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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: March 14, 2012      Views: 400

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Phyllis passed peacefully on the morning of January 9th, 2020.

She wrote eight novels. ISLAND, SPEECHLESS, REPENTANCE, DETOUR, SNAPSHOTS, DEMON, BLAZE, and CHOICES. Seven are on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions, along with the n - more...

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A rural service station manager has a busy day.
"The Busy Day" by Phyllis Stewart

"Ding! Ding!"

A customer had pulled in. Mack rushed out to the car. "Welcome to Clayton Full Service!" he said to a pretty brunette with a sizable diamond alongside her wedding ring. "What can I get for you today, ma'am?"

"Fill it up. And check the fluids too, please. I'll be on the road all day and don't need any car trouble."

Mack tipped his cap and smiled. While the pump was running, he washed the windows and mirrors and cleaned the thick road dust from the lights and license plates. When he heard the overflow stopper click, he quickly replaced the gas cap and hurried to pop the hood. Oil was a bit low so he topped it off,  then filled the windshield sprayer and checked the belts.

"Looks like she'll run fine for you, ma'am. Would you like me to check the tires?"

"Oh, yes, please do. Seems to be pulling a little to one side. And do you have a clean restroom?"

"Yes ma'am. And coffee inside too. Sweet rolls and such, fresh today, if you need a snack for the trip."

She thanked him and went inside, leaving him to the tires.

Tread was a bit worn, but not enough to worry about. He added air to the left rear tire, which had quite a bit lower pressure than the others. Too much lower, he thought.

A few minutes later she emerged carrying a roll and cup of coffee. "There was no one at the counter, so I helped myself, if that's okay. What do I owe you?"

"Gas comes to $63.32 plus $3 for the food. I see you been driving on dirt and gravel roads. Will you be continuing in that fashion? Reason I ask is

"How do you know where I came from?"

Her sudden sharp tone caught Mack off guard.

"And why do you care where I'm going?"

"Whoa... I didn't mean to pry or anything like that. Just that yellow dust on your car. And them roads are pretty rough, you know, hard on tires. In fact, I think you mighta run over somethin' out there, cuz you got a slow leak goin' in your left rear tire."

"Fuck! This shit can't be happening! I mean... thank you for finding a problem. Sorry. I'm just mad at myself because my spare is flat and I haven't replaced it. Can you mend the tire?"

"Maybe, but don't think it can be patched well enough to handle more of them roads. On the other hand, for highway travel it'd do fine. The interstate is just about twenty miles down this here road." He waited for her to say something, but she didn't. "But for them rough back roads, you really oughta have a new one. I can call into Willsburg and Harry'll bring one out in maybe half an hour, if he ain't busy."

"Oh. Okay... Guess I have to wait then. Better stranded here than in the middle of nowhere." She looked up and down the road. "I should pull over to the side, maybe, uh... there in the back, so I'm not blocking your business."

Mack didn't care to volunteer that the odds of another car showing up were slim, so he just watched as
she smoothly swung the car around and parked behind the small building. While he waited, he called his friend about the tire. "Right, just the one ... Me? Not much. Day's been so slow I was gettin' bored outta my mind ... Okay, I'll let her know."

When she didn't reappear, he walked around back and found her still sitting in her car, slumped forward with her head in her hands.

"I gave Harry a call and he's got the right size. Will have it here soon as he can. So it's gonna be okay, ma'am. Nothin' to be upset about. Cell service is iffy here at best, but we have a phone inside if you need to call your husband or someone. To say you'll be late, if that's worryin' you."

She shook her head.

"Why not come inside where it's cooler? Sit by the fan and relax a bit."

She wiped her face with a tissue and followed Mack inside, where they sat at the lone table.

Not sure what to say, Mack tried small talk. "Nice car you got. Don't see many of those out here. Looks fast. Good mileage?"

She nodded, but said nothing.

"Would you like to use the phone?"

She shook her head once and looked out the window.

Mack left it at that. He didn't want to upset her any more than she already was, but he just couldn't make sense of this trip of hers. Why was a pretty woman like this, no doubt used to a grand style of living, driving alone hours on end over rough dirt roads? Why wasn't she using the interstate, or at least main roads like Route 29 right out front? She had to come here for service, but now she was going off to more dirt and gravel. Made no sense. But it was none of his business.
You're just alone out here too much. Find something else to think about, cuz she'll be gone in a coupla hours anyway.

She sat drinking her coffee, now calm and expressionless, still staring out the window as if to tell him to butt out.

Mack took the hint and stood up. "Well, if you need anything just holler. I'll be back in the office doin' the paperwork for your tire."

She didn't turn her head.

Mack walked into the office, where he'd left the TV on, set to the noon news. He headed straight to the filing cabinet with his back to the screen, which was showing a number: T38 GH2. The announcer was saying, "...for the murder of her husband." But his mind was on work now, and he paid no attention.

When he turned around again, he noticed images of roadblocks set up at highway exits and half-wondered if there was a problem of some kind down at the city, but he had a form to fill out, a customer waiting, and Harry was on his way. Mack's earlier boredom was forgotten. Surprisingly, he was having a busy day.



Author Notes
This is the second short story I ever wrote, four years ago.
Doesn't seem that long; time flies when you're having fun.

Unlike novels, short stories usually don't haveTHE END
at the end, but since many stories are posted in parts,
I thought it would prevent confusion, being a way to say,
"Don't wait for the next part. This is it."

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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