The two lane road seemed to go on forever. As soon as Tom would speed up, another small town would appear, bringing him back to a crawl, and then back to full speed again. He was low on gas and
needed to stop, but even the small town stations had too many eyes. Passer byers impatiently pumping gas and locals sitting on newsstands talking about last night’s football game.
Thirteen hours and six hundred plus miles later and it already seemed like forever ago. No sleep, no food, and not a clue what to do next. It was time to stop.
Pulling into the mom and pop, one pump store, dust filled the air behind him. He opened the door to see the corn fields sprawled out on the other side of the street.
A clerk looked out of the window and waved. Tom ignored him, uncapped the tank and put the hose in the hole. The clerk tapped the window and pointed to the pump. Tom turned and looked at the pump: ‘Must pay before pumping.’
He sighed, left the hose in the car, and slowly walked into the store.
“Howdy stranger,” the middle-aged man behind the counter said. “For a while I didn’t know if I was going to get any business today.”
Tom smiled at him and headed to the snack aisle.
Just shutup and let me get my stuff and leave.
“Been pretty weather we’ve had lately. Usually we have more travelers on a Saturday.”
Tom ignored him, grabbing a bag of chips and a soft drink. He took a deep breath and reached inside the jacket he was wearing for the wallet.
“How much gas you need today?” the clerk asked as Tom opened the wallet.
No cash. Dammit.
“Uh, I guess about thirty bucks worth,” Tom said, fumbling in the wallet, looking for a credit card, trying to hide his hands and wrists as much as possible.
The clerk nodded, rang up the gas, chips and soda. “That’ll be thirty-three thirty-three. Huh, that’s pretty funny,” he said, with a slight chuckle.
Tom tensed. “What’s so funny?”
“The numbers,” the clerk said pointing, “they came up the same at the front and the back.” Tom took another deep breath and leaned in to hand the credit card over. When he did, the light shining through the front door glared off the metal on his wrist, into the clerks eyes.
The clerk squinted and raised his hands to block it. “That’s some bracelet you got there, jeesh.” Tom dropped the card on the counter and quickly put his hands in his pocket.
The clerk took the card and ran it.
The clerk pulled it through the machine again.
The clerk looked at the card and back at Tom. “I’m sorry Mr. Wayne Nelson, but it’s declining your card for some reason. You got another one I can use.”
I need something to eat. I need gas to keep driving. I need something to go my way.
Tom tried to smile it off and thought for a minute, considering the options.
“Look, I’m really sorry mister, it happens sometimes.”
I’m not going back to prison.
There was only one option left. Tom reached into the inside of his jacket, slowly. “I think I might have another card or some money, just one second.”
“Oh, wait,” the clerk said, peering down at the card machine. A strand of yellow paper spit out of the top. “Huh, it worked, how about that. Must be running slow.”
Tom grabbed the food and the card quickly. When he did, the handcuffs that had been cut in half were exposed on his wrist, just briefly. He looked up at the clerk, who was still shaking his head, amazed at the credit card machine.
“Man, it’s never waited that long to run a card. Must be your lucky day, mister.”
“No, it’s yours,” Tom said, and left.
First sentence of this story submitted by Toni S.