Burning Bridges

By Charlie Jensen

Once, years ago a fellow was driving along a semi-dirt road in one of our very rural farmland states. It was near evening and he noticed that he was low on gas. He had just passed through a small town driving by the town’s Exxon gas station so he began to think about turning back. After a few minutes, he decided that he would fill his tank in the next town which, according to a Gulf Oil Company’s free folded paper map, was little more distant ahead than turning around would be. Eventually he spied the roofs of several buildings in the distance, a church spire, a nearby a grain silo, and a water tower.

     “Aaa, civilization at last. I hope I can get a good cup of coffee at a diner in this town,” he said to himself.

He drove on and discovered that there was no gas station and “Drats …” no diner, so he drove on in the gathering dusk, all the time becoming more and more concerned about the fuel needle which was approaching the tip of the “E”.

No sense stopping, he drove on cursing under his breath, “How the hell can these damn people not have a gas station or a decent diner, damn hicks.”

His concern began to become worry. But at least he thought, since the last town had no place to buy fuel, the next town must surely have one as they have to get gas somewhere. A few lights provided some glare ahead so he drove on, but suddenly he realized that one by one the lights were being turned off. A glance at the fuel gauge did not help, he pressed the accelerator as if the vehicle could go faster and despite his knowledge that high speed burned fuel faster.

Now his concern was gone. What replaced it was sheer blind worry, and his misgivings were rewarded by the discovery that the lonely Arco station was closed. The doors were shut and there was no life to be seen within except for the big German shepherd who kept jumping at the glass shop doors. Panic began to erupt as he cleared town.  His breathing became labored.

Ahead was a light from what appeared to be a farm house, but the house was far off on a two track dirt road. He thought he could see some lights ahead in what he hoped was a big farmhouse closer to the main road where he could buy a can of gas for his vehicle.

     “Damn,” he thought, “the farmer will know I’m desperate and will probably overcharge me.”

With that the auto’s engine began to sputter and he rolled it to the side of the road. His angst was loud, long and culminated with him pounding his fist first on the steering wheel and then on the hood till he bent it and bruised his closed fist.

There was still a light on ahead so he began to walk. As he walked along at a quick step, trying to avoid the occasional pothole and the possibility of tripping in the now pitch black darkness, he rehearsed the expected conversation.

He saw the ground floor lights going out, one by one, so he began to jog. He swore something about the damn farmer going to bed so early. Turning into what was apparently another long driveway he began to stumble in the dark, mostly because he was not used to running and carrying on the heated conversation he was imagining at the same time.

The last remaining second floor light went out as he almost reached the porch. A dog barked, “He better not unleash some vicious dog on me. I’ll sue his baggy pants off” and with his last breath he swore, “He better not be angry with me waking him his fat wife.”

With his final burst of energy he began to pound on the large oaken door. It took a minute or so and as he beat on the door harder and harder he knew this was going to end badly. The upstairs light flickered on, a window sash squeaked and a gruff voice called out, “Who’s there?”

With that the stranded traveler stepped off the porch, away from the steps, turning and looking up into the light, he shouted, “You can keep you dammed gas and gas can!”

He turned away from the house and staggered back down the driveway. The moral of the story is;

“While it is not wise to burn the bridges behind you as you go through life, it is completely stupid to burn the ones ahead as well.”

Charlie Jensen

Copyright 2019, Foc’sle Chatter, All Rights Reserved

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