A Gas Station In The Hills ~ Part Two


     "I can only pay you 5 dollars for 12 hours a night ~ and maybe a little food," said the old man with a paint brush in his hand and standing in front of the gas station.  He was painting the porch ~ and the brush in his hand dripped with gray U.S. Navy paint.

     "How 'bout ten," said Road, "And a place to park my truck."

     "Sorry, I'm not that rich.  But I got plenty of room for your truck."

     "Okay.  Five."

     Road had a job.  A little quiet job with no application to fill out.  A job in the hills.  If the police or FBI were going to chase after him after robbing the bank, if he had made one little mistake and they knew who actually robbed the bank ~ he'd be safe working the grave yard shift in a gas station in the hills.  They wouldn't find him here ~ for a few months anyway.

     "What's your name?" asked the old man.

     "Daniel Defoe," lied Road.

     He parked his truck in the back corner of the property and had himself a home.  He threw the rear double doors open, lay on his Indian rug covered thin mattress in the bright morning sun heat that snuck in thru the doorway.  He felt so very very very tired and lazy, he almost doubted if he could work that night ~ or any night.  A feeling of panicky vulnerability swept like a tidal wave over him ~ and he realized in that weightless frightening moment that he was one hell of a hung up human being ~ reeking with horny lonely hang ups.  He dove deep into the depths of the moment ~ shuddered just a little ~ and lay in the sun making love to this awesome vamp, this Lady Gutter in his soul.

     Beyond the open rear doors of his truck was a great heap of gas station junk rusting and rotting in the sun ~ old bumpers, radiaters, car seats, bald tires and a thousand worlds still surviving although just junk.  Birds sang and a lizard scampered across a rotted telephone pole log lying on the ground.  Behind the junk was a barbed wire fence, behind the fence a pasture full of cows, and behind the cows were the hills ~ and above the hills was the pure blue sky.

     Road lay silent and still in his sun warm truck ~ his eyes half closed.  To thee Lady Gutter of his soul he made love ~ passionately.  Road knew.  Lady Gutter was God's wife ~ and loved adultery.  And God loved Lady Gutter.

     So did Road.

     That night he went to jobbin', pumping gas.



No Bueno


     Road was a road scholar.

     With two years of hard read college under his belt, he'd qwit, hit the road in his truck.

     His truck was a studymobile.

     The rear of it was full of books ~ shelves and shelves to the right and to the left.

     After 9 months  on the road, working bummer jobs, almost literally eating books, and meeting freaky weirdos (or people if you may), he'd heard the FBI wanted to talk to him ~ and went to see about what ~ in New Orleens.  Then he spent two years in Crockjaw Parish Prison (right outside New Orleens) ~ convicted of draft dodging.

     (He'd chosen to ignore the Vietnam War)

     He was now a wretched dude, but a scholar too, 'cause no matter how much piss was flushed down into his guts ~ books were flushed down with the piss ~ and life on the Mobil gas station's grave yard shift was good.

     Road, while jobbing this night shift, read his books and wrote silly poems and stories.  He pumped gas for the night highway wanderers, who often exclaimed with an empty in the hills tank, "We're glad we found you here!"

     And he collected 5 dollars out of the cash register every morning.  He ate sparingly.  But the two meals he got a day, cooked by the old manager's wife, were good meals.

     One cold night two shivering Mexican "wetback" vagabonds who didn't know English, stumbled up to the window.  Road invited them inside where the gas heater burned.  He let them sleep on the two old beds in the back room ~ under a few thin blankets.  Come dawn they left saying, "Adios, amigo.  Gracias."

     Road later found out it was against the law to treat these people, illegal aliens, like human beings.  Road could have got arrested for giving them a place to sleep.


     Road's respect for the Law was getting more and more like a row of standing dominoes.  One or two lousy laws, and he hardly respected any of them.  And all the dominoes fell down.

     When an old man came by with no money, traded a gun and ammunition for a tank of gas and a quart of oil, Road now had another weapon that could help him ignore the more bastard laws of the land.

