Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Rural Car Breakdowns

My car broke down on the creepiest road in town. It was out on the edge of civilization, past the chemical plant, out where the broken corn stalks stuck up like yellow bones from in a shitty graveyard. The way I saw it, I had two options.

One, I could use my cell phone to call my buddy Logan to come out and get me and wait for him to arrive. And get horribly murdered by an ax-wielding maniac.

Two, I could call Logan and walk to the nearest source of bright, scouring light, a gas station about two miles back.

I chose option two.

I walked along the darkened lane. My phone seemed terribly bright in the pitch blackness.

"Yeah, my car broke down. Come pick me up," I said to Logan. The night was so still that I felt like I was screaming.

"No can do," Logan said.

"Come pick me up right now or I will break your jaw the next time that I see you."

"Here's the thing, though, I'm with Stacy and she's finally-"

"Fine," I said, and hung up.

I had to hand it to Logan, though. I was so angry at him for abandoning me that I wrapped myself in my rage like a suit of armor. I made it to the gas station without a single lump chopped out of me.

The gas station was the only beacon in the night. It cast a sick, medical haze into the night. Drawn like a moth to the flame, I stumbled out of the shadows towards the solitary gas pump and tiny convenience store. The door tinkled as I pushed it open.

"Can I help you?" asked the clerk. He appeared to be just as dusty as his wares. In fact, the only merchandise not covered beneath a layer of dust appeared to be a stack of playing cards on the counter.

"Yes, I was wondering if you had a service station?"

"Did you see one on your way in?" the clerk asked.

"No," I said.

"There's your answer. What seems to be the problem?"

"My car broke down some ways back. Do you at least have the number of a tow truck?"

"Just a second," the clerk said. He stood up from his stool and pulled a shotgun from beneath the counter.

I ducked behind a rack of Nixon-era Snickers bars. I'm not sure why I thought that they would do anything but fill my gunshot wounds with chocolate, nougaty goodness. Luckily, the clerk didn't shoot me. But he did walk to the door while I cowered there. It opened with a tinkle, and before the bell had quieted itself the shotgun had barked. And again. And a third time.

The clerk came back in.

"I ain't gonna shoot you, even though you can never trust the living."

The clerk replaced his shotgun beneath the counter.

"What did you just do? Did you shoot somebody?"

"I sure did. Two ax-murderers. These fields are lousy with 'em. Shot them right in their faces. One thought he'd be clever and not die right away, so I had to plug him again. You wanted the number of a tow truck?"

"Um, is it okay if you give it to me after the Sun rises?"

The clerk grinned. He snatched a deck of cards from the counter and slid a thumb along the cellophane until he could yank it off with a crackle. He grabbed the spare card with the rules printed on it and wrote a number on the back.

"I wanted to give you the information for the tow truck before dawn, because I'll be gone. Can't stand the sunlight. Do you know how to play gin rummy?"

The Moral: ghosts hate rural ax-wielding maniacs.

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