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Friday, August 27, 2010

Picking up the Tab - 8/26

Barry hauled himself out of the bucket passing for Dan's passenger seat and flung the door closed. Gasoline and exhaust hung in the air. He shoved his hands in the empty front pockets of his jeans and perused the other travelers filling up cars and stomachs in the florescent glow of the gas station. They all appeared weary, cramped and a long way from their destinations.

The car swayed as Dan straightened from his lean on the trunk. He tapped out the last drops from the nozzle and set the nose back into the pump.

Barry tossed a thumb at the small convenience store. "You want something?"

Dan spun the gas cap back on and flipped the small panel closed.


A bell jangled as they entered the sparkling store. A cluster of sagging drivers hung by the front counter so Barry and Dan wound down the first vacated aisle. The refrigerators wrapping the perimeter rumbled. Preservatives and plastic wrap stained the temperature controlled air.

Barry snagged a passing bag of chips as Dan opened the first glass door. He tugged a bottle swishing with ruby red tea from the rack.

"You want one too?" asked Dan.

"Sounds good,” said Barry, his eyes diving into a cluster of candy bars. “You're buying the gas anyway," he added.

Dan's hand froze on a second bottle's neck. He looked over his shoulder and through the fogging glass.

"What?" Dan left the bottle behind as he straightened and closed the door, blocking the chill air.

"It's your car," said Barry turning down the aisle with an absent wave of a Snickers.

"This was your idea." Dan let out a sigh and headed along a parallel set of tiles. He pulled a box of cheezy-flavored crackers from the bottom shelf.

Barry stopped, frowning at a rotating selection of hot dogs and accompanying drink stand. "I got it last time."


"When we went to shore with Cary and Paula?"

"No," said Dan. He paused as Barry pulled out one of the largest paper cups and pressed the lip against the ice dispenser. Only so many cubes could fit and he continued over the pouring of caramel colored soda. "I was the only one with cash and their machines were down."

Barry set down his lake-holding cup and reached for a lid and straw. "I would have paid."

"Right," murmured Dan. They stepped into the end of the slowly plodding line.

"If you want me to pay, I will. I'm just trying to be frugal you know?"

Dan tapped his foot as the man in front of them, carefully counted out exact change. Barry took a sip from his mammoth beverage as if whetting his next argument.

"You know how hard it's been to find work these days."

Dan ran his tongue over his teeth and picked a pack of gum from the impulse item display. The line surged forward.

"Hi, there," said the cashier and both men stood silent, jaws falling as they slowly blinked. The petite attendant's blond curls bounced around a gaze circled skillfully in eye-liner, soft curving cheeks with a hint of blush and a broad, gleaming smile made from two plump, ruby lips. Her polo shirt collar arched toward dangling earrings and then dipped into a flattering v neck. A thin chain with a shamrock charm glistened around her throat.

"Is this all together?" she asked.

"Yeah," managed Dan.

Barry fumbled for his wallet, his elbow bashing into Dan's arm.

The impact jolted Dan out of his stupor. He stepped forward, neatly boxing Barry out.

"Don't sweat it, Barry." Dan leaned into the counter, filling the narrow corridor in front of the cashier with a smile. "I got this."

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