     Of course, with this kind of attitude ~ backed up by a long barreled cap and ball Colt 45 revolver that had survived in all its glory the Civil War ~ Road's road got narrower ~ and rockier.

     "I no longer want this gun," grunted the old fragile man with a moist sad eye ~ and with gray hair hanging over his ears and in that eye ~ all shaded under the rim of a broken down cowboy hat.

     Now it was Road's turn ~ to learn to shoot the old Colt revolver.

     One morning ~ after working his 12 hours pumping gas ~ Road sat on a dead wood stump in the hills ~ behind the cow pasture ~ behind the gas station ~ shooting tin cans.  The old relic in his hand made a lot of noise, jumped like a chain saw cutting thru petrified wood, smoked like a forest fire.  He was sittin' there amidst the lizards and ants, blamming away at the tin cans, when the two wetbacks whom he'd given bed to that other night, walked up behind him and stood on either side.

     He squinted up at them.  They were smiling thru their travel dirt and sweat.  Road smiled too.  He gave the gun to one of them, waved toward one tin can left to shoot down ~ maybe twenty yards away.

     The wetback with the gun stopped smiling, looked down in a worried way at the long barreled cap and ball Colt 45 in his hand, cocked it, aimed, and fired.

     Blam!  The gun jumped, it smoked, the led ball bullet came flying out of its barrel and skimmed into the dirt.

     "No bueno," said Road ~ which in Mexican means no good ~ and took the gun back, gave it to the other wetback.

     This fellow seemed more confident, and his eyes squinted narrower at the tin can as he aimed ~ but ca-blam ~ he missed too.

     "No bueno," he said ~ gave the gun back to Road.

     "Si, no bueno," agreed Road ~ and he reloaded the gun ~ which was a real chore.  He had to half cock the gun, remove the old caps, pour in the powder, stuff in the lead balls with the loading lever and ramrod hinged on below the barrel, then put on the new caps.  Road unhalf cocked it and spinned the cylinder.  It had taken him roughly ten minutes as his two new compadres discussed this exhibition of reloading in their own lanquage ~ which Road did not understand except for a few choice terms, like "no bueno".

     Road delicately aimed the gun at the distant tin can, cocked it very slowly (with a bold click), squeezed on the trigger even slower, and blam!  The smoke cleared and the tin can still stood untouched but for some dirt sprayed against its label.

     "Shit," mumbled Road.

     The two wetbacks laughed.  "No bueno," one of them said.  Road laughed too.  All three of them were lousy shots.

     Road stood up, stuck the gun in his pants, walked slowly around the wetbacks as he lit with a match a cigar butt that he'd been saving in his shirt pocket.

     Flies buzzed.  A crow squawked.  The highway in the distance moaned.  One of the wetbacks spit on the ground.  The two of them stood to either side of Road ~ watching Road ~ waiting.

     In no kind of hurry, Road carefully pulled the gun out from his belt, held it at his hip, and shot five times at the tin can.  The whole world echoed.  The acrid smoke cleared.  And the can still stood ~ untouched.

     The two Mexican hombres laughed so hard one of them fell over.  Road grinned grimly 'round the smokey butt in his mouth, sat down on the stump, reloaded the gun.

     Road's dark tangle of hair under a gray cap on his head, was growing long.

     And what he really needed was a cannon.



A Gas Station In The Hills ~ Conclusion


     "You were the best night man I've ever had, Daniel.  I could trust you.  Come back and see us," said the old man manager of the little Mobil gas station in the hills.  The big German shepherd dog barked ~ knew what was happening ~ didn't like it ~ barked louder.  Road left.

     The old man remembered him as Daniel Defoe ~ that name being the only lie Road had told him.  And the old man knew it.



A Sledge Hammer Doesn't Always Work


     In San Diego, California, 60 miles from the gas station, Road finally stood.  Home.

