Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Pumping Gas"That'll be $37.52, sir."
Horace's hand, which had already half removed the credit card from his wallet, stopped abruptly. Horace looked up at the young cashier, dismayed.
Unshaven, greasy haired, with half-closed eyes, the cashier looked like more like a zombie than a living human being. Horace wondered when the boy had last slept, last bathed, last shaved.
"I bought a bag of chips and a soda," Horace protested.
"And gasoline. Pump Three."
Horace glanced out the window at a dark blue mini-van parked out fron. It was the only vehicle near the pumps.
"That's not my vehicle."
"I watched you stand out there and pump gas into it." The boy's eyes were now a little wider open; he sensed a fight, and was drawing on unexpected stores of adrenaline to wake himself.
Horace glared. "I most certainly did not," he said.
"Ain't no one else in the store, sir."
Horace looked around. It was true. There was no one in sight, which was unusual for such a large and successful variety store. He was beginning to feel like he was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, or maybe Candid Camera.
"Is this a joke?" he demanded.
The boy's eyes narrowed back to tiny slits, but now he looked more suspicious than sleepy. "Well I ain't joking," he said.
Horace looked around the store again. "Anyone in your restroom?" he asked.
The boy shook his head. "We don't got a restroom."
Horace shrugged. "Well, it's not my car, not my gas, and I'm not paying for it."
The boy pondered this for a moment. He couldn't remember anything in his training about a customer refusing to pay. "I'll need to call the manager," he said.
"Fine. You two have a nice chat. While you're at it, you can put these back on the shelf, because I'm not buying them here." He slammed his snack food onto the counter hard enough to crush most of the potato chips.
Without another word he stomped out of the store and around to the side parking lot. He stopped. He stared.
"Hey! Where's my car?"
Calling 9-1-1"Back already?" the cashier asked.
Horace glared at him. "I need to use your phone," he said.
"Phone ain't for customers to use," the boy said. His tone of voice and the crooked smile on his face were both smug.
"I need to call 9-1-1," Horace said.
Horace almost said "Someone stole my car," but then he pictured the squinty-eyed look of suspicion that he would receive, and he heard in his mind the boy's response: Looks to me like your van's sitting right out there by the pump.
With only a momentary pause, Horace answered, "Because I have an emergency. Why else do people call 9-1-1?"
"Maybe you should pay your bill first, 'fore you use the phone."
Horace's face began to redden with anger. "What part of 'emergency' don't you understand?" he demanded. "Do you have any idea what repercussions you'll face if you don't let me use the phone in an emergency?"
The boy shrugged, and pointed at a phone just around the edge of the counter.
Horace picked up the phone and dialed.
"9-1-1, please state your emergency."
Horace glanced at the boy, who was staring at him intently, and undoubtedly listening to hear the nature of his emergency.
Horace pressed the phone close his mouth and whispered, "Someone stole my car."
"I'm sorry sir, could you repeat that?"
Horace repeated himself, still in a hoarse whisper. Now the blood rushing to his head was from embarassment as well as anger.
"Sir, I can't hear you. Are you unable to speak freely? Are you under duress?"
Horace sighed, then said aloud, "Someone has stolen my car."
As Horace gave the emergency operator his location, the stare from the boy behind the counter doubled in both intensity and suspicion. When he hung up, the boy said, "You can get in lots of trouble for prank calling 9-1-1."
"You know that from personal experience, you smug little rodent?"
"I'm just sayin'," the boy replied.
"Well how about you don't say, and just shut up."
He stood by door, waiting for the police to arrive. The cashier never took his eyes off him. After five minutes of waiting and silent staring, the boy broke the silence: "You smashed all the chips in this bag."
Horace looked at the bag of chips he was holding, and decided to wait outside. Standing out in the sub-zero temperatures of mid-February couldn't possibly be worse than this.
Officer Porter Arrives on the SceneHorace rubbed his hands together, then rubbed them against his ears, which were starting to feel like they had been lit on fire, they were so cold. Then he put his hands in his pockets and curled the fingers into fists, to hold onto his body heat as long as possible. On second thought, he considered, maybe the sub-zero temperatures could be worse than being inside with the irritating, greasy cashier.
But he'd already gone back into the store once, and he was determined not to go back in again.
After stamping his feet against the ground, several times, Horace stomped on one foot with the other, too see if there was any feeling in the toes. Five minutes into that pathetic game, a police cruiser drove into the parking lot. Horace waited for the officer to park, and then walked up to his driver-side door.
"Good morning, officer," he said, as the man rolled down his window.
"Are you Horace Mullins?" the officer, whose tag read "Porter", asked.
Officer Porter rolled the window back up, then stepped out of the cruiser. "And your car was stolen. Make? Model? License?"
Horace rattled off all the information he could remember about his car; a 1992 Ford Taurus, dark red, and a license plate number that ended in '7KT'.
Porter jotted down all this information, then asked, "Did you leave the keys in the car?"
"No sir. I always keep my keys with me. I went inside, was in there for maybe five minutes, and then when I came back out, the car was gone." He pointed at the parking space two slots down from the cruiser. "That's where it was parked."
The officer looked behind him, where Horace was pointing, then at the convenience store entrance. There was no possible line of sight from inside the store to that section of the parking lot. "Couldn't possible see what happened from inside, could you?"
"Hmm. Well, the place looks pretty deserted. Just that minivan at the pump. Maybe the owner saw what happened."
Horace shook his head. "We can't find the owner of that van," he said. "He's nowhere to be found."
"Well that would be about the dumbest thing," the cop said to himself, loudly enough for Horace to hear.
"For the guy to steal your car, and leave his own behind. All we've got to do is check the registration, and we'll know who your thief is."
Speaking of dumb things, Horace felt pretty stupid; it had never occurred to him that the owner of the abandoned mini van might, in fact, be the thief.
Good thing I'm not a cop, he thought.
Officer Porter walked to the passenger side of the mini van and opened the door. Horace stomped his feet a few more times while he waited impatiently for the policeman to fish around in the glove box, looking for the registration.
Then Porter straightened and closed the van door behind him. He was holding a yellow slip of paper in his hand. He studied it for a moment, then turned to Horace. "Is this some sort of prank?" he asked, irritated.
"What?" Horace said.
"This vehicle is registered to you."
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