Contest #209 shortlist ⭐️


American Crime


The young man, hot and sweaty, walked back into the gas station; his denim shirt, jeans and cowboy boots speckled with the desert dust.

“Hell, how long’s this fella gonna be?”

Gerry, the elderly gas station attendant, sat on a stool behind the shop counter, thumbing through an auto trader magazine and looked up witheringly at the young upstart who’d asked him the same question several times already in the less than one hour since he’d pulled in to the forecourt.

“Jed’ll be here when he gets here”, the old timer replied, with all the patience he could muster.

Looking all around the interior of the gas station, the young fella could not disguise his disdain.

“Damn what kinda store is this, anyhows?’

Once again, displaying creditable restraint, a note of sarcasm beginning to creep into his voice, the attendant answered.

‘It’s an auto stop, son…which is why you stopped here with your automobile”.

The young man, a mere boy, looked closely at Gerry, unsure, if he was being mocked or not.

“Just -you don’t sell nothing worth buying, ’s’all I’m saying. You don’t got no titty magazines, for one. They could bring you in a lot o’ money. People like titty magazines”.

‘I don’t hold with that kinda thing”.

“You don’t like titties? Hell, ever’body likes titties”.

Showing immeasurable patience, the attendant pressed his lips tightly together and kept his counsel.

“What about that there pie warmer? You only got two pies in it. Not much variety, is there? You figure you’ll only sell two pies today?”

“I don’t aim to sell any pies, today. Them’s for our supper; Jed and me”.

“What if I wanna pie? One o’ you boys gonna go hungry, he, he?”

Do you wanna pie?”

“Hell, no. I wanna get outa here’s what I want, mister. That fella gonna be long?”

Exasperated, Gerry picked up his walkie talkie and twiddled with the knob, the sound of crackling static filling the store.

“That you, Jed? This fella’s driving me crazy-asking when you’re gonna be here. You be much longer?”

“Tell that fucker that I’ll be there when I get there”, Jed’s disgruntled voice responded, his annoyance evident despite the hissing, atmospheric interference.

“I already told ‘im that…several times”.

“Hey, I heard that. Ain’t no call to call me a fucker. Who’s he think he is anyhows?”

Gerry shut off the walkie talkie before the young man could hear Jed tell him exactly who he thought he was.

“He’ll be along shortly”.

This young man was clearly desperate to be on his way but, until his tyre and wheel was changed, there was nothing he could do. He fumed inwardly, a sudden thought occurring to him.

“Hey, how come we gotta wait for this guy, Jed? Why can’t you change the tyre, mister?”

“Because I don’t have a tyre nor a wheel to match your car is why. Jed’ll be fetching both shortly from San Ysidro”.

Unable to keep still, the young man walked out onto the forecourt where his car was parked, one front tyre deflated, the wheel buckled; the desert wind swirling dust and sagebrush all around. Moving to the trunk, he extracted a bag, looked back at the store to make sure he wasn’t being watched and deposited the bag on the rear seat of the car. Then, kneeling down, he began to check his damaged tyre and appeared to have solved the riddle of why he had suddenly developed this flat, just a mile from the gas station, on his way to the Mexican border. Inside the store, his back turned, Gerry carefully observed everything, the young man’s movements reflected in the shiny surface of the pie warmer as he rose and stared at the several dark objects held in his hand. Angrily, he strode back towards the shop.

“Damn tacks. Look at this. There’s a dozen or so in my tyre. Somebody wanted me to get a damn flat”.

Gerry ignored this outburst.

“You hear me, mister? Some damn fool put these tacks on the road deliberately”.

“The only fool is you, boy, for driving on the damaged tyre. You screwed up your wheel that way”.

“Hell, mister, what was I supposed to do; stay stranded out there in the desert? I gotta get moving. I got places to be. Who the hell is this Jed fella, anyhows?”

“Jed’s my cousin and my partner in this business”.

“Business? How in hell you figure this dump is a business? You make any money, fella? You don’t sell anything worth shit. You ain’t got no spare tyres, for one, and I ain’t seen a single other vehicle pass this way since I got here”.