     Yes, in San Diego, California, all that ways from New Orleens, Louisiana, he stood, no longer pale and wicked, but brown and wicked instead.  And home.

     Yes, in San Diego, California, Road stood, a new sledge hammer in his hand, in his ex high school sweet heart's parent's kitchen.

     He had come to see her.  She had locked him out.  He'd expected this.  That's why he'd bought the sledge hammer at a hardware store before arriving.  Besides, he wanted to accent with a little true blue spice, a song he'd written for her years ago:


Whenever I ring her door bell

She refuses to come out.

Whenever I'm out workin' like hell

She's raisin' hell with a shout.


Whenever I call her on the phone

My ear vibrates with a busy buzz buzz.

When I finally hear her sweet tone

She says she must go ~ well ~ just because.


I like her and she likes me.

But we've calloused as hard as nails.

So now each other we never see

And now we never wag our tails.


I'm going to go to the hardware store,

Buy a big heavy sledge hammer,

Crash her locked door to the floor,

Take her with me minus her glamor.


I'll show her how to live for real

With a day, two cents, and a truck.

We'll be happier than heaven can squeal

And together we'll be happily stuck!


     The kitchen door that led outside behind Road, was now nothing but wood splinters and a broken door knob.

     "God damn you, Ralph!" gritted his surprised ex high school sweet heart who was going to get married the next day to some one else ~ and was in love with that some one else ~ and certainly not in love with ~

     "My name's Road now.  Not Ralph.  You can forget the last name too.  After spending nine months studying the road via book n' highway in the back of my damn truck, spending two years in the damn slammer studying about the same damn thing, the road, and a secret or two, I just decided to change my God damn name to fuckin' Road!  So call me Road!"

     "Fuck you, Ralph," retaliated his ex high school sweet heart.  "Ralph Appleyard!"

     That was his real name ~ and the way she said it wrecked his face, mapped it red with rage.

     "Call me Road," he gritted in a hoarse whisper.

     "I'll call you sick!" she screamed.

     "Well, let's break out the booze and toast to the good health of the world we live in," said, uh, what's his name, trying to cool-ly recover from his rage.

     Her big brown eyes began to fill with tears, and her brown little shoulders began to shudder with fears, and she didn't want anything to do with this fool's cheers.

     "Tulip," mumbled Road, grabbing for her soapy wet hand.  As usual, alone in the house, she was doing the dishes ~ quick but messy at the job ~ water all over the drainboard and linolium floor ~ when Road's sledge hammer came sailing thru the door.

     "Tulip," he mumbled again, grabbing for her soapy wet hand again.

     "Get away," she scowled, disgust and horror and tears jet propelling out of her dark eyes.  Her fuzzy bottom lip quivered.  Her goddess face, crowned n' framed by long black silk shiny hair, was beautiful.

     It had been a long time for Road ~ a long long time.  And he began to quiver too.

     They glared at each other.  Her eyes faltered.  Slightly mascared lids dropped over them ~ but couldn't hold the tears, which river-ed down both her cheeks.

     Road jammed his hand into her head of hair, ruthlessly yanked her down to her knees.  She tried to scream but only a dribble of sound seeped out between her lips.  Against the hardness of his own enduring hurt below the belt, Road pressed her face ~ and those lips.

     Tulip cried ~ dampened his pants with her tears and world of joy crumbling apart.

     "Damn, I want you," he whispered with a hot torch of flustered love or something worse in his throat.

     "Stop, stop," she whimpered.  "This is cruel!"

     "This isn't cruel," gritted the wretched Road, twisting his fist full of her hair closer.  "This is life.  And I adore it."

     "But I'm getting married tomorrow!"

     Road froze still, stunned, as Tulip's desperate wail seeped hot n' wet thru the dry heap of his cold dreams.  From his one hand the sledge hammer fell to the floor with a clang.  From his other hand quietly fell Tulip's hair.  And he exited, kicked aside the splinters of the smashed kitchen door as he did so.


(Copyright 1974, 2010)