The Gas Station
All he needed was a chance.......
“ I know…… I know…. but you must consider pawning your grandmother’s jewelry, how else are we going to pay the bills next month”, Wess suggested while going through the bills.
“You're unbelievable ! I’m the one who’s working , I say your sports collection goes !”, Doreen yelled at the top of her lungs.
“Well what are we suppose to do ! My last unemployment check is already gone! Wess stressed while pulling out the checkbook only to see nothing but zeros.
“ I don’t know !”, Doreen cried while adjusting her white waitress apron.
“ Fine, since you brought up my collection, lets bring up yours ! How about those dresses in the closet that still have price tags on them or the handbags that you never use, they just sit there all looking pretty, I think we have a winner folks!”, Wess challenged.
“Look I have my faults, but you have not even looked for a job in three months ! You have to start pulling your weight around here!”, Doreen yelled furiously.
“I've been out there looking for work, but no one is hiring brick layers because no one is building”, Wess firmly said while trying to mellow out.
“Try harder ! Maybe its time you looked for something different, this family cannot afford you to wait for your dream job to fall in your lap”, Doreen cried while trying to hold back her tears so her makeup wouldn’t run.
“My granddaddy was a brick layer, my daddy was a brick layer and I‘m a brick layer. It‘s all I know !”, Wess yelled back while tossing the bill statements onto the kitchen floor.
The room was in utter silence. They both realized that they were acting like a bickering, cold hearted and selfish couple, one they swore they never would be. This was their first real challenge in their marriage and they were failing miserably.
“Your pride is going to consume us, I don’t want that. I love you and know that you can do something else if you put your heart into it”, Doreen softly spoke while bowing her head in exhaustion.
“I’m sorry. I should be putting the needs of our family first, but I am trying. Tell you what, I will spend the whole day tomorrow looking for work, I’ll even consider selling my sports stuff so we have enough money to buy groceries this week”, Wess promised while kneeling to the floor to collect the bills.
"I’m sorry too and tomorrow I’ll see if I can return some of those dresses with the tags on them. I also will see if anyone wants a few of my handbags for ten bucks each, that could help out a little”, Doreen said while kissing Wess on the cheek and wiping the tears off of her face.
“Hey don’t break down now, you’re the bread winner and running late for work”, Wess said.
“Your right, I have to go. There is still some bread and cheese left for sandwiches and some can tomato soup in the cupboard. Don’t forget to pick Ollie up from kindergarten at noon”, Doreen noted while straightening her waitress name tag and sliding on her worn shoes.
Wess felt sick to his stomach as Doreen left for her second job. Wess felt hopeless as he returned to the shuffled bills, trying to figure out how they were going to make it this month.
Noon was around the corner and Wess was on the road to pick up his son. Wess tried to forget about the argument with his wife, but this time it was real, more real than anything he had ever experienced. At each stoplight he added up all the debt in his head and the bills were splashed across his windshield like breaking news. The last unemployment check went towards the mortgage, but they needed a new washing machine, brakes for Doreen’s car and their credit cards were maxed out. Everything was a mess, and Wess didn’t know how to fix it. Just two blocks away from the school, Wess noticed his gas gauge was almost on empty. He reached deep into his pockets, only to find a $5 bill. It was all that was left from him donating blood, and he had reached his limit for the month. He was hoping to spend it on a ice cream cone for his son and maybe a small toy from the dollar store, but he couldn’t. Wess planned to stop at the regular gas station on the way to his son‘s school, but there was an accident that caused the traffic to detour around town. Wess knew the area a little and stopped at the first gas station he saw and started to pump. He tried to stop at five dollars , but went over a dollar by mistake.
“I don’t have it”, Wess thought. Wess approached the gas attendant to pay, he felt nervous and ashamed.
“ What pump ?”, the lady asked while chewing her bubble gum.
“ Pump seven”, Wess said.
“ Alright, that will be six dollars”, the lady quoted while holding out the palm of her hand.
Wess pulled out his five dollar bill, swiftly gave it to her and tried to walk away.
“Excuse me but you are a dollar short”, the lady shouted.
“I‘m sorry, but it is all I have”, Wess honestly said.
The lady glared at him and had a smirk of “he is going to get it”. The tension was unavoidable as she began slowly chewing her gum, sizing him up and staring him down.
“I’m going to have to get the owner”, the lady confirmed with enjoyment in her voice. She stood up from her stool and disappeared behind the counter. A moment later an older gentleman appeared out of the darkness.
“Thank you Rhonda, I’ll take it from here”, the old man dismissed.
“Sir, I’m sorry is there any way I can……..”, Wess babbled.
“Son, meet me out back and we’ll talk about it”, the man interrupted .
Wess glanced at his watch, he had only two minutes left, he didn’t want to be late picking up Ollie. He dashed to the back of the building and waited for the old man to catch up. Finally, noon on the dot the old man met him.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but I ‘m late picking up my son from school”, Wess cried while trying to run away from the old man.
“How far do you have to go?”, asked the old man.
“About two miles down the road”, huffed Wess.
