My BMW prefers premium gas.
The dilapidated wooden sign said, Gas - two miles. I pulled off the single lane highway and pulled up to the pump. No way this place was going to accept my Visa Card. I had two twenties, enough to get me back to the interstate and civilization.
The woman at the counter looked older than my Aunt Marie, who had died twelve years ago in a horrible city transit bus collision while picking up some dry cleaning for her husband, the night manager at the local Denny’s, the one at the East end of town close to the new Wal-Mart.
An unlit cigarette in a black plastic holder hung from her mouth.
I gave her an uplifted, “Morning, forty dollars, fill her up, please.”
The haggard of a woman, wearing a faded and yellowed sweater with long sleeves, looked at me as if I had leprosy and my body parts were falling onto the filthy linoleum at an alarming rate.From her slurred voice, I noticed an empty bottle of Peach Snaps standing by a half eaten grilled cheese sandwich made with ungrilled white bread, with the crust removed.
She hissed, “Which pump?”
The front window, obstructed by broken down cardboard boxes and a full sized ragged cardboard cutout of Bobby Allison, drinking a Miller High Life revealed one pump. When I pulled up I had failed to see the number four scribbled across the rusted surface with a black magic marker, the type with the wide tip.
I cleared my throat. “Pump number four, please.”
Maybe business had been bad, bad enough to force the cut-rate gas company to cart off the other tree rusted pump.
Grandma Moses held up the bills to the light from one of two burned out fluorescent lights and called out, ”Fill er’ up, pump number four, two good twenties, ” as if she was hollering to the cook, back in the kitchen to grill another freezer burned and bag up an order of cold oil soaked fries - to go.
The courtesy latch, that locks fuel nozzle lever in place, had long been broken off, forcing me to risk a hand cramp holder the lever as forty bucks worth of regular, the single grade they served, dribbled into my tank. I had time for my entire life to march in front of me, in what seemed like real time. I had planned using the station's restroom, while filling up, but I would have to hold it as the dollars and cents creped by. The smell of stale gas enveloped me, most likely delivered near the turn of the century. I studied the discolored gas hose and noticed several jagged lacerations in various locations. I’d never studied the fluid mechanics of flammable gases but I could accurately predict, with no pump shutoff button in sight, in the near future, a giant ball of fire was going to erupt, taking out pump number four and at least half of the rundown gas station. The odds of that old woman surviving were next to nill.
The pump squealed and got my attention as the gallon numbers crawled to a stop and a clunk and a metallic sounding thud rattled the air. I headed towards the restroom for some sanitary and sanity relief. The crapper door was locked, which meant another encounter with the gas attendant from hell.
“Could I get the key to your restroom.”
She had lit her cig and was looking at me as if what body parts remained, impacted the floor, making repugnant squishing sounds. Moments passed. I felt like I was facing down a hard-nosed customs agent who was trying to access if I was a terrorist, a drug smuggler or a not so innocent tourista with devious intentions.
She turned and opened a cage with thick wire. A Pit Bowl growled and sprang from the cage. Attached to its collar, hanging from a three-food lanyard, was a key; obviously the key to my future if I was going to take a healthy dump and a pee.
She threw the leash at me.
I frowned my signature frown. “Damn people, always forgetting to bring the key back. Don’t they know I gotta take a crap.”
I should have been at a loss for words, but I wasn’t. “What’s his name?
She smirked, “That damn no good for nuthin’ mutt aint got a name cause he ain’t a pet. I just call him, Dee-oh-gee.”
I’d never owned a dog so that name was good enough for me. I headed towards the restroom for some much needed sanity relief. I took Dee-oh-gee into the crapper; I didn’t dare risk the dog running off with the key. Why should I be the one to deny the woman of taking an occasional constipated crap? The stench slammed me in the face, indicating the flusher hadn’t worked since the turn of the century. Dee-oh-gee appeared to enjoy the moment. My butt hovered inches above the bowl missing a toilet seat.
Dee-oh-gee's wavering growl and raised lips, revealing yellowed teeth, motivated me to make this the quickest dump and piss in the history of mankind. A thought ran through my mind. What if someone was desperate enough to try and get a vicious watchdog for free, and drove off with Dee-oh-gee? What would the poor woman do, without a pot to piss in?
Of course the sink had been ripped off the wall. I followed the mutt back to the counter. He ran into the cage. The woman was leaning against an ancient double-barreled shotgun like it was a crutch.
Another one of my signature frowns prompted her immediate response. “A while back, a fellow took off with that junk yard dog. While he drove off, two blasts from my grand papey’s gun, caused him to push open his door. Dee-oh-gee hoped out and came running back to his cage.”
I frowned and got into my car. I wondered? Was my beamer going to start with a tank full of foul smelling water diluted fuel? I held my breath and turned the key. The engine whined, rumbled and backfired. The car rocked as an image of black smoke appeared in my rear view mirror.
I pressed the peddle and ran it up to 3,000 rpm and held it there until the car stopped rocking and the smoke dissipated. I put the car in gear. I looked back at the woman standing in the door.
She was giving me the finger while her other hand was on the trigger of the double-barreled shotgun. My head jerked to the back seat, making sure Dee-oh-gee hadn’t snuck into my car.
Flying gravel, a whining engine and a cloud of dust, answered that question. I smiled and decided . . . someday, if I ever get a dog, I’m going to name him anything except, Dee-oh-gee.