I was in the Middle-of-Nebraska when a light came on that said Wings was running out of gasoline. I had a lot of momentum and didn’t wanna stop and leave Alone Reality, but I knew if I didn’t the car would eventually stop on its own. So I hadta get off the Road at the next exit and pull into a Middle-of-Nebraska gas station.
It felt strange to get out of the car. It was like me and Wings and The Road had become one thing instead of three things, and when we separated, my body was still vibrating. What made things stranger was looking into the gas station and seeing another Reality working in there. “Oh no,” I thought, “no more Alone Reality.”
The gas station guy was like a deer-in-headlights, even tho Wings’s headlights had been turned off. He was well groomed and stood up straight with antlers to the sky, but he just stared straight at me with perfect stillness instead of greeting me.
“Grgkt,” I said.
I hadn’t interacted with another Reality in hours, and I seemed to have become rusty at speech. The words were far away from my mouth and hadta fight thru miles of throat to get out. The deer continued to just stare at me, and I hadta try again.
“Kahem,” I said, “gas, prepay, number three.”
Then I tried to hand him money. I thought I was starting to get the hang of speech again, but still he just stared at me. I tried to make things more clear.
“Alright, sir, what I’d like to do is exchange this note of currency for gasoline on pump number three, the one by the silver Subaru.”
But still his eyes were locked right on me, and his body didn’t move a muscle.
“What’s the problem, man?” I said.
“Um,” he finally said, “I don’t know how to do the pre-pay.”
I’d never Traveled to such an amateur gas station Reality before and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel like MeTooing him. Instead I just wanted to swerve around him and be back in Alone Reality where everyone is an expert on everything.
“But, I only have cash,” I said.
“Um,” he said. “Okay, wait, hold on.”
He seemed very scared and stared at all the buttons in front of him for awhile before finally pushing a couple.
“Um, maybe try now?” he shrugged.
Then I went back out to the pump, but when I put the nozzle into Wings and squeezed nothing happened.
“Dammit,” it made me say.
As I was going back inside another car pulled in. It had a Colorado Future Adult Training School sticker on its back window. I knew CFATS well. It was near The Training School, and that’s where I delivered pizzas. Most of the CFATS students were only Future Adults and not Present Adults and could sometimes almost pass as Reality Travelers. They seemed to have a lot of free time to Get Out There, and meet other Realities, and have adventures in Perception, and travel to some far off and exciting places. But many didn’t know anything about MeTooing and were capable of vicious acts of MeNotzism at any moment.
Three guys got out of the car like a stampede of buffaloes. They rumbled forward, shoving each other’s chests and punching each other’s arms and laughing about it even tho those things hurt. I didn’t like the idea of something so big and reckless being near me, or even worse the poor Deer-in-Headlights. I kept my distance and let them charge inside first.
When I got back inside, I tried to deal with the gas station guy as quickly as possible before the Future Adults needed to check out.
“Look,” I said, “It didn’t work. You gotta try other buttons.”
But he didn’t respond. His eyes were now fixed on the CFATS Buffaloes. They were running around the store, randomly swearing, and grabbing big handfuls of Cheetos…
Cheetos are a cheesy snack food all about getting orange dust all over you after you eat them.
Redbulls are a drink about combining Caffeine, Sugar, and B-Vitamin Perceptions to form one Out-of-Control Super Energy Perception.
Then they started eating and drinking in the store before they’d even paid for them yet.
“C’mon,” I said. “We’ve gotta make this happen before their Red Bull Perception kicks in.”
But there was no getting thru to him. He just quietly handed me back my money as the CFATS buffaloes closed in on us. Suddenly one of them gave another one a really hard shove, and he was pushed backwards right next to us. I flinched back against the counter, and snacks and drinks went flying everywhere. Then the guy yelled “Motherfucker!” and pushed the other guy back even harder right into a rack of sunglasses. They didn’t pick anything up or say they were sorry, they just laughed really hard about it.
My side hurt from hitting the counter, and my arm got a lot of Cheetos dust on it. I knew I had to get out of there immediately even tho I hadn’t got any gas yet.
“What the fuck do you mean you don’t know how to run a credit card?” I heard someone say, but I was already flying toward the car and didn’t look back to see what happened next.
I was spooked and jittery, but Wings and I hadta find another Nebraska gas station right away. We got back out on the Road and got off at the very next exit. There was one place, but it was like a gas station from another era. It had a dirt parking lot and a single hanging lantern for light, and the pumps didn’t have digital numbers on them. Next to it was a log cabin, and thru the window you could see some guy in a cowboy hat sleeping in a chair. The scene was too strange and Wild West-y, and I didn’t know what to do about it. It seemed like if I went in and woke him up he’d definitely have a total MeNotzie freakout.
Then I noticed the antique pump had no sign on it about pre-paying.
“Hmm,” I said.
I put the nozzle in and squeezed, and its gas started coming out. I kept looking inside at the gas station guy. He never woke up. I didn’t feel good about it, but when I was done I just got back in Wings, cranked up The Mix, and drove away without paying.
“Thank Gods, I’m back in Alone Reality!” I shouted.