Contest #209 shortlist ⭐️

A Stop on the Road to Nowhere

Submitted into Contest #209 in response to: Start your story with someone walking into a gas station.... view prompt

9 comments

Fantasy Science Fiction Suspense

Never buy a junk car. I guess that was my mistake buying a damn Pinto. Thing’s a piece of crap and can’t keep itself together for one damn road trip. I wanna go to California. It’s a whole business, my old man’s been a real piece of work and I’ll leave it at that. Real piece of work. So here I am in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, heading into some ma and pa gas station. Place says 24/7 but I ain’t seeing no lights on. Place says full service but I’m in this damn Pinto for ages, runnin’ outta smokes and no attendant in sight. I honked a couple times and nothing. Real classy. “Full Service” my ass.

Now I’m a big guy, 6’5” to the ladies and 6’6” to the guys at the YMCA, and this damn Pinto is crushing me. Can hardly breathe. I mean I’m practically doing a butterfly with my legs, a full V-split. Put me in the damn Olympics.

So I head in, I’m running outta smokes and this is getting unbearable. Can’t leave on an empty tank anyways. The lights are off but I see the damn cashier at his register. I strut my way on up to the door and work it a couple times to make sure he hears that annoying little bell. I slam it too for good measure. Hopefully now the guy can hear me. It’s not like I haven’t been honking for the past fifteen minutes.

This place is real grim. Again lights are off but then boom this guy decides to scare the ever-living Jesus out of me by flicking the lights on no notice. The things don’t even work well, they’re flickering like broken disco balls. I came here for gas, not a seizure.

Now that the lights are on, the place is a real oddball. Stuff on the shelves I ain’t never seen before. I just don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just some foreign thing, no clue. But the stuff’s real odd. There are beers in the coolers that look like they’re from Mars. And since when did Doritos have so many damn flavors? I’m a little wigged out but I shake it off, I’m just like that. I just came here for smokes and gas, not some hippy-dippy doritos.

Anyway, I head on up to the cashier, little kid, no older than 10, I swear to God. Zits up the wazoo, a brace-face, and four-eyes. Real ladies’ man, I can tell. And this little twerp has the balls to give me a side-eye. Real tough guy but I play it cool.

“A pack of smokes and a full tank of gas.” I grew up in a household of manners but this kid didn’t deserve the “please”. “Full-service”. What a joke. Still bugs me.

Now I’m looking down at my wallet, trying to sort out the bills. I left home in a bit of a hurry so money is a little tight right now but I was able to scrap together a couple bills for $7.

I look up and what do I see? The kid’s looking me up and down like I’m a goddamn martian or something out of The Twilight Zone. Then, of all things, the little twerp asks me, “Can I see your ID, sir?”

“My what?” I’m thinking, what’s this kid’s problem?

“For the cigarettes, sir.”

The kid’s speaking gibberish, I swear.

“What are you a cop or something? You don’t need my damn ID for a couple cigs.”

“It’s just the law, sir.” The kid’s trembling like he’s about to cry, but I’m not gonna have some virgin brat pull my leg.

“Listen, buddy,” I lean in real personal, “I know you don’t want no trouble. Now I’ve been sitting in your damn station outside long enough for Hell to freeze over. I’m tired and I just want some cigs, no trouble.”

The kid gulps. He gulps. Like a damn looney tunes character!

“W-What brand?”

I’m on the verge of hysterical laughter.

“Get me a Marlboro, bud.”

The good kid gets me a pack of Marlboros and lays it on the counter.

“A-anything else, sir.”

As if I haven’t already told the kid.

“Yeah, Einstein, fill ‘er up.” And I jab my thumb toward the window to my Pinto.

I start opening up the Marlboros cause this kid is giving me an ulcer and I light one up while he’s tallying some things up on the register. It wasn’t like any register I’ve ever seen before. It had a bunch of lights and buttons, something sci-fi I swear, but I didn’t think much of it.

The second I get my lighter going, the kid gives me another side-eye. I can't stand it.

“What?” I puff my chest out a little to show the kid who’s still boss.

“N-nothing, sir.” He darted his little eyes back to his register.

“Really? Cause if you got something to say, say it.”

“Well—”

Well,” I said it back to him in his obnoxious little voice.

“Well it's against the law to smoke in gas stations.”

I’ve had it up to here with this kid and his wacky crap. I just laugh it off and light it up. Kid should be grateful I did, too. I have a right to stand up to this wacko crap.

God knows why but the kid’s still tallying something up. I think he might just be an idiot. Explains why they put him on night shift.

Then, he kinda perks up and starts giving my car a couple glances.

“What’s it now?” I ask genuinely irritated.

“Uh, well, uh, that’s a neat little car you got there, sir.”

“Piece of crap is what you mean, kid. My advice, never buy a Pinto.”

“A Pinto?” He had the stupidest expression on his face. Seriously, I’m talking with the village idiot here.

