Canto 05

Mike was standing by the car, holding open the passenger side door, and shaking his head.  “C’mon man,” he said, “Get out.  Let’s see if we can clean this up.”

They had pulled into the first gas station they could find between Mauk and Columbus, a dirty little place with a half-assed food mart attached.  Mike helped pull Old Man Peal out of the car, Peal groaning an cursing the entire time.

“Goddamn it!  I told ya to drive carefully.  But no!  You had to go and run through the damn biggest pothole in all of Georgia!”

His crotch was soaked with beer.  Looking at him, Mike couldn’t help but giggle.  Peal just snorted and muttered some words of disgust, and waddled off to look for a rest room.

It was actually rather fortunate they stopped anyway, because the car needed gas.  The fuel gage had a bad tendency to stick sometimes.  This had been one of those times, and they had been dangerously low on gasoline.

After filling the car up Mike wandered into the dirty little store.  It was poorly lit and dusty, and probably hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned in decades.  There was a little grill in the back, but he didn’t dare buy anything to eat in this place.  (I don’t blame him! I once got sick as a dog from eating at a little redneck cafe in western North Carolina.  Ugh!!)  He bought a bottle of Yoo-Hoo, then went outside to wait for Peal.

Five minutes turned into ten, which  soon turned into fifteen.  Where was that crazy old man?

Mike walked back into the store, and asked the clerk where the men’s room was.

“We don’t got no public bathrooms,” was the reply.

“Huh?”

“Nope.   Sorry.”

Mike was confused.  “Well look, that old man who was riding with me in the car, did you see where he went off to?”

“I didn’t see any old man.”

“What?  C’mon.  Old man Peal.  He spilled a can of beer all over himself and my car.  He came in here to clean up.”

The clerk began looking real suspiciously at Mike.  “Mister, I didn’t see no one in that car but you,” he said emphatically.

Mike was at a loss for words.  “Uh …. sorry,” he said, and walked back out to his car.  The passenger side door was open, but when he stuck his head inside, there was no odor of beer, and he couldn’t see any signs of a spill.  He touched the seat; it was dry.

But he saw Peal struggling with the aftermath of the spilled beer with his own eyes!

Mike felt dizzy and confused.  He shut the passenger door, walked around the car, and got inside.  He just sat there for several minutes, not knowing what to do or think next.  It felt like he was in a vortex.

Rap, rap, rap!!  The sound of the clerk banging on his side window snapped him out of his confusion.  He rolled down the window.

“You all right Mister?” the clerk asked.

“Yeah, I think so.  Just had a weird experience, that’s all.  Very weird!”

“You ain’t a taking them drugs are ya?”

“No, I don’t do drugs.”  Mike’s reply was curt, like he thought it was a stupid question.

“Uh huh.”  The clerk cleared his throat.  “Listen, I gotta tell ya, and I can testify.  Jesus is the answer, the only answer to whatever you’re workin’ through.  Give your heart to Jesus, and you’ll be okay.”

Mike smiled.  “I appreciate that.  I really do.  But I suppose it would be best if I got going now.”  He started up the car and rolled up the window.

“Prayer will help you,” shouted the clerk at him as he drove off.