I'd been driving for hours trying to get back in time for the big party being thrown in honor of my buddy's kid being a graduate. My truck bucked and bounced down the crumbling Michigan freeway making me feel like I was being tossed gently about on a boat in a lake, the constant thuds and clanging noise reminded me that I was still on terra firma. White line fever was setting in and I was sure that I was going to fall asleep at any moment and not even another coffee could save me at this point. My phone had rang three times but I neglected to answer it. Cars whizzed past me and I noted that the average occupants of these cars were older folks or burly looking guys with rec vehicles in tow heading off to the woods for a few days of relaxation. Every few cars I would notice a single driver in a car. They seemed more determined on reaching their destination than the others and I imagined that those of us traveling alone were in some way on more important trips. I know that's a long reach but I was fighting white line fever and it helped to know that others were trapped in their pods just like I was. All was going well and I was nearing an on ramp when this little black car with a huge silver exhaust pipe began to merge in front of me and it was plain to see that he wasn't going to make it in front of me; still he barreled forward without hitting his brakes. My speedometer read 80 miles per hour so I estimate he was going at least 90 to 100 and he still didn't have the room to make it out in front of me. I lifted off the accelerator and watched as he nearly fishtailed off the road. This woke me up enough to stab the gas and ride up along side of him and give him a curious glare. Naturally he found it in his best interest to flip me off and quickly accelerate away from my nearly topped-out pick-up.
It was almost five o'clock and I was still nearly an hour out when my phone rang again. It was the old neighbor. "How ya doin?" he asked.
"Not bad I'm driving home, whet's up?"
"Do you still have that 52mm socket?" I thought it over and seemed to have seen it in my toolbox next to the 1/2 inch breaker bar.
"Yep its in my little toolbox next to my bike...do you need it now?" I asked.
"Yeah we are working on a set of forks off a 250 I don't have that special tool so I figured I'd use your socket...if you don't mind." I didn't mind but told him to have my wife let him in the garage and he knew where to find it from there. We hung up and I could see ahead that the little black hot rod was getting off at the next exit. I looked at my gas gauge and figured I would stop and top off the tank maybe fuck with the kid in the car if he happened to stop at the same place. By the time I reached the exit I could no longer see his car and the traffic was thick with people going to and from the burger joints and gas stations. I chose to go right and tailed along behind and old motorhome with a bumper sticker that read, "Remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty?" I pulled into the gas station and found an open pump. The motorhome parked next to the pumps on my right and I watched an older woman circle around the front of it. She had on a white, floppy hat and a strange looking bathing suit top. She wore cut off blue jeans and she walked with a kind of flirtatious slant. It wasn't that she was shaking her ass when she walked and there was a fair amount to shake; it was more like she used the side-to-side motion to sort of propel herself forward. It was kind of amazing and perverse. Her old man followed behind, he was short in stature and was very thin. He wore a blue baseball hat with some saying on the front. His clothes were tattered and dirty. They were beautiful people. He was smoking and the cig seemed to be crimped between his lips as if it were his last great possession. As they walked past there was a part of me that wished to say "Hey can I hitch a ride I'll just leave my shit here and go with you two?" Instead I kept pumping and noticed out of the corner of my eye that the black hotrod was parked in the adjacent lot at the Burger Nut. I couldn't see inside the restaurant but I figured that the kid was in there harassing someone judging by his actions out on the highway. My tank was full and I went into the station to pay up. It was packed with travelers and local residents picking up pizzas at the built in pizza joint. It's funny now with these gas stations becoming the general store of our time and it occurred to me that you could probably survive just by living behind one of these outposts in your car, feasting on personal pizzas and jerky sticks...maybe rifle down a jug of O.J. daily and you were set. At one of the tables that were laid out in the pizza place my favorite couple sat staring at the menu, they were less dazzling in here under the lights among the other faces. They conversed sparsely and I paid and left them behind probably debating which toppings they would order, I pictured her fighting for extra onion but one can only speculate. Over in the Burger Nut parking lot I could still see the back car and as I turned my ignition the kid walked out with a huge sack of food in his hand and a burger pressed to his face. He got to his car and had to lift the food bag up and grab the burger from his mouth in order to open his car door. It wasn't going well and he set the bag of food on his roof in order to open his door. It was at this moment that I noticed that my truck had failed to start.
Initially I turned the switch back to off and paused, thinking that this was somehow my fault and that perhaps I was too distracted when I made my first attempt at re-ignition. This was not the case and the scene quickly turned into one of me repeatedly attempting to crank the engine and swearing eloquently under my breath, first at myself then to the rest of the world that could hear me. Two kids who were with their mother looked sheepishly at me and I tried to smile but their mother quickly guided them to their vehicle. At this point the kid in the black car was peeling out with his window down heading back off to wherever he came from, burger almost gone and apparently a pile of food stuff on his lap as he was either playing with himself or sweeping the condiments to the floorboards of his car. I could swear he looked over at me and chuckled but it couldn't be or could it? Nevertheless I was stranded at the moment. Stranded at the pumps in Middle America, stranded in time for all to see. Under the hood I went to see if something obvious would jump out at me. I had assembled this truck from two other trucks and I knew it pretty well, my hope was that it was something simple like a burned wire or even a leak, my fear was that it was a fuel pump which if it was would doom me for sure because I would have to drop the fuel tank to repair it. With the touch of a surgeon I poked around at the wiring harness, I checked the fuses and they looked fine. My mood began to darken as I found all the obvious culprits to be in working order. I attempted to start the truck again but there was nothing it just cranked and cranked. My phone began to ring and I looked at it to see who was calling. When my dear wife spoke I could tell that she was in a good mood, she was already at the grad party and was probably a few drinks in with her friends. I explained the situation and she seemed sympathetic but also seemed to think that I in all my mechanical glory would repair the truck quickly and even be back on my way in no time.