The Idiots

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Nawal must work her first night shift in an isolated gas station. Alone.

Submitted: June 28, 2017

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Submitted: June 28, 2017

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The Idiots

 

‘Your shift ends at 6 PM.’

‘Yes, Mr. Crub.’

Crub looked around at his petrol station store as if he would never see it again. His ancient eyes wrinkled into slits, taking in everything he could see, no doubt to complain about anything that could go amiss. ‘You call me if you need anything.’

‘Yes, Mr. Crub.’

‘That being said, remember that I’m going to an anniversary dinner, I’d prefer not to be disturbed.’

‘Yes, Mr. Crub.’

Crub sniffed. ‘I’m trusting you to get this right. Don’t take on anything too strenuous. I don’t really expect you to see many customers, but you’ve messed up before, haven’t you?’

‘Sorry, sir.’

Crub really had no other option other than to allow Nawal to run this place for the next eight hours. He picked up his keys. ‘Right, see you tomorrow evening. Tom will take over at six.’

‘Yes, I know.’

‘Good.’ He coughed into his hand and left the store.

Nawal was left alone.

There was a low buzz from the overhead light, but otherwise the place was silent. The fluorescent light that flushed through the store juxtaposed against the deep darkness outside. She looked through the door, waiting to see if anyone would come in, but the harsh light made it impossible to see outside. Rows of biscuits and crisps relaxed on the shelves, packaged in obnoxious, screaming colours. She wiped a finger across the top of her retro cash register. It came back smudged in grey.  She hoped no-one would come in to fill up their car with petrol. The system for working out the price was more complicated than at other petrol stores. It required numerous input instructions which, if pressed in the wrong order, messed up the whole system. And every customer that visited had to make things complicated. I can’t pay with this card, I need to use that one; I filled the tank up more than I was supposed to; this is more expensive than it should be. Blah blah blah, everyone had something to rant about. They liked picking on Nawal – she was small and skinny and pretty, and not used to confrontation. The more incompetent she looked, the angrier and more twisted the customers seemed to become. She hated them all.

The night shift was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people as there would on the day shift. This gas station was also quite isolated. It was a pit stop on a long road with infrequent visitors. She would probably spend most of the shift bored – which was fine by her. If anything was too difficult, though, there would be nobody around to help her. She was already on thin ice with Mr. Crub – she wanted to prove to him that she could manage this place without him. Her heavy heart told her that her success would almost entirely depend on whether she had any difficult customers.

The clock ticked to eleven.

The first set of customers had arrived, it seemed. It was an old, black car. Nawal’s heart fluttered in her chest when she saw four figures get out. It was hard to make them out through the doorway, but she saw the headlights and vague outlines, and heard their light-hearted chatter. They didn’t put any petrol into the car as far as she could tell, which was good. Hopefully, they just wanted to buy snacks or something.

The bell above the door tingled as the four of them walked in. There were four guys, late teens to early twenties. They were scoffing and chortling with one another. They immediately advanced to the liquor section. As they perused, Nawal wondered whether she should ask them for identification. If they were underage and bought alcohol without ID, she could be in serious trouble. Then again, if they had no ID, it would prolong their visit and rile them up. She studied them, and they noticed her scrutiny. She looked away shyly and determined they were most definitely old enough to buy alcohol. They were big lads, and all of them looked older than her, anyway. She decided not to ask for their identification. Two of the guys walked over to her while the other two read magazines. The two guys who approached slammed a basket of alcohol on the counter. There were bottles of vodka, cans of beer, two mixers and some dark, sticky stuff Nawal would never want to taste.

‘Alright, dahlin’?’ asked the taller boy. He brushed his moppy hair from out of his eyes and gave her a timid half-smile.

‘I’m OK,’ said Nawal as she started scanning the items. ‘How are you?’

‘I’m good. They got you working the night shift?’

‘Yeah.’

‘That sucks.’

The shorter of the two young men watched the exchange.

