Road Kill

The body was lying between the car and the gas pumps. The filling hose was still stuck in the fill spout. She had put in seven and three tenths gallons before the pump had stopped. Her purse was on the passenger seat of the car. There was an empty soda bottle lying next to her, its contents spilled on the pavement by her head, mixing with her blood.

What she had been doing here Billy couldn’t imagine. Nobody came here any more. This filling station was far off the beaten path. Once upon a time there had been a hotel across the street with concrete wig-wams for rooms and a twenty foot concrete Indian out front. Next to that hotel had been another with a sixty-foot dinosaur, and next to that a diner in an old air-conditioned railroad car. The Nation had owned the hotel once upon a time, playing to the white-man’s stereotypes of their people—his people. The stupid grinning concrete chief was still there, but absent his nose and several toes which a group of boys had broken off with a sledge hammer.

This place was prosperous a long time ago, but the old highway had been abandoned. The state had built a new six-lane freeway down in the valley, and like a river that had changed its course it had left this little corner of Van Winkle County high and dry. Nobody came down this road anymore. The Porsche had probably been the only car out here all day. The only thing left was this old filling station with it’s rusty pumps and broken windows and two old men who continued running it because they had nowhere else to go. Well, they could go back to the Rancheria. The rest of the nation had moved back onto the Rancheria, farther up in the hills, where a shiny new casino had replaced the tacky hotel as their main source of income. They could go there where the nation would take care of them and they’d live a comfortable life on all the money they were stealing back from the white-man: but they were too damn stubborn for that. Instead they stayed out here, on this desolate old road across from that damned concrete Indian, because this was their land and they refused to give it up. He hated them more than anything, just like he hated himself. They were the past he couldn’t escape. They were his family, and he hated being one of them.

“Tell me again, dad,” Billy said to the man in the straw cowboy hat, leveling upon him the eyeless gaze he normally gave drunken motorists, his face hidden behind mirrored sunglasses.

“Rolled in here about two o’clock,” his uncle Earl, interjected, “pretty little thing. Nice car too. Said she was going to Vegas”

“Long way to Vegas,” Billy’s dad said again.

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