by Aja Brooks
I love the smell of gasoline. Diesel too.
The good shit, not the mystery kind that’s ten
cents cheaper than everywhere else and home to
rows upon rows of old candy and buckets of
ninety-nine cent lip gloss. I like my truck stops
modern. I refuse to work anywhere that sells
cheap gas.

My truck stop is the size of a small school, with a
parking lot big enough to accommodate the
charter buses full of students and tourists whose
interest in New Jersey doesn’t go further than a
place to piss and decide between KFC or Taco
Bell to take for the remainder of their trip to New
York City.

When they pass by, I like to think that my deep
breaths send the wind from their conversations
in my direction, so that I may be treated with the
sweet sound of a Southern accent to accompany
the euphoric whiff of premium gasoline. Much to
my dismay, this particular group contains no
Southerners, but is not lacking in women
sporting neon Crocs and the kind of men who
find “rock on” to be an acceptable thing to say.

Though the sight of the bald men with their
barbed wire tattoos and ankle socks is enough to
make me wish for blindness, I’m thankful they
aren’t my customers. Well, at least not today.

Clay, my current customer, is waving at me from
the ATM, mouthing the words,
Do you need
anything from the store?
My answer is No, as it
will forever be until hard liquor or unleaded,
scented scratch-and-sniffs are sold inside. I’m
much more excited about Clay allowing me to fill
up his semi-truck while he thumbs through cheap
iron-on souvenir shirts and custom name

I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I’ve
committed every sin sans the violent ones, and I
cannot think of a single one worthy of receiving a
plastic keychain bearing my name in all caps.
The beep signaling a full take interrupts this day-
mare right as a group of tourists passes me, each
armed with either fried chicken or shitty burritos
commingling with the sweet smell of diesel, thus
fucking up one of my favorite parts of this job.

Shortly after, Clay returns with a plastic bag that
bright red letters. I hear the tell-tale sound of
plastic and metal falling toward the bottom of the
bag, and I lose a little faith in humanity.

“I found a keychain that has Brittani with an ‘I’.
My wife’s going to love it.”

What a sadistic bastard.

The inside of Clay’s semi smells like black ice car
freshener, another statement about the state of
our society, given black ice is both odorless and
not exactly something one would want to
experience while in a car. But I digress. At least
it smells decent and isn’t strong enough to
compete with the smell of over thirty vehicles
being refueled.

YOU) bag on the dashboard between us, and a
thin barbed wire tattoo peeks out from beneath
his Georgia Tech T-shirt. I realize this is the first
time I’ve seriously contemplated suicide since my
mother made me sit through an entire Daughtry

“Well sweetie, I took out three hundred because
I didn’t know if you charge for anal.”

I smile my first genuine smile in weeks. I’d
sooner be sore in the ass for ten years than look
at that tattoo for ten more minutes.

I take the money, not bothering to count the
twenty dollar bills, given my theory that any man
married to a woman who would truly love a
personalized keychain from an Exxon doesn’t
possess the mental capacity to short me, or
further realize that he has overpaid.

I glance up to see Clay smiling at me. “Wow. I
didn’t think you’d agree so quickly. I usually
have to talk women into it.”

I doubt this man has ever talked anyone into
anything aside from questioning where his
parents went wrong, but I hide this doubt with a
smile and proceed to undress.

“I’m going to assume you have a condom.”

“Of course I do, little lady.” Admittedly, I’m a
little disappointed that the condom he pulls out
doesn’t have CLAY stamped across it.

“Well . . .” I bend over. “Rock on.”

Aja Brooks is a 21-year-old breakfast cereal enthusiast who is completing
her bachelor's in creative writing and advertising at Texas State University-
San Marcos. She is an English tutor who spends her spare time
researching the evolution of LGBT portrayal in the media, evading the
monotony of day jobs, and waiting for the era of reality television to end.
Short Story