Last night, shortly after dark, I drove past a small convenience store not far from here. There are many of these stores scattered throughout the hills and hollows of Vermont, and this one is little different from most: Stocked with cheap coffee and mediocre beer, strangely-flavored potato chips and canned soup, chewing tobacco and Slim Jims. There’s a little deli in the back where you can buy a decent-sized sub for four bucks.
On summer afternoons, trucks idle out front while their drivers grab packs of smokes and tall boys. On winter mornings, trucks idle out front while their drivers grab packs of smokes and coffee in styrofoam cups. During hunting season, there’s likely to be a rifle on the passenger seat of these trucks, barrel pointed to the floorboards. During most any season, there’s likely to be a chainsaw in the bed. A tow chain or maybe two, coiled in the corner like dozing snakes.
I like driving past this store. I like to see those trucks idling, imagine the tasks their owners are going to or coming from. I like going in the store, two: There are three women who work there regularly, and they’ve always got the radio on loud, and like or not, at least one of them is singing along at the top of her lungs. When it’s slow, they stand outside and smoke. I buy most of my gas and diesel there, a beer now and then. If I’m with the boys and in a magnanimous mood, I’ll grab a handful of ice cream sandwiches for the road. About once a year, I get one of those four buck subs. I like it loaded right up, everything except mushrooms. Never did like mushrooms on a sandwich.
Anyway. I drove past last night, a cold night, the lights over the gas pumps shining bright over the parking lot. Three trucks, two of them idling. I wanted to pull in, just to linger for a few minutes in the warmth and bustle of the store, and I started to put my foot on the brake. But there was nothing I needed, and I’d left my money at home, anyway. So I put my foot back to the gas and watched the lights fall away in the rear view.