17 February 2006

Last Gas Station on Earth


I was re-reading some older stuff today and it occurred to me that there are some pieces my newer readers probably haven't seen. Apologies to those who probably know this and the next two by heart but I reckoned they just about deserve another outing...

The Pontiac thumped over a pothole and Frank watched the fuel gauge lift then settle on 'Empty' again. "Fuck it," he breathed and hit the steering wheel hard. They had passed a Texaco 10 miles back and were now running on vapour. "Look," cried Paula, "Gas ahead!" She launched her finger toward a run-down gas station and general store in the distance.

Frank pulled onto the cracked cement beside a solitary ancient pump. Is that gas or paraffin he wondered. His gaze took in the peeling paint, ice machine and an ages old Coca Cola sign hanging by one screw. "Stay here Paula." He shut the car door slowly and stepped past a deck chair faded and stained with age. Through the window past the hand-written 'Open' sign he could make out an old boy, a wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek.

A bell clanged loudly as he pushed the door and somewhere out back a dog started barking gruffly and ominously. The skeletal figure waved a thin hand and in a barely intelligible accent rattled, "If it's gas you want, go through and talk to Billy." A fly buzzed in Frank's ear and he slapped it away as he nodded, "Thanks."

In the back sat Billy and three friends grinning with menace. A rotting Plymouth Fury sitting up on bricks was visible in the back yard and a German Shepherd sat in its shade, tongue out panting. Frank thought of Paula sitting in the Pontiac holding the battery powered fan to her pretty face.

Suddenly Billy shrieked, "It's party time!" His pals stood up, chair legs scraping on the bare wood floor. Frank turned and saw his way back blocked by the muzzle of a 12-bore shot gun in the hands of the old boy. As his eyes darted frantically for another exit he heard Paula shouting. The shout became a siren winding up to full scream. Then silence.

"You fucking bastards! What have you done?" The gun barrel pushed closer and touched his temple. Frank screwed his eyes shut and a sharp metallic click rang out. When Frank opened them Paula was sitting in the passenger seat of the Pontiac lighting a cigarette and smiling. "Wake up hon', rest over. We need to drive on and get that gas now or we ain't never gonna make it to Huntsville!"

18 comments:

finnegan said...

This one I remember well, old boy. I remember getting a "Deliverance" buzz from it the first time round. This time it put me in mind of "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce

Just download the PDF to your desktop, where you can adjust the text size.

boulies said...

I'm so glad you decided to repost this, otherwise I'd me missing out on this great tale. It feels like such an American back woods country scene. Really scary and the ending really took me by surprise. Incredibly well written. Really great!

Perfect Virgo said...

Finn - thought you would. By the way talking of films I watched Short Cuts last week. Initially I wondered about the point of it but soon realised the lack of beginning and ending mirrored life itself. It lodged under my skin and resurfaced in my mind a lot. It is a very astute observation on human relationships, one I could watch again.

Boulies - this was inspired by a holiday I took in the USA last year. Alabama seems to have it's fair share of these fearsome outposts. There are a couple of other interesting tales I will re-post while I am taking something of a short break. As readership changes and evolves there is a temptation to dredge up older things for the newcomers to see. I suppose the trick is to leave it so long the original readers don't remember. Trouble is Finn seems to have a LONG memory!!

Queen Neetee said...

This is soooo good. It scared me to death. I've seen those gas stations and I didn't have to guess about the fear. You nailed it. Oh my goodness! You really had me going! The whole piece is great!

Thanks for reposting this one.

Perfect Virgo said...

Neetee - I'm glad you think I captured the fear. We saw lots like this one in Alabama last year although I made sure there was NO NEED to stop!

Queen Neetee said...

Of all places, why in the world Alabama? Just curious. I know there's some beautiful greenery there but...why?

Perfect Virgo said...

Neetee - we leave the UK in search of warmth and normally go to Florida. Last year I couldn't get flights to anywhere in Florida so I had to settle for Atlanta GA as a starting point and turned the vacation into a 2500 mile road trip of 4 southern states. Alabama struck me as quiet peaceful and very rural. (And slightly scary!) There are dozens of photos sorted by category in the April Archives of Through the Lens.

This year I am having the new bike but we'll see what pennies are left :)

Cocaine Jesus said...

excellent. had me captured hook, line and sinker. i read it with increasing speed expecting paula to end up being raped and the main character mutilated. pow! brilliant ending!

sirreene said...

PV ~ remind me never to plan to "holiday" with you.
Do you have nightmares?

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - I think I've watched too many images of back woods goings-on!

Sirreene - ... I have packed my case and was just about to suggest a short break somewhere in the hills... are you saying I should unpack? :)

Yep, I have nightmares.

just sayin' said...

i remember this one. made me homesick. may i suggest you tour the carolinas on yer next usa visit.

Perfect Virgo said...

Morgan - as a virgo creature of habit I need to force my self to try somewhere new. This year I may get over at Easter but failing that it will be October-ish.

Cocaine Jesus said...

i can hear the banjo's a playing.
is that cousin reetus over there in the barn with his sister? shucks pa, how come my ma is your ma?

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - yes siree there's some strange goin's on in them thar hills for sure!

superflywebpimp said...

have you gone off and gotten yourself a new rocket cycle? i'm still waiting for the weather to warm up. been snowing here lately. getting tired of going into the garage and sitting on the bike, trying very hard to imagine the rumble and road in my head. thats enough, too cold in here.

Perfect Virgo said...

Superfly - a welcome return sir! As you can see from the startling picture below I tested the R1 recently and now I have one on order for 1st March. Watch this space! The weather here also is cold and slippery but at least we hardly ever get snow. Nonetheless I will be venturing out only on the 600 until warmer days are here.

NMAMFQLMSH said...

I'm a city girl. Born and raised. I will never forget landing in SC and driving to my brother's house. There were little kids with shotguns on their backs. My eyes must of went wide....my brother is like, "Everyone has one down here!" Well, if you walked around with a shotgun on your back here...well, everyone would be diving for cover.
I see you,
JJ

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - I was born a city boy too but I'm semi-rural now. Nonetheless we don't have guns openly on show over here. Scary isn't it.