Please note, that while everything I write on my blog is true, this post did not actually happen. I would not buy food from a gas station. Everything I'm about to write was entirely in a dream I had Thursday night/early Friday morning. I guess I was so bored, that my mind was trying to entertain me with SOMETHING.
It was so bright that day, so bright that I wished I had a pair of sunglasses to protect my eyes. Momma pulled the car into the convenience store parking lot, quietly reminding me that we had to hurry, that we couldn't be caught. I nodded my head in understanding and we both moved out of the black SUV she had been driving.
I followed her into the store and while she went to get some grocery items, I went to the back wall to get an orange soda. We met up at the counter and everything was put into a small black plastic bag before she sent me back out to the SUV so she could get something she forgot- probably her cigarettes.
I got in the passenger's seat and leaned around, setting the bag on the back floorboard. When I sat back up, somebody was in the driver's seat. My heart started pounding and I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I screamed for my mom and in the blink of an eye, she was sitting in the driver's seat and starting the engine to the SUV. The stranger was gone, without a trace, save for my pounding heart.
As we started on our way home, I asked Momma if she had remembered to pick up the mayo. She exclaimed, "Shit! I forgot." This was upsetting news. Our dinner could absolutely not be eaten without it. There was just no way!
"Momma, it isn't that big of a deal. Just turn the car around and we'll go back to the store to get some." I explained, thinking that it sounded very reasonable.
"We can't do that, Rachel. It's already getting dark." She told me, pointing through the windshield with one hand. I frowned, despite the beautiful mix of orange and pink in the sky straight in front of me. Momma had night blindness, which meant that it was dangerous for her to drive at night. "I'll pull over here. It's not that far, so we can cut through those buildings and just walk back."
I didn't understand what she was saying. Wouldn't it be dark by the time we got back? Nonetheless, I decided to just trust her judgement. She knew what her eyes could handle and who was I to argue with that?
She pulled over into a nearby parking lot of what appeared to be a mechanic's shop. After parking the car, we got out and moved up to the garage door, which had been left open. There was a large white table in the middle and a door in the back. Thinking that it had just been left open, we decided to go through it to see if it had a back door.
Momma walked through the back door first and I heard a lot of barking. I rushed through the door behind her and saw nine or ten shih tzus running around, including The Stud Dog. Whoever owned the building we were in must have been watching the dogs for the groomer who took care of The Little Dog and The Stud Dog.
"Shhh, Hannah, Darcy, Izzy, calm down."
I didn't know how Momma knew the dogs' names but I decided not to question it. While she kept them busy, I pushed the chain length fence aside and moved through it. It wasn't until my hand was on the backdoor that I heard her calling for me, saying that she needed help to get through the fence because of all the dogs.
With an annoyed sigh, I moved back to the fence and opened it for her. She ran through and I slammed it shut in the faces of all the angry, barking dogs. We ran to the backdoor, scared that somebody would have heard that and now positive we were breaking and entering.
After fighting our way through the foliage, which is uncommon in the city, the hope faded from our faces. We were on the wrong side of town! This was the side of town with fancy places to eat and expensive stores only Bill Clinton and Oprah would ever be able to afford to buy a whole outfit at!
Grumbling over our disappointing defeat, we moved back through the foliage and into the back of the shop. The dogs had quieted down and we thought maybe everything would have gone unnoticed by the owner.
We made it all the way back to the front room with the table before we heard the car engine and saw the headlights of a car pulling into the parking lot. I felt my blood run cold with horror. Whoever owned this place was just coming back and we were going to be caught breaking and entering. He was probably going to call the cops!
"Quick, Rachel, get The Stud Dog so that it looks like we belong here!"
Again, I didn't question my mother's logic. In retrospect, considering she had been the one to get us into the mess, I really should have questioned what she was telling me. It was probably the fear of going to jail and having a record that made me just listen.
I made it to the door and reached through, trying to call for The Stud Dog, but it was too late. When I looked up, an old man was standing there. He looked like he was in his eighties, at least, and had the grouchiest look I had ever seen on anyone.
"What are you doing in my house?" He demanded.
This was a house? I didn't dare say it, but I couldn't believe that he lived in such a strange place. This was meant to be a place to work on cars, not to live in.
"We were just looking for mayo for our dinner!" I whined. "She can't see at night to drive, so we were trying to walk, and all we wanted was some mayo!"
"I have mayo." The man told us, pulling a jar out of the grocery bag I had just noticed in his hand. He held it up, in all it's amazing glory.
"Well, I can fix our dinner with the mayo and we'll share it with you, if you promise not to call the police on us?" Momma suggested. Finally, something she said had ended up working in our favor.
The man pulled up a couple of chairs and put a radio on over the speakers while Momma fixed the dinner she had been planning to make. I set the table and soon, we were all sitting down in an uncomfortable and awkward silence.
Soon, a song that I knew came on the radio. For some reason, Momma grabbed my hand and we started dancing. Within one verse, we had convinced the man to dance with us. Finally, he had cracked a smile and started laughing! Success!
After dancing for a while, the three of us sat back down, all laughing. We launched into a conversation about music and he began to tell us that he had a son, who was only about my age, and loved the same type of music I did. For a while, the conversation stayed happy and he even showed us a picture hanging up that I hadn't yet noticed, of his son in his military uniform.
"That was taken right before he went to Afghanistan." He told us, though his tone was turning from happy to depressed, lonely. "He went to fight and never came home."
The mood shifted after that. The new silence was no longer awkward, but heart breaking. After a little while, Momma managed to get him talking and smiling again, but it was clear that all of our minds were on the man who never made it home.
Ten years had passed since they had met. Once or twice a week, Rachel and her mother would return to the man's home, after such a strange and chance meeting. They had never felt right just leaving him after finding out his story and they always made time for him.
Rachel's mother was alone this day. They all knew that the man didn't have much time left, but Rachel hadn't been able to get away from prior commitments, as much as she had tried. Just like on that first night, the man and the mother sat down in the chairs at the table, music playing in the background.
The man had appeared to age thirty years in only a third of that but Rachel's mother barely looked any different. They were silent for a long time, just sipping at their hot drinks. It must have been tea, for Rachel's mother loathed coffee.
"When my wife and son passed away, I didn't have anyone left." The man told her quietly. "I just wanted to thank you and Rachel for coming into my life and staying."