Saturday, June 14, 2008


With gas prices rising, our plans had to change…if you could call them “plans.” We were already two months behind on our rent and the scratch that Jason and I eke out together as carpenters, isn’t cutting it. With Californian foreclosures at all time high and only so many remodel jobs to go around, our profession is as choice as opening a miniskirt shop in Saudi Arabia.

So Jason plans to pool our remaining $200 and head for Nevada, where we’ll make our rent and them some. If we weren’t so broke, I’d nix this, because Jason’s usual idea of a plan is $20 on black, $20 on green and $30 on “00.” I don’t trust roulette, as the ball always bounces badly like a toothpaste cap that bounces straight for the toilet.

We can’t buy food, cigarettes or gas along the way, as we’ll have to grab what we can and save the rest. I hate this part because I got sick the last time we siphoned gas, so I bought a hand pump in case we had to go through this again. We hit the places where people pull over to hike, so that we have more time to work.

Just forty miles west of Tahoe, around Cisco, our gas tank is running on fumes. We exit off Interstate 80 and we drive around for awhile. Pickings are slim, even though it is a sunny July afternoon. We see a brand new Ford Explorer just off the road and just in time, as Jason’s truck is on “E.” We pull past it some 200 feet away.

Apparently there’s no one around and thick trees on this side road make seem duskier than it really is. Jason has the gas can and I have the pump, we get within ten feet when the Explorer trembles. Two shapes move around in the back seat and we duck off the side road.

The vehicle starts to shake, and then it bounces around, just like a low rider. Jason and I look at each other, and then nod. So what if the SUV is a rockin’? There’s no choice, we have to risk it. Before I walk over there, Jason pulls the tubing off the pump and it hands it to me, I guess he figures the hand crank will make too much noise. I’m just glad I’ve had nothing to eat all day, that way there’s less to vomit up.

I pry the filler door with a pocketknife, fit the tube in the tank and I inhale off the other end. The hardest part is not the taste of gas, but suppressing the gag and not tipping off the couple in the Explorer, who seem to be getting real hot and heavy. The temptation to look is surpassed by my fight not to vomit, but then a woman’s scream for “help” changes my mind.

I carefully peek, they could be role playing, after all, but it seems like they’re not. My first clue is that they seem fully clothed, my second clue is her bulging eyes and his hands wrapped around her throat, and my third clue is the murderous look in his eyes. That same malevolent glare shifts to me and he throws her against the passenger door. I take a step back and reopen the pocketknife as he goes for the other passenger door.

He comes out and while I’m taller and got about fifteen pounds on him, his anger is at full steam and he is on the verge of turning rabid. We circle each other and just as I am about to stab him, liquid falls from the sky and splashes him. It’s Jason; he’s soaked this crazed demon with gasoline and before he can pounce on Jason, Jason has a lighter out. The would-be murderer just doesn’t care and he jumps Jason and he tackles him, the lighter flies out of his hand.

They roll around on the ground and Jason throws him off. As he lands, his belt buckle hits a rock and somehow he ignites. I’d rather not talk about what happens next, other than to say I won’t ever forget the smell of burning flesh.

The woman? She’s battered, she’s bruised, but relatively fine, considering. The police give us plenty of grief, and then they eventually let us go.

Today, her family gave us a reward, for saving her life. So, in a way, the roulette wheel actually bounced right…for a change.

This is for a flash fiction challenge that Patti Abbott posted


Spring’s half gone, school’s out, so are you ready for another flash fiction challenge? Mystery Dawg, Gerald So and I have come up with a new one.

Here’s the idea: incorporate the following sentence into a flash story of around 750 words.
“With gas prices rising, their plans had to change.”

OR for those who prefer first person: "With gas prices rising, our plans had to change."

OR the bit ominous, "With gas prices rising, your plans had to change." (Thanks, Peter)

Anything you can do with that sentence as a part of your story is fair game. The line doesn’t have to be the central idea of the story. Or it can be. Whatever you want.


Gerald So said...

The narrator's voice really engaged me. Great fight scene at the climax.

r2 said...

Great story...I had no idea where this was going.
Very entertaining.

Patricia J. Hale said...

Great one!

Cormac Brown said...

Thank you all very much.

WellesFan said...

Very engaging. I did not expect that ending. Good job.

John Weagly said...

Good job!

Dale said...

Mr. B, I give you an A! Well done.

I loved that toothpaste cap bouncing for the toilet along with the rest of the story.

Cormac Brown said...

Thanks to all and Dale, I knew that you would relate to that metaphor.