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FULL-SERVICE FAILURE
there are few things worse than finding yourself drunk on a gas station floor
by Andrew Coslow

Gator’s 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.

All 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, he’s begging to return the favor.

"Come on, buddy. Tell me what you need," Gator says. "Need that trash out? I can do that, or…"

I dragged the vacuum out and unwound the cable, hoping he’d get the hint and leave. I run a gas station, after all.

"Want me to do that, buddy? I can. I work hard, that’s how I eat," Gator continues. "These 185 pounds don’t come from sitting. I work hard."

"No, that’s alright. I’ve got it," I say.

The 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. He’s searching for the ON switch. The vacuum isn’t plugged in.

Rushing the customer outside, I jump over the counter and dash to my dirty friend.

He looks at me like my dog did when I caught it peeing on the floor.

"I was just trying to…" he started.

"I know."

Now Gator switches gears. He’s 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, "I’m outta’ here."

The 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. It’s a big, shiny, golden thing. It’s already locked, without a key.

"Want to buy a lock?" he asks immediately, foregoing salutations.

"Nope. Don’t have much use for a used lock, man."

"Know anyone who might need a lock?" Gator asks.

"Can’t say I do, my man."

"I just found this thing this morning. It’s 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 it’ll be good as new. I know a guy, can get it done real cheap."

I decline, of course.

Frustrated 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."

"No, man," I say. "I’ll give you a cigarette, if you want."

"Gotta couple?" he asks.

"No, but I can give you one."

"Alright, man," he says.

We walk outside to smoke a cigarette. Gator rambles out another story.

"I’m 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. Didn’t 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, I’m committed. I mean, look at me, man. I can’t be like this forever."

The next day Gator checked into rehab. They were going to dry him out. That was fifteen days ago. I haven’t seen him since. Hopefully, he’ll land a job and realize working at a gas station is the end, not the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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