We were several hundred miles south of Sacramento when we stopped for gas at one of the many non-descript truck stop/fast food hubs along the five en route to Los Angeles. I was travelling with my brother, his girl, her 3 y/o daughter, their two dogs and two cats in a caravan that was trickling it’s way south at a painfully slow pace; my brother and I up front in his work truck, his girl behind in a SUV.
At this time I was operating at half capacity when we stopped for gas, my brain still dulled from long nights, lack of sleep etc. that usually occurs when I stop home for a visit. Still I lugged myself out of the car, stretched and looked out over the vast fields; in the distance a storm approached across the vast farmland which was mildly upsetting as I was in shorts and sandals.
Walking towards the convenience store I noticed the usual gang of folks one finds at a pit stop along the freeway: some tourists, a student, Mexican workers, and of course truckers. Inside, the store was manned by an unhappy obese clown of a woman in heavy makeup. She barked into her cell phone and looked out at us few customers with contempt, keeping a sharp eye on everything and in retrospect providing a mild sense of security. She didn’t look like the kind of woman who’d let much slide on her watch.
Perusing the snack aisle, my calm was interrupted by the dinging of the doorbell. I looked up as two vacant and dead girls, probably in their late teens or early twenties came in for smokes. They were dressed a little off for a place like this, tight-fitting clothes and knock-off designer accessories that did little to make them more attractive. This is curious, I thought, but quickly dismissed them and went back to the task at hand. Finally I selected the snack I was going to try (some spicy peanuts) and went to pay the clown woman who rang me up as she stared a hole right through me. That look made me feel a bit guilty; I probably should have just stayed out of her space.
As I left the store a beat-to-shit orange pickup truck with a fat, graying Indian at the wheel pulled up. Over the sound of the leaking exhaust he yelled in a gravelly voice “hurry the fuck up, bitches!” I looked right at him, but his yellow eyes were focused on the two dead girls. For whatever reason, I didn’t think much of it and walked back to the truck, immersing myself in the chaos of my entourage. At this point I had still not processed that something was wrong. The air was thick with it, but I was still oblivious to the terror that loomed ahead.
Distractedly, I munched my peanuts and walked back over to the gang to see what our next move was. The wind picked up as it fell on me to try to walk my brother’s 300lb German Shepherd while the rest of the crew got settled in for the next leg of our trip. As the beast dragged me around the thin strip of grass separating the gas station from the street, a mess of Mexican teenagers poured out like beetles from a Carl’s Jr. across the way. I felt hungry I reckoned and was considering a bite to eat – something more satisfying than these overly salted greasy peanuts, perhaps a fish sandwich at Carl’s Jr. – when it happened:
On the heels of the Mexican teenagers I saw the two girls from the convenience store, with a third girl in tow. I wondered how they had gotten all the way over there and who the third girl was as the orange truck roared into the lot and plowed into the new girl, screeching to a halt over the crumpled body. With animal speed, the Indian flew out of the truck and stood over the corpse screaming at it. The first two girls milled around like zombies. These were lot lizards, the loneliest of whores and the chief was undoubtedly their pimp. I quickly glanced around but no one seemed to see anything. Was I hallucinating? This couldn’t be right, and I wasn’t sure what I could or should do at a time like this.
My pulse quickened as I witnessed the continuing assault and I immediately decided I wanted to help the girl. But I’d seen too many altercations gone wrong, and wasn’t ready to take a blade to the guts in front of a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Still, whore or not she was no match for the crazed Indian and his truck, so I looked down at the beast I was tethered to and made a vague move towards the scene.
Just then, two truckers emerged from the Carl’s Jr. and came to the rescue. One towered over the pimp, the other stood at of equal size, and immediately the taller trucker began to yell at the chief. The Indian stood his ground a bit, but the twitching of his empty hands by his side betrayed the fear… likely the fear he instilled in his lizards, the sick hopelessness of being outgunned. A sick feeling just slightly dulled by whatever cocktail of stimulants might be floating through his body.
As for me, a feeling of relief washed over in a soothing wave. These situations either end neutrally or badly, and either way I didn’t want to get stuck in the middle if I could avoid it. The argument was out of earshot, but the truckers clearly had the upper hand. The two initial lizards got the felled girl to her feet and then, with practiced precision, one of the girls leapt in between the Indian and the truckers. No doubt, this was the main bitch and immediately all parties involved recognized this fact. Suddenly as if by magic, the men broke apart and barring some last comments, went their own way without further issue.
Still dazed, I looked down at my brother’s dog that was sniffing obliviously at a sprinkler head. Then I looked out across the gas station and the Carl’s Jr. parking lot and noticed that still no one seemed to have seen what had just transpired. Incredible. A woman talked into her cell phone by her Mercedes, baby safe in the back seat. The tourists looked confusedly at a map, matching pork pie hats on their heads and rented Ford Mustang at the pump. My brother et al placidly going about their business. Perhaps a minute had elapsed since the beginning of the whole thing.
I looked back at the truck as two of the girls were loaded into the bed of the truck and then the main bitch joined the chief in the cab. The truck took a moment to turn over and then in a mechanically unmaintained cacophony of sputters and whines made its way from the scene of the crime. The truckers where gone, presumably eating the rest of their meals in the Carl’s Jr. I was in total disbelief.
Then my brother hollered at me; it was time to go. I snapped out of my trance and loaded the enormous shepherd back into his kennel in the bed of my brother’s truck. It looked to me like everything was just going to move ahead as usual. No bother, I thought. Perhaps I just lend myself witness to the strange and bizarre happening of this world more than most folks. I lost myself staring out of the window as our caravan made our way out of the gas station and back onto the freeway. I guessed I had really been alone in that experience when my brother broke the silence: “what the hell happened back there, anyways?”