It’s late, the tank is almost empty, so you pull off to the only gas station this side of town. It’s a building that looks as though if it had ever had a good day, that day probably ended in 1953. There’s 5 pumps, 2 work. Rusty always would talk about getting the others fixed, but the money was never there and they got by just fine anyway.
You distract yourself with petting the 3 legged dog sprawled out by the front door. You can smell the faint hint of oil and old tobacco clinging to the cobwebs that blow in the breeze like streamers on a fan.
You step inside the gas station, it’s 15 degrees warmer than it is outside, which is odd since it’s a warm August night. The posters on the wall are nearly transparent, having not been updated in 30+ years. There’s a shelf of home baked goods, they look fresh and are well wrapped, so you pick up a blueberry muffin, if you die now, at least you died from a muffin.
You ask for $10 for pump 4, a scratch off, and recommendations for a hotel. The clerk mentions he and his wife Norma own the hotel in town, naturally. He offers you a room that comes with a home cooked breakfast and if you choose, the dog can even stay the night with you.
Tired and looking to avoid more driving or sleeping in the car, you thank him and accept his invitation. When’s the last time someone named Norma killed anyone? He asks you to stick around for 15 more minutes so he can close up the store, you step outside, sit on the curb and split your muffin with the dog.
“Name’s Joe by the way, but people call me Rusty.” He says. “Figure you might want to know a man’s name before ya sleep in his house.”
You offer a smile and a “nice to meet you.”
“Dog’s name is Lucky Jim.”
Joe points to the hotel situated just behind the gas station. You opt to leave your car at the gas station and walk over with him, room 7 is your home for the night. Lucky Jim jumps on the bed and is asleep before you have a chance to step in the room. You’ve shared a bed with worse guests.
You turn to thank Joe but he’s already gone, you shrug and climb into bed.