‘Having a party?’ she asked.

‘Pre-drinking,’ he said, drumming his hands on the counter.  ‘We’d invite you but…’

‘I’m having too much fun doing this,’ she said.

He laughed. ‘Looks it. What time they got you working ‘til, then?’

‘Six.’

Ooh,’ he said, as if something sharp had just poked him. ‘Sounds pretty dull. If you get bored, run out of here and we’ll be in Secret. Gonna go get drunk and have a bit of a rave.’

‘Bet you wish you could rave with me, right?’ She scanned the last item.

‘You’d be the most beautiful girl in the club.’ He winked theatrically.

Nawal suppressed a smile. ‘That’ll be 48.50.’

The shorter man snorted and shook his head.

The tall one handed her a fifty. ‘You can keep the change.’

‘Are you always this generous with girls?’ she asked him.

‘Only the pretty ones.’

‘Go and get smashed,’ she told him, spilling his change into his hand like water. ‘And think of me while I’m stuck in here.’

‘I’ll think of you all night,’ he said. He stuck his hand out. ‘I’m Robbie.’

She took his hand. ‘I’m Nawal.’

They shook. His hand was big and enveloped hers like a hug. ‘Are you gonna give me your number?’

Nawal shrugged, grabbed a piece of paper and jotted her digits down. The other three men looked on in jealousy. Robbie grinned and pocketed the paper.

‘Gonna pester you all night’ he said.

‘My phone’s out of battery at the moment. You’ll have to wait ‘til morning, if you can stand it.’

Robbie grinned again and picked up his bag of alcohol. The bottles chinked. ‘See you soon.’

‘Have fun,’ said Nawal. She turned to his short friend. He had a militant black haircut and intense maroon eyes. ‘Nice to meet you.’

‘Yep,’ he said.

Together, the four men marched out the store. One of the other guys punched Robbie on the arm as they walked into the distance, and she could hear them talking excitedly.

Nawal rolled her eyes.

The minutes that passed were slow. She hated having no phone to play around on, and she resorted to doodling on a piece of paper. Nobody had shown up to the store since the four party-goers, and the hum of the light bore through her head like a drill. She wandered about the store, looking at the junk food and wondering whether she could nick a packet of cookies. She picked one up and studied, then her eyes flitted to the security camera in the corner. She put the cookies back down and instead stared out the window. An occasional car would fly by, but none of them stopped. The place was an empty graveyard.

Hours crept by. When it was two o’clock, she gave herself the creeps. The overhead light was on the blink and, having been alone so long, she began to hear the quiet as being very loud. Her isolation was crowding in on her. She walked about the store again, and the air felt thick and seemed to press inwards. The overhead light blinked again, almost as if it was tired and beginning to fall asleep. The door then breezed open, and the bell tinkled. Nawal’s heart skipped a beat, but when she went to see who was there, it was desolate. The door closed itself, as if quietly apologetic it had made such a racket, and the bell continued to shake as it always did after being attacked. Nawal backed away and went back behind the counter, the barrier between her and the door felt safer now.

Another sluggish, creeping hour.

No more cars were passing. Nawal looked out the window to the world beyond, and it might as well have been a wasteland. She wished she could appreciate the easy money, but there was a definite discomfort she couldn’t shake. She wished once again that she had brought her phone. She was both scared and bored. Nawal also found herself making as little noise as possible, even though there was no reason to. It felt like she was hiding from something. She began to resent even the piercing light the gas station gave off, it felt like an invitation to insidious beings beyond the walls. They would stumble towards the light like moths. She resented the idea of the door being open, that anyone could walk in at any time. It was like an invitation to anyone and anything to just swoop in and do as they pleased. At this hour, only creeps and weirdos would come in, she was sure of that. Nawal was a small girl, and wouldn’t be able to stop, say, a homeless man from entering and butchering her.

But Mr. Crub had left her the keys.

