Issue #11

The Man Behind the Gas Station Counter

What a strange six months it had been! And now it was Christmas morning, back at the family home, up early and out of the house, just myself alone in the years-later vacancy, the old streets. Air like a spent avalanche, a slackwater of time. Night wasn't ended—merely bleached.
You begin to doubt yourself, sitting at a computer all day, looking at numbers which tell you a line is being gouged from the Gulf of Mexico right up to Canada, through forests where you are not, under mountains where you are not. To leave at lunch and spend thirty minutes walking the bank becomes a kind of confrontation. Here is the river, moving, and you beside it likewise—and you must choose between your moving self here and your still self sat lustily inside.
I drove along Main Street, past filthy squirts of three- week snow, to the gas station by the highway exit. The plan was to buy a few more gifts for my mother's stocking, something I had put off for no reason. The man behind the counter acted uninvolved as I paid for the Life Savers, pistachios and scented trees which I hoped would not look too obviously like a gas station purchase when she opened them later that morning. I pocketed my change. The coffee here was fresh, the sunglasses were inexpensive. The man behind the counter did not look like the Christmas type, a type which I—despite this morning's poor performance— considered myself to be.
Everything outside was tooth color. I sat in the car a minute, wondering how best to frame this as the loving gesture it was.
A few cars made for the highway.
There is another story I could tell you, about another Christmas morning up early and alone, when I met a coyote in the woods and couldn't say whether I was boxed by windows or mirrors. But that is a story I understand.

David Troupes