“Alright, come back after you pick up your son and we will talk then”, the old man ordered.
Wess promised the old man he would return.
While driving to pick up his son, he had time to think. “ It was just a dollar, one measly dollar, couldn’t they over look it just this once? Then he got worried and his mind was racing “ What if they call the police? What if I get arrested over a dollar ? “ What would happen to Ollie and Doreen?” “ I would never get a job again if I have a criminal record”.
Wess pulled up to the school and saw his son Ollie standing beside his kindergarten teacher. Wess knew he was six minutes late and was prepared to hear the teacher complain.
“I know I'm late, but there was a detour, I was running out of gas and……..”, Wess rambled on while putting his car in park.
“Several parents were late because of that car accident up the road, I’ll excuse it this time”, the teacher interrupted.
Wess placed Ollie in the car seat and drove away. He ultimately decided to head back to the gas station to talk with the old man as he promised.
Wess pulled up to the gas station, and the old man was waiting outside for him drinking a cola and snacking on a pickle.
“Ollie, I know your hungry and want to go home , but I have to talk to this nice old man for a moment, okay little buddy”, softly comforted Wess
“Can we go to Burger Train so I can eat choo choo fries?”, Ollie asked.
“I’m sorry little man, but I’m out of money”, Wess whispered
“Where can you get more? I can help you daddy”, Ollie said
“I’m trying son…..I am trying, be good”, Wess stuttered while holding back tears.
Wess walked over to the old man looking down at the gravel in the lot, hoping for the best, fearing for the worst.
“I’m glad you came back”, the old man said while taking a bite out of his pickle.
“I promised I would”, assured Wes, while glancing back at the car’s backseat, making sure Ollie was okay.
Rhonda came running and said you had stole some gas from me. I don’t imagine you are the type of man to do such a thing, you have one of the most honest faces I have ever seen”, the old man gloated while taking a big gulp of his cola and spilling it on the collar of his ivory white shirt.
“Let me explain Sir……”, Wess said while trying to form his nervous words.
“Son, there is nothing to explain. So you pumped a dollar over, it happens and I know you didn’t mean to. Also, in your defense, you didn’t leave with your tires squealing and you came back when I asked you to”, the old man justified.
“I’ll pay you that dollar I owe, once I have it. Times are very hard for my family right now and I don‘t have a job”, Wess shamefully stated while glancing back at the car again.
“So your looking for work?”, asked the old man
“Yes Sir, been looking for a while”, replied Wess
“What is your name son?”, the old man inquired
“Wess Cross Sir”, Wess answered while extending for a handshake.
“I’m Carson”, Carson answered while shaking Wess hand.
Carson gazed at Wess, getting a very familiar feeling about him, but couldn’t place him in his forgetful mind.
“Well, Wess my boy you are in luck, my tire guy quit the other day and I need a new one. It doesn’t pay very much, but it is work. So what do you say?”, Carson asked with anticipation.
“I will be very grateful to work for you Carson, thank you”, Wess said while choking on his own tears of joy.
“That guy over there, Milton will help get you started. He will show you how to balance, install, order and fix tires”, Carson advised while pointing over to the small garage.
“Well, my granddaddy did teach me how to change tires and such when I was young, I still remember a little”, Wess confirmed while looking over at the car making sure Ollie was behaving, he was now trying to get out of his car seat.
“So, when can you start ?”, Carson asked with excitement.
“Tomorrow….. I can start tomorrow morning. Excuse me I have to tend to my son in the car, he’s getting a little hyper”, Wess rushed.
“Alright I’ll see you at 7:00 a.m. sharp ”, Carson shouted while Wess was jogging back to the parked car.
That night Wess told Doreen about the job he got, she was enthusiastic, until she found out it started tomorrow.
“Wess I have to work, who’s going to watch Ollie?”, Doreen sharply asked.
“Gee whiz Doreen I did not have time to think about that, the man offered me a job on the spot. It was meant to be………honey I’ll think of something”, Wess said after brushing his teeth.
“Alright, I’ll put this one on you, I’ve got enough on my plate as it is”, Doreen admitted.
Wess showed up ten minutes early ready to work. He met Milton outside the garage.
“You must be Wess, I’m Milton”, Milton confirmed while scratching the stubble on his chin.
“I’m ready to work”, Wess happily stated while entering the garage.
Suddenly, while looking over the garage, Wess had the strangest feeling he had been there before. He recognized the antique motorcycle picture on the wall in the office and the lay out of the garage. Wess was trying to listen to Milton, but he couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
“Wess, have you even listened to one word I have said?”, Milton said while aggravated and wiping the sweat off his brow.
“I’m sorry…..I got distracted. I have this funny feeling I have been here before”, Wess admitted while fiddling with a greased up rag.
“If your'e one of those guys your not going to last very long here”, Milton huffed.
“I apologize”, Wess said.
Wess had no problems catching on or keeping up, Milton was impressed. Later that day Wess asked Carson if he could let his son stay in the office because there was no one to watch him after school. With hesitation, Carson agreed, but warned that Ollie needed to stay in the office and not wonder off.
