Empty Tank

Thriller Short Story

Thriller Short Story

 

“Mom, I’m cold.”

“I know, buddy. You’re just gonna have to tough it out.”

“Are we almost there?”

“Almost there.”

A young woman and her eight year old son walk on the side of the dark county road, the moon and stars lighting their way.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Why did our car stop working?”

“It ran out of gas.”

“Why?”

“I pushed it too far.”

The two walk in silence for a while. The sign for the next gas station is in sight, illuminated against the night sky.

“Why couldn’t Dad come with us?”

“Dad is busy.”

“Is he going to come later?”

“We’ll see.”

“I hope he does.”

“How was school, buddy?”

“It was good. We played kick ball in P.E and Sally said that she is in love with Brenden.”

The two make their way into the bright fluorescent glow of the gas station lot. The young woman buys a small gas can and a candy bar for her son. She pumps the gas into the container quietly as she listens to her son devour the candy bar with ferocious chomps. He then looks up at the tired woman, his face covered in the sweet chocolate.

“Mom?”

“What?”

“Were you ever in love?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Mommy.”

The young woman looks down at her boy with a warm smile and gives him a hug. The moment is broken by the loud roar of a diesel engine. A truck pulls up to the adjacent pump and an old, weathered man gets out and begins to pump gas. He looks at the woman and the boy and the gas can.

“Rough night?”

The young woman is hesitant to respond, but eventually succumbs to the awkward silence.

“We ran out of gas about a mile down the road.”

“I can give you guys a lift back to your car. It’ll be no trouble at all.”

The young woman examines the man. He is rough looking, but he has the bright eyes of a good man. The same eyes as her son.

“Mom, please? I don’t want to walk anymore!”

“OK.”

The three squeeze into the single row seat of the truck. The old man cranks the engine and it rumbles to life.

“My name’s Gabriel?”

“Like the angel?”

“Ha! Yeah, little buddy. Just like the angel.”

The old man glances over at the young woman, who is silent, but smiling. She looks tired.

“Me and my mom are going to stay at my Grandma’s house.”

“Oh! Wow! I bet you are going to have a fun time.”

Suddenly the old man’s face changes.

“Oh no.”

There is an object in the road. It is a dog. The truck pulls to a halt. As the old man opens his door to get out, the dog’s faint whimpering can be heard.

“Leg’s broken.”

They were stopped in front of a farm house. There was a light on inside.

“It probably belongs to them. You guys stay put, I’ll be right back.”

The old man goes to back of the truck and grabs a rag, which he raps around his left hand. As he approaches the dog, it begins to growl.

“It’s OK little fella. I’m just takin’ you home.”

The old man gently scoops up the dog as if it were a baby. The dog yelps and bites the old man on the hand wrapped in the rag, which is closest to the fractured leg.

“Ow! Dammit! Calm, down. I’m just doing what I can.”

The boy and the young woman sit in the truck and watch as the man cradles the dog to the front porch of the farm house and knocks on the door.

“Mom?”

“What, buddy?”

“Why did the dog bite him?”

“When animals are afraid and don’t know what to do, they can hurt you.”

The boy sits in silence. As if digesting this new information. The man soon comes back and gets in the car.

“Is the dog gonna be OK?”

“Yeah. He’s pretty shook up, but soon he’s going to heal. He’ll be running around and chasing squirrels like nothing ever happened.”

“Will he get hurt again?”

“I sure hope not, buddy. Maybe he’ll be a little smarter about where he runs next time.”

The truck pulls up to the young woman’s disabled vehicle and they all get out.

“Thank you so much for the ride. Me and my son are very grateful.”

“It’s no trouble at all, ma’am. Nice to meet you folks.”

“Bye, Gabriel.”

“Bye, little guy. Have fun at your grandma’s house.”

The old man gets into the truck and drives away. The truck lights soon disappear into the black night. The young woman pours the gas into the tank and starts the vehicle with a sigh of relief. The boy gets in the passenger seat and buckles in.

The tired mother looks over at her son. His face is glowing with excitement. Excitement over tonight’s encounter. Excitement to be safe in the car once more. Excitement about life. This sight breathes fresh air into her tired soul and brings a warmth back to her heart.

Before pulling back on to the county road, she looks at him for a moment longer and smiles.

“Are we alright now, Mom?”

“Yeah buddy, we’re alright.”

 

more by SEAN SULLIVAN

Photograph by Casey Fyfe

 

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