Short Story | ‘The Gas Station’ by Miranda Thomason, Illustration by Terri Kelleher

Illustration for 'The Gas Station' by Miranda Thomason

The longer they drove the more rural the scenery got. Shay started complaining, “You know I hate these small towns out in the country.” It was very rural. They only saw cows and fields for almost 30 minutes. Finally, Breely saw a gas station. Her tank was on empty. Shay said she had to go to the bathroom. Breely told her to wait until she finished pumping the gas. Shay said, “I am not going to run. Where would I run to?” Breely just looked at her. She sat on the concrete edge of the gas pump. Then a man came out of the store carrying a brown paper bag in his hands.

Breely saw him look at Shay. His eyes were transfixed on her. He got closer and closer. His truck was parked next to Breely’s car. He got pretty close to her when he opened his door. Breely moved her leg back. She was actually preparing to kick him if he touched Shay. Breely was scared but her face did not show it. Her eyes were a blaze. Shay looked at her with a look of terror and glanced down at the pavement. He looked at Breely as if he were asking permission to speak to Shay.

Breely looked right in his eyes. They were cold but his mouth was smiling. Their eyes locked and he seemed to telepathy ask, “What are you going to do?” Breely thought he telepathically heard, “I am going to rip you to shreds if you touch her.” Or maybe he got that from the look in her eyes. He paused and Breely shook her head no. A mother bear could not have looked more furious over her cubs. The gas nozzle clicked to signal the tank was full. She did not move. She was not going to take her eyes off this guy. Her plan B to kicking him was to pull the nozzle out and pour gas in his eyes. She told Shay, “Go on in the store.”  Shay did not move an inch. He finally got in his truck and left. He drove off fast as he pulled on to the road. They both looked at each other.

Shay stood up to go into the store to use the bathroom. She waited on Breely and made sure Breely was a step behind her at all times.  It was the quickest bathroom stop they had ever made. Breely paid for the gas and Shay went straight from the bathroom to the car. She usually stopped and looked at everything in the store. It was common for Breely to tell her, “Let’s go” several times before they actually left. Breely had to sit there for a minute and stop shaking. She could feel her eye ticking away. Shay broke the silence, “What was that weirdo looking at?” Breely tried to be calm, “I guess he thought you were Pink or Lindsay Lohan. I always told you looked like a cross between the two.”  Shay knew she was trying to minimize the incident. She said, “That creep was going to grab me. He would have if you hadn’t looked like you were going to kick the shit out of him.” Breely did not say anything but she could clearly see in her mind that if he had bent down a little closer she would have kicked him away from her, grabbed her and ran.

Shay would not stop, “Could you see us on the news? Caseworker kicks man for trying to abduct foster child.” Actually she could imagine this on the news, “Incompetent caseworker allows foster child to be abducted as she carelessly pumps gas.” Then she could see the CNN news trucks camped outside her house and getting pictures of her going to court and eventually jail. She could imagine Nancy Grace calling her house and harassing her on live television. No, she knew he was not going to lay a hand on Shay. He eventually knew it was going to be a battle and left. All of a sudden it hit her why did she not get his license plate number. He may have had a crawl space full of little girls’ bones.

She asked Shay if she got the license plate number. She looked like a light bulb had just went off in her head, “We should have gotten the number and reported him. But what for? Staring at us like a deranged serial killer?” Then she thought about it for a minute more. She slammed her fist on the dashboard, “He could have gotten away with that before.” Empathy for others! Breely wanted to clap. They talked about it the whole way to the group home. Shay said, “We were watching some news show like Dateline or something, you know. My aunt loves those boring programs. Anyway, this old man about 60 years old had kidnapped teenagers when his wife got sick. The first one he put in a shed outside his house. She said it was too small so he made a dungeon in his house and moved her there. He told her that his bosses wanted him to rape her everyday. Finally, one day he let her go home. Then he did it to other girls. One girl he took to a store and she got away and called the police. He is in prison now.”  Breely just glanced at Shay and then looked back at the road in front of her. It was hard for her to fall asleep that night.

Illustration by: Terri Kelleher

Miranda Thomason has spent years working in the foster care and juvenile justice system at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains. After completing the novel On the Mercy of the World, the author is writing short stories.

You may also like...