Once Ollie was in the office, Wess had lunch with him. He watched Ollie sip his milk, eat his cheese sandwich and scribble on scrap paper. While slowly watching his son’s hands work the crayon and circle the paper, Wess started to have flash backs of when he was about his son’s age . He concluded it had been in this garage before with his granddaddy and Carson. His granddaddy used to have his van repaired there and occasionally brought Wess. Wess watched the men change tires and was a interested in how cars worked, but his Granddaddy told him that he should be a brick layer, it was family legacy. He remembered how nice Carson was and his wife Millie who always had a freshly baked white peach pie there to eat at the shop.
Wess waited until business slowed down and approached Carson.
“Carson, I need to talk to you”, Wess alarmed
“ Now son don’t get too ambitious, I don’t give raises on your first day”, chuckled Carson.
“ Its not about a raise, it’s personal”, Wess said seriously.
“ Alright, I’ll quit pulling your chain, what‘s on your mind Wess ?”, Carson asked.
“I think I have been here before, when I was young. I think you knew my granddaddy Mr. Gordon Cross”, Wess explained
“Gordon Cross….Gordon Cross…Gordon Cross”, Carson repeated under his breath trying to remember the name with his eyes closed.
“He used to come here years ago, we ate Millie’s peach pie and laughed at you hula dancing to The Beach Boys. My granddaddy got his van fixed here, you know the guy with the funny salt and red pepper hair that was balding in the back and his hippie yellow caravan of love”, refreshed Wess with a grin.
“Your Gordon’s grandson!!!! Oh! Sweet Jesus!… I knew you looked familiar, come to think of it you have his hair”, laughed Carson.
“I don’t know about that, but I think I have his eyes”, Wess said
“He was a good man and a dear friend. I’m sorry I hadn’t kept in touch all these years, but when my wife passed, I became very depressed, I even closed the gas station down for a while. I would love to talk to your granddaddy sometime, give me his number”, smiled Carson while reaching for a pen in his shirt pocket
“Carson, I hate being the one to tell you this, but he passed away last year”, Wess revealed.
“I’m so sorry to hear that…. I should have been there”, Carson said while lowering his head and taking off his ball cap to honor his friend.
“Well I have to get back to work, nice to see you again Carson”, Wess said while walking back to the garage.
“Wait! What happened to your Grandma, you know Edith ?”, Carson asked while raising up his head.
“She’s in a nursing home up by Morrisville, but she’s hanging in there”, Wess said.
Blood, sweat and tears finally started to pay the mortgage for Wess and Doreen, but they were still struggling to get ahead. Wess and Carson talked often and ate lunch together almost every day. Carson trusted Wess like he trusted his granddaddy and gave Wess more hours with a raise. Milton was jealous, but kept to himself. Once summer came and school let out, Carson allowed Ollie to play in the office all day. Carson put in a television so Ollie could watch cartoons. Carson also made sure there were a lot of coloring books around and snacks for everyone to eat. Carson felt alive, it had been awhile since he had been so happy and Wess worked so hard for him. Carson told Milton it was time to train Wess to do car maintenance, so Wess learned how to do fluid flushes, oil changes, tune ups, hose repair, replacing filters and how to install brake pads. Everything was going well until a few days before Ollie was to start 1st grade.
Mr. Carson had kidney failure and was dying. He was too stubborn to go on dialysis or on a transplantation list. He was hospitalized for five days then he passed away.
Wess attended the funeral, but Milton decided not to go. Wess did not know what was going to happen, his mind started to race again. “Ollie needs school clothes, the roof is leaking and now the stove is not working. How can we pay for all this ? We are barely holding on as it is”.
Wess only had the job six months, he felt like a failure all over again.
One day, about a week after the funeral, a strange man knocked on Wess and Doreen’s front door. Wess went outside on the front porch to talk to the man dressed in a black suit.
“Sorry to disturb you this evening…….My name is Thomas Castle, I was Carson’s attorney”, Thomas said while extending his hand.
“Thomas, it is nice to finally meet you….Carson told me so much about you and the kids, I‘m Wess Cross”, Wess said while relaxing his shoulders a bit
“Nice to finally meet you too, he talked about you and Ollie often”, Thomas remarked.
“Well, everything is in there”, Thomas stated while handing over a large yellow folder.
“What‘s this?”, Wess asked in confusion.
“I guess Carson didn’t have the time to tell you. He put you in his will a few weeks ago, he wants you take over the gas station for him… there is only one catch …..”, Thomas said while holding back the folder.
“What’s that ?”, Wess asked while almost speechless.
“You have to give Rhonda one dollar to buy it”, Thomas giggled.
“Oh bless it, I forgot, I never paid Carson back”, smiled Wess while reaching deep into his pocket only to find two quarters. Then in that moment, Ollie came running up to his dad and gave him two more quarters.
“Does this help, I found them on the playground daddy”, Ollie grinned.
“Well… Ollie… I guess we just bought a gas station”, Wess concluded.