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The War – Episode 7

December 19, 5:07 AM Mountain
Littleton, Colorado

Chuck sighed as he saw the truck park at pump five, and yawned as he rubbed his eyes. He had cursed having to do homework for his differential equations class during the night shift, but at least it had been something to do. With finals over until after the holidays, all he had was a love-worn novel to keep him awake, since the owner did not allow TV or even checking his phone for news or just to chat with someone. The only reason he had that was because he had told his boss he needed to read it for school.

He pushed the talk button on his microphone and said, “Brown SUV at pump five, you’ll have to come inside to pre-pay or pay at the pump. Can’t let you fill without that until sunrise.”

The truck’s driver opened her door and stepped out. She wore a full-length quilted coat, and her head was wrapped in a scarf to ward off the cold. Chuck could hear her boots crunch in the packed snow of the parking lot as she walked to the building.  After she entered the store, she pulled the scarf down from her face, but left her bright pink knit hat on over her head. She was young, probably only a couple years older than Chuck, with dark almond-shaped eyes and a full mouth. She smiled at Chuck as she passed the check-out and went into the aisles. She returned after a few minutes with a large bottle of chocolate milk and a bag of cookies.

“Still cold out?” Chuck asked as he scanned the cookies.

“Very,” she replied in a quiet voice as she handed him several twenty-dollar bills, “Also, please put fifty dollars on the pump.” She had a slight accent, almost British, but lilting.

Chuck smiled at her as he punched the gas order into the computer. “All set,” he said, handing back her milk and cookies along with her change, “Have a good day.”

She smiled at him again, then pulled the scarf up over her face and walked out the door. Chuck watched her go as she walked across the lot and started the pump. Once the gas started flowing, she got back into the truck. Chuck watched for a moment, then turned back to the counter. As he reached out to pick up his paperback, he knocked the charity jar full of change to the floor. The plastic tub bounced once, then deposited its cargo of nickels, dimes, and pennies onto the floor behind the counter.

Chuck swore vociferously as he knelt down to clean up the mess. “Awesome,” he muttered sarcastically as he tried to scoop up the coins as quickly as possible, “This shift can’t end soon enough.”

He was straining to reach a couple of quarters, which had rolled between the time-lock safe and the counter, when the glass front of the store blew in and the roof of the building collapsed onto him. When he woke up in the hospital three days later, he was deaf in one ear, had casts on one arm and both of his legs, and couldn’t remember much after the customer in the brown SUV paid for her snack.


Other episodes can be found here.  The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.

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