cock her head sideways and stopped panting.
“Is that your dog?” The proprietor had come out of the office.
“No,” I said, “she just came over to say hi.”
“She’s been hanging around since this morning. She won’t let anyone near her and she hasn’t gone near anyone else, so I thought she might be yours.”
“Nope, but she is a cutie.”
I turned back to her; she was still waiting and watching me. I squatted down, still keeping my distance, and asked her, “Are you friendly?”
She offered me her right paw. It was white, like the rest of her feet, and delicate.
I reached out and took it, being as gentle as she looked. “Nice to meet you, I’m Marty.” I released her paw.
“She’s wearing a collar,” I called out to the owner. It hung loosely around her neck; a blue plastic tag with lettering was attached.
“Can I read your tag?” I asked her.
She scooted closer to me, stretched out and gave me a light kiss on the corner of my mouth. She sat down with her tag now in easy reach.
I grasped the tag, turned it and read aloud, “I AM YOURS.”
She woofed at me in agreement. I felt a big grin break out on my face. I stood up and opened the door of my truck, “Okay, if that’s what you want, load up.”
She leaped, light as a feather, up into the driver’s seat, hopped across to the passenger seat and sat down, looking like she owned the place.
I waved over to the owner, “Yeah, she is my dog, I just didn’t know.”
He looked disgusted, flapped his hand in our direction and stalked back into his office.
.sweet story. A similar thing happened with the dog in my avatar pic.
What a fine tale. It makes me wish life was so right, so fitting. I’m a great fan of happy endings, and this is one of the happiest I’ve read. Loved the collar.
Thanks Ann. If you can’t tell, I’m a dog person. BTW, I’m the PAT in your current BWW class, if case you couldn’t tell.
So this is where your story was hiding PAT! Well done. 🙂
Thanks Lanyn! Good to see you here. My guess is Ann won’t be here while she works through the 80 or so final creative writings from our class.
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So, it’s taken me over three years to complete the novel that sprang from this writing prompt. ‘Dog Tags’ will be sent out for beta reading at the end of the month:
Marty, a wounded veteran suffering from PTSD, meets a special dog, with a special tag, that helps him recover and discover the family he didn’t know existed.
Wow… this was the class that really gave me a start.
How exciting! I love success stories.
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by Ann Linquist
Available in paperback or on Kindle