“Yeah, a Pinto, poindexter. Ever heard of it? Ground control to Major Tom, anything working up here?” And I gave him a little tap on the head, it just seemed like he might not know what his damn brain is. Gotta help guys like these out as much as possible. Can’t work their heads too hard.

Kid just looked at his shoes a bit. “Just seems like an old car.”

I can’t help but laugh again. Old? This kid really has no gears turning up in that old head of his. That Pinto, piece of crap as it is, is still fresh off the dealership.

The kid continued, for whatever reason. “I dunno, I heard those Pintos were dangerous or something. Would burn up if they got hit in the back.”

Kid suddenly knows everything. “Can you just tell me the damn total?”

Albert Einstein here then snapped back to reality and looked at his register. “Uh, $55 and change, sir.”

My cigarette drops out of my mouth. Talk about pulling my leg, the kid’s damn near ripping my leg off!

“You think you’re funny?”

The brat is dumbfounded.

“$55, do I look like a Rockefeller?”

Still silent.

“I’ll tell you what. I did some nifty calculations in my head. 36 cents for a gallon of gas. A little less than 13 gallons to fill up my tank. So I’ll be generous here and round that up to about 5 bucks,” I paused. “You keeping up, wise guy?” I didn’t wait for an answer. “Now let's say 50 cents for a pack of Marlboros. What do we get? 5 bucks and 50 cents. But my math could be wrong, taxes and whatnot, so I’ll generously round up to 7 bucks.” I put the seven bucks on the counter. “And consider any payment I might have missed a little favor from you to me for me not beating your ass.” I gave the guy a little smile to lighten the mood and patted his head. “Got it, kid?”

I wasn’t gonna take his crap any longer so I up and left.

The kid finally had a good thought for once and actually opened the pump. For that I gave him a good old smile and a wave. But all I got back is the kid looking at me all shivery and pale-faced like I was a ghost or something. Real polite.

“Screw him,” I said and crammed back into my Pinto.

I lit up another cig and got back onto the road.

I’m only a couple miles down from the gas station and I see headlights coming up behind me. Guy comes up easily going 120 in a 50 and starts tailgating me. What a night. Just what I need. Wouldn’t ya know, the guy even starts kissing my bumper. “Goddamn!” I flip him the bird but he keeps it up.

BANG! A deer darts out of nowhere, I slam my brakes, and I feel my back break or something. I can’t see anything. I open my eyes and there’s nothing but red and orange. It swirled and writhed but I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything. Then, in an instant, there was just black.

So anyways a couple miles down the road I check my fuel gauge and it says I’m close to empty. Damn Pintos. Always something up with them.

Never buy a junk car. I guess that was my mistake buying a damn Pinto. Thing’s a piece of crap and can’t keep itself together for one damn road trip. I wanna go to California. It’s a whole business, my old man’s been a real piece of work and I’ll leave it at that. Real piece of work. So here I am in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, heading into some ma and pa gas station. Place says 24/7 but I ain’t seeing no lights on. Place says full service but I’m in this damn Pinto for ages, runnin’ outta smokes and no attendant in sight. I honked a couple times and nothing. Real classy. “Full Service” my ass.

July 31, 2023 02:49

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9 comments

Amanda Lieser
18:12 Sep 14, 2023

Hi Treva! Congratulations on the shortlist! This is definitely a piece that I wanted to read and then re-read again so I could pick up on all the little details. I thought it was absolutely thrilling the way that you manage to pack so much into the piece I am the time travel bit was particularly exciting. Nice job!!

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06:32 Aug 17, 2023

Real thriller right here. Shot my nerves to the core. Great work Treva👏👏

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Story Time
16:22 Aug 15, 2023

As someone who has always driven junk cars, this one pulled me in quick. Congratulations on shortlist-ing.

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:26 Aug 13, 2023

A submission, a mention. Congrats and welcome here.

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Mary Bendickson
16:47 Aug 11, 2023

Great first entry and welcome to Reedsy Congrats on shortlist.🥳🎉

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Heather OMara
20:24 Aug 07, 2023

I loved the hook and the ending was fabulous!

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Arizain St Paul
17:33 Aug 07, 2023

Wow. Reading the last 2 paragraphs gave me chills when I realized. Great story

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18:44 Aug 06, 2023

Cool story Treva. Dead and a ghost and also stuck in a time loop. Ouch. That sucks! 😬

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Jeannette Miller
19:13 Aug 05, 2023

Treva, A little time loop nightmare... Well done. I like I can assume there must be something else about the main character we don't know other than his height based on the response from the kid behind the counter. I love the tone of this guy and the casual language of the story. Feels like he's sitting next to me, telling me the story. Good take on the prompt. A solid first submission. Welcome to Reedsy :) A couple of small things. A comma after the first word in the second paragraph "Now, I'm a..." keeps it descriptive whereas no comma imp...

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