Death still has half a tank, but he’s doing something after work tomorrow so he swings into the filling station on his way home from work.
The architecture of the filling station is like this: building on the right, with the cash register, snacks and drinks and magazines, a couple poker machines, tobacco products, office in back. Next to that, restrooms and a garage bay.
There are three rows of pumps – one on the left, and then two rows on the right, back to back. So in theory two vehicles could be filling up on the left line, two more next to them and on the right side two more.
That is, beneath the roof extending out leftward (from death’s current position) from the building, there are two open spaces. The wider space, on the left, has a row of two pumps on its left side and a row of two more on its right side. The backs of those pumps abut another row of pumps which are along the left side of the right open space. The right side of the right space is the face of the building.
Death’s car’s gas cap is on the driver’s (left) side.
When he arrives at the gas station, there are two cars. One is a large, white delivery van parked diagonally in the wider left space, effectively blocking both left and right pumps. The other is a small, blue compact blocking the right space.
Both owners are in the building. Death waits for one of them to come out before committing himself to a row.
The large white delivery van reminds him of when he used to drive a large, white delivery van in college. You drove it standing up. He very nearly rear-ended a car in Vancouver, Washington once, down near the I-5 bridge, because he was watching a girl. Imagine that! What is it with death and maidens? He slammed on his brakes at the last possible second. It was summer, he was young and strong, and the tires screeched on the asphalt.
Two women with long, frizzy, light blonde hair and dark blue coats exit the building and climb into the blue car. Death leaves his motor idling, moves his car up behind theirs and waits for them to drive off, but they don’t. They don’t appear to be doing anything. They don’t seem to be having a discussion, or looking for the key (the driver had that in her hand already while exiting the building) or arguing or talking on a mobile phone or programming the navigation device or finding a station on the radio.
They are just sitting there.
Okay, death thinks. Whatever. They will eventually notice a car behind them and drive away.
Meanwhile the driver of the van exits the building in a hurry. He looks over at the van, but then turns left and tries the door of the men’s room. Finding it locked, he goes back inside for the key. He dashes back out, unlocks the door and disappears inside.
The blue car now has death curious. What are they doing? Why are they not moving? Are they rude? Distracted by some emergency or crisis? Having a quiet argument? Blind with grief? Laughing over a joke? Are they just stupid morons?
Cause, seriously, death is two meters behind their car, in his own car, motor idling, lights on.
Death waits a little longer, then gets out of the car and walks over to the driver’s side window of the blue car. The two women are sitting inside, looking straight ahead.
Weird, death thinks.
He bends over and taps on the glass.
The driver looks over at him and her entire body jerks such that she is airborne a couple inches before bouncing back down into the seat. Her facial expression is one of panic, briefly.
Am I so scary looking, wonders death. Maybe so. He is about six feet tall, after all, and male, and wearing a long black coat. Death wonders how she would react if he popped up from the back seat, wearing scary fake teeth, on some dark road. It would be the end of her story, he thinks.
The woman recovers and vacillates briefly between rolling down her window and opening her door. Death would roll down his window, but she opens her door a crack.
Excuse me, says death. Would you mind moving your car a few meters forward so I can put gas in my tank?
The woman nods and drives forward a few meters, then stops. Death moves his car and begins filling his tank. While he does so, the woman moves her car again, further forward and to the right, over by the high-pressure water washer things and the coin-operated vacuums. Then she loops around to the left, making a U, until she is in front of the diagonally-parked delivery van, blocking its easy exit.
The delivery truck driver exits the men’s room, returns the key, and jockeys the van back and forth until it can get around the blue car, and drives off.
Death goes inside and pays. He has a bad taste in his mouth and wants to get chewing gum, but the cashier rings up his gas so fast he doesn’t have a chance to tell her he wants gum and doesn’t want to make her change what she’s rung up so he just lives with it. He pays and returns to his car.
The blue car has turned around again so it is in front of him. It drives off, slowly, death behind it. Out of town plates, notices death. Maybe they’re just lost and trying to figure things out. He gives them plenty of space.
At home, death’s wife is working in her office.
Sorry, death says, I don’t want to bother you for long. I just wanted to give you a kiss. He kisses his wife.
That’s okay, she says. People bug me all the time at work. For hours on end.
Oh do they? says death. Anyone at work do this? He reaches around and squeezes his wife’s breasts.
Is that a trick question? says his wife.
They laugh and laugh.
That death. What a joker.