“Son, you are starting to get my goat. My advice is to just shut your mouth if’n you want that new tyre and wheel. I don’t need to help you. You best remember that”.

The young man understood that he was between a rock and a hard place and had better keep quiet and, for a blessed few minutes, Gerry had peace and quiet.

“Say, mister, you got a toilet, here?”

“Restroom’s out the back. You’ll need the key”.

He reached back behind the counter and took a key from a hook and threw it to the young man. Attached to the key ring was a fluffy rabbit’s paw.

“What the hell’s that? That real? Hey, you know how many germs and bacteria a thing like this can hold?”

‘Best you hurry up and use the restroom afore Jed gets here, boy. If’n you ain’t here, he’s apt to drive away again”.

The young man rushed from the shop. As he did so, Gerry, his dexterity belying his age, moved swiftly outside to the car, opened the rear door and checked the contents of the bag he’d seen the fella take from the trunk.

“Thought so. No wonder he’s so fidgety to be on his way”.

Quickly, he returned to the shop. As he did so, he saw the red dot of Jed’s pickup truck approaching in the distance.

Oblivious, the young whippersnapper came back inside from the restroom and placed the key on the counter, at the same time wriggling his nose in disgust at the rabbit paw.

“Son, 2000 Chevy Silverado 1500, reckon your car’s worth ‘bout eighteen grand and change. That sound ‘bout right?’

“What’s it to you, old timer? Anyhows, it’ll be worth a lot more once I get across the border and get me some mag wheels. Yessir!”

With a squeal of tyres, dust being scattered everywhere, the red pick up truck pulled to a stop in the forecourt.

“Son, you ain’t going ‘cross no border”.

The young man looked at Gerry as if he was crazy.

“What in hell you talking ‘bout, mister?’

“You asked me how we, me and Jed, made money here; in our business. This is how, son. We take cars from fools like you and we sell ‘em”

“What the fuck! You sure ain’t selling my car…”

The shop door swung open, bell tinkling, and Jed, a tall, angry, elderly bear of a man, rushed in and headed straight towards the young man, menacingly. As the boy, instinctively, reached for the gun in his back pocket, Jed placed the captive cattle bolt gun directly against the boy’s head and pulled the trigger sending the bolt directly into the young man’s brain.

As he dragged the boy, feet first, from the shop, he looked at his cousin who followed him out.

“Figure I’ll stick this one same place as the last one. Then I’ll be back for the car”.

‘Okay, there’s a bag in the back. Drugs and ‘bout twenty grand in cash. This fella had obviously stolen it and wanted ‘cross that border real bad”.

Jed grunted with the effort of dragging the boy’s body across the forecourt and hoisting it into the back of his pickup.

“What’s for supper? And don’t tell me it’s damn pie again!”

July 29, 2023 19:24

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Amanda Lieser
18:04 Sep 14, 2023

Hi Charles! Congratulations on the shortlist! I loved that this piece felt so very realistic with the incredible dialogue that you chose. I thought that you nailed it beautifully while ensuring that we still had plenty of story to enjoy. The twist was a surprise, but I could tell that something wasn’t quite right from the very first sentence. Nice work!!


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Story Time
16:08 Aug 17, 2023

The dialogue here really pops. Good job on the shortlist.


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Philip Ebuluofor
17:38 Aug 13, 2023

Funny fellas. Congrats.


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Karen Corr
10:46 Aug 09, 2023

Great writing! I knew something was coming. I just didn’t know what.


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Lily Rama
15:47 Aug 05, 2023

Wow. This is amazing! The ending, especially was phenomenal. I love how you never knew what was going happen next--you just had to keep reading. The dialogue was well written, I felt like I could hear the characters' country accents as if they were sitting right next to me. If it is okay if I give a little constructive criticism, I think if you were to have thrown more hints in about how it was going to end, it would've been even better than it is now. Amazing job, keep writing!


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Mary Bendickson
21:41 Jul 29, 2023

Quite the business. Congrats 👏 🎉 on shortlist. Quite the kudos! 🥳


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