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The Gas Station
American Dreamboat #8
There were more people on the road now, but no food carts set up on the sidewalks. A police car zoomed by doing twice the speed limit with no sirens on. Dillon jogged across Saint Chavez Drive and was hurting for thirst and could do nothing about it with a dead wristphone.
He stopped in the Bodega run by the Pakistani dude, waved nicely like he always did, got a fountain soda, walked towards the counter, then, as soon as he got the lid and straw set, bolted left out the door with the man leaping the counter and coming after him. Dillon knew that this guy would not chase him across Pleasant Plains.
He got to the far side of the street proud of his very first solo criminal caper and grinned at the counter jockey who railed at him, with his fist raised in protest, “Never again, Blondie. You were the good boy—no more. I will shoot you next time you come through the door!”
Dillon took a long swig, stopped, and, on his very first day as a man, thought it was about time to start acting like one, “Fuck you you Paki Prick. I’ll kill you—got that you piece-of-shit! Fuck, You!”
He raised his finger in his left hand, turned his back and walked away, down the way toward the Gas Station where Rico and he had always tossed coins out back, while his Uncle Cholo would wheel and deal, barter and rant with the Ghana Man who owned the station.
In a moment, the soda nearly half gone already, Dillon was shocked to see five or six cars lined up at the pumps, a white trash family piled into a van with no doors, a black family in an SUV and three low riders, the windows open, kids packed inside, men leaning on car doors with bats in their hands and Rico’s Uncle Cholo arguing with the Ghana Man over getting gas.
Dillon walked right up to the rear most bat man standing beside the rearmost car, kids and women packed inside like sardines, and whispered, “Senor, is Rico okay?”
The man looked into his face with a tight lip, and nodded towards the lead car with his chin, looking around for trouble over Dillon’s head.
Dillon walked past the men of the next car, saluting with his soda and pointing to it, “For Rico,” and when he came to the lead low rider, saw Rico, his head bandaged, his left eye shut, his right arm in a make-shift sling, with his mamma tending him from the middle of the front seat. These cars were so overloaded that the men must have a way of killing the safety switch, for the men were obviously riding on the trunks and hoods.
“Hey, Rico, bro,” he said, as he handed over the soda, which
Rico’s mother grabbed with a thankful nod, “Since you wouldn’t let me fight I thought you could use a drink.”
Rico grinned at him and whispered, “Here’s lookin’ out, bro. My Uncle will take you—said he would. You’re a soldier and shit’s kicking off—no head’s up,” the preteen tough guy said as he pointed with his chin at his Uncle.
Two other Ghana men were standing behind the pumps, one with a tire iron and one with a crowbar, glaring at the six Latino men with bats as the gas station owner insisted, “Government measure, My Friend, fuel only for police and immigrants until resettlement is complete. Next week, you and me, back in business.”
The black man in the SUV spoke out of his window, “Yo, you ought ta bust a cap in his Africa ass, yo!”
Uncle Cholo turned in a rage and shouted, “Nigger, don’t tell me how to shoot!”
With that Rico’s uncle grabbed the Ghana Man by the throat, drew an automatic pistol, not the revolver he had on the porch, put it to the Ghana man’s head, and squeezed the trigger. With a mere pop, part of the man’s bald head blew away and blood spattered every wear. The six Latinos with bats rushed the two Ghana men and had them running flat out for hell.
“That’s what ‘m talkin’ ‘bout!” applauded the man in the SUV. No offense, right?”
Uncle Cholo then grinned, showing his gold teeth and snarled, “No offense. You can gas up after the white trash. The cops have their hands full Gee.”
Dillon felt like he was going to be sick, looking at the man’s brains, a man that had not been mean to him, ever, a man he thought was kind of friends with Uncle Cholo. Then Uncle Cholo slapped him on the shoulder and said, “Fill us up, Dillon and you can ride on the bumper between my brothers.”
His brothers were the goons in the motorcycle helmets earlier. Why they didn’t have them on now while they were riding on the slippery drunk of a car was beyond Dillon—but he was just a new-minted man and did what the head man said and filled that gas tank up.
While he was doing this chore, Uncle Cholo shouted, “Grid down, people, grid down!” and held up his left wrist triumphantly, pointing to his wristphone, which was stuck on a yellow screensaver with no projection capacity.
Uncle Cholo elaborated, “People, they think they gonna give our project to them Africans—well they can have it! We goin’ for the green hills ta live in style. All dem civilians already pulled da plug on dey own shit, already crashed da grid callin’ for Officer I-Don’t-Give-a-Shit!”
As his people cheered, all thirty of them, including the big-eyed beauty who was Rico’s little cousin batting her big eyes at sweaty Dillon, the white trash man approached Rico and nodded, as if asking a question but saying nothing, and Uncle Cholo tossed is head, “You can have your gas. But we got room for only one white nigger and that’s my man Dayshawn here,” he said patting Dillon on the back.
The black man in the SUV then said, laughing, “I guess I cain’t come with my family either?”
Uncle Cholo then walked up to him and grinned, from just in front of the driver’s side window, still walking with the gun in his hand then pointed it at the man’s head and said, “Your ride can come—but you en dem fuckin’ nigglets en dat big black bitch a yers can get the fuck off right now!”
Two men advanced with bats and emptied the woman and children out and let then walk off as the man got out and kept his hands up, walking away backwards, saying, “No problem, Brother, no problem,” to which Uncle Choloo answered him with a bullet in the belly, which ruined the gold and black designer T-shirt he was draped in as the woman and children cried and whaled.
Even Uncle Cholo’s people seemed worried now as the gas up finished and only one man piled on each car trunk with their bats, except for the lead car, which was taken over by a bat man as the driver as Uncle Cholo put Rico and his mother in the SUV with two of the bat men and shouted to Dillon, “Grab that crowbar and sit on the trunk. If my baby sister gets hurt it’s your ass! You dismount any time the vehicle stops and mount up when I give the order.”
Dillon snatched the crowbar that lay quiet and lonely behind the gas pump and then hurried to the trunk of the back of the lead car, and the small caravan rolled off with the SUV in the lead, a grand white car with gold stripes that screamed trouble.
Dillon thought that maybe they should have filled up some gas cans and was then caught up by the drama of the white trash woman and the black woman trying to stop the black man from bleeding to death as the white trash man fueled up the old van and the few motorists going by studiously avoided paying too much attention to what was going on.
The car’s tail scraped on the asphalt as the driver—crazed Uncle Cholo’s hawk-faced brother—hit the road. And Dillon did consider that perhaps the sinking feeling in his guts was a sign of bad things to come and not just a physical reaction to the two murders, which somehow failed to mess up his brain the way it was supposed to or the dropping of the rear bumper almost to the ground from the weight of whatever was in the trunk beneath him.
The men on the trunks of the two cars behind him were looking about from under their black-vizored hats and sunglasses for what Dillon supposed were the police, so he followed their example, his head on a swivel in a world suddenly gone, specifically mad, all of Dillon’s messed up life now seemingly in the hands of a savage man who seemed to act before he thought.
‘This is bad, real bad.’
‘Yeah, but not near as bad as being in that tent back down Hadith Street.’
They rolled down Loch Raven Boulevard towards the interstate, ramp and Dillon wondered if it would be open for civilian traffic today, what with the American Dream Boat in town and the gas rationing. Heck, when it snowed or there was a terrorist attack only the police and military were permitted on the interstate.
‘Does Uncle Cholo know that?’
‘Of course he does, he’s an adult, a criminal, and crooks think of everything, not like stupid civilians.’
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