are few things worse than finding yourself drunk on a gas
by Andrew Coslow
lying on the gas station floor, whining about the rain, covered
in grime, drunk, and loud. His pants cuffs have soaked
up years of street water. This grand comedy is only permitted
by the broken-toothed smile splayed across his face.
night, Gator keeps drinking and getting friendlier. Each time
he leaves and returns, his smile grows bigger. Now, on the
eighth or seventh trip, he looks like a jack-o-lantern
writhing on the floor. Earlier, I had fed him a hotdog; now,
hes begging to return the favor.
on, buddy. Tell me what you need," Gator says. "Need
that trash out? I can do that, or
dragged the vacuum out and unwound the cable, hoping hed
get the hint and leave. I run a gas station, after all.
me to do that, buddy? I can. I work hard, thats how
I eat," Gator continues. "These 185 pounds dont
come from sitting. I work hard."
thats alright. Ive got it," I say.
door flies open and he stumbles to his feet. Some character
wanders inside in search of Camels. I wander to the counter
and Gator grabs the vacuum, swerving around the store, swinging
his fat hands between his knees. Hes searching for the
ON switch. The vacuum isnt plugged in.
the customer outside, I jump over the counter and dash to
my dirty friend.
looks at me like my dog did when I caught it peeing on the
was just trying to
" he started.
Gator switches gears. Hes suddenly talkative, spinning
half-truths of sexual conquests and wild trips. "This
one time, a high-society bitch flew me all the way to New
York to paint her flat," he begins. When customers approach
my desk, he waits until they leave before resuming. After
too many interruptions, three or so, Gator grabs his pack
and says, "Im outta here."
next day, several hours after sunset, and right after my boss
leaves for the evening, Gator wanders back into my store.
Today he has a lock. Its a big, shiny, golden thing.
Its already locked, without a key.
to buy a lock?" he asks immediately, foregoing salutations.
Dont have much use for a used lock, man."
anyone who might need a lock?" Gator asks.
say I do, my man."
just found this thing this morning. Its in perfect condition,
man. Great lock. Not scuffed or ripped up or nothin.
All you need is some lock guy to get the thing open and itll
be good as new. I know a guy, can get it done real cheap."
decline, of course.
at his failing efforts, Gator turns serious. "Come on,
I just need a couple of bucks so I can buy a pack of smokes.
Hey, you got any smokes? Trade you for this lock."
man," I say. "Ill give you a cigarette, if
couple?" he asks.
but I can give you one."
man," he says.
walk outside to smoke a cigarette. Gator rambles out another
tired of drinkin, man. Last night I walked over to that
rehab center," he says, waving his hands in the air,
"but they were all out of beds. Didnt want to take
me cause I was so wet. Well, this is the Northwest,
and I live outside, I said to the lady. What do
you expect? They told me to go back tomorrow. You
gotta be serious about this. Need a commitment, they
say to me. So, Im committed. I mean, look at me, man.
I cant be like this forever."
next day Gator checked into rehab. They were going to dry
him out. That was fifteen days ago. I havent seen him
since. Hopefully, hell land a job and realize working
at a gas station is the end, not the beginning.