She could, if she wanted to, lock the door. It wouldn’t be totally unreasonable. If a customer dropped by, she would definitely see them and could open up if they wanted entry. It was genuinely safer this way, and Mr. Crub wouldn’t lose any customers… unless Nawal thought they looked creepy, in which case Crub didn’t pay her enough to deal with such creatures, anyway. She dwelled on the idea for several minutes before deciding that her safety, indeed, was more important than the whims of crotchety Mr. Crub. She grabbed the keys and moved towards the door.

Screeching, wailing – from outside.

Nawal rushed to the window and looked out. A car was screaming down the road at high speed in a zig-zag. It came very close to striking the barriers and indeed, it looked like the car had grazed off them slightly. The car almost passed the gas station, but at the last moment spun around in a donut and almost slammed into one of the petrol pumps. It remained stationery for several seconds, dust still settling from the whirlwind it had been, the angry headlights focused on the store door.

It was Robbie’s car. Four men stumbled out and rushed up to the door and crashed through. Whoops and howls filled the air.

HelloOoOo beautiful,’ said Robbie. His hair was dishevelled, and his buttoned-up shirt was now buttoned down.

His short friend stood unsteadily by Robbie’s side, staring hard at Nawal. The other two were looking at the biscuits and crisps section. Nawal attempted to compose herself.

‘Oh, good party?’

‘No,’ said Robbie’s short friend. ‘It wasn’t good. It wasn’t a party. We went to a nightclub. We told you that.’

‘Oh, OK.’ Nawal walked behind the counter.

Robbie stood in front of the counter, looking at her and puffing his exposed chest out. ‘You been lonely, babe?’

The two boys Nawal hadn’t yet spoken to were opening crisps and biscuits. They ate.

‘Are you going to pay for those? My boss will be mad if you don’t.’ She said it in what she determined to be an authoritative voice.

The two lads scoffed and muttered something incoherent between obscene chews and crunches. One laughed at the other, and then they began throwing the biscuits and crisps at one another.

‘Hey, I have to clean that, stop it!’ said Nawal.

‘Oh, fuck off,’ said one of the boys. He frisbeed a cookie at her and she ducked. She needn’t have, as it was far off-course. ‘Just get to the bit where you suck Robbie’s dick, yeah?’

Robbie laughed like it was the funniest thing he ever heard. ‘Sorry about them, we needed somewhere to get more food and alcohol, and we knew you would be open. I’m still not even that drunk, so I drove here. And I wanted to see you.’ He gave a wink that turned Nawal’s insides sour.

‘So, you’re gonna clean that mess up? And pay for that food?’ she said.

Robbie didn’t like the change in tone. ‘Yeah, we’ll fuckin’ clean it up. Don’t be such a hard-ass. They’re just playing.’

‘Yeah, we’re just playing,’ said one of the guys, and he grabbed another cookie and stuffed it into his mouth.

‘Gonna go get some beers, then I’m gonna come back and flirt with you a bit, that cool, babe?’ said Robbie.

Nawal didn’t answer, but watched him go to the liquor section. The short, militant-looking member remained. Nawal tried not to make eye contact, but he was staring at her. After several agonising moments of this, she said, ‘What?’

‘I wonder how you’d react if I flirted with you the same way Robbie did,’ he said tonelessly.

‘Huh?’

‘I-WON-DER-HOW-YOU-WOULD-RE-ACT-IF-I-FLIR-TED-WITH-YOU-THE-SAME-WAY-RO-BBIE-DID.’

Nawal couldn’t suppress the distortion her face became, and had no answer for such a question.

‘Thought so,’ he said, both satisfied and angered. ‘Wouldn’t like it at all, would you? Because Robbie’s tall and handsome and I’m short and ugly.’

‘Don’t take your insecurities out on me,’ said Nawal. ‘I don’t fancy you, so what?’

He cough-laughed. ‘You girls pretend to be all about personality, but you’re not, all you ever care about is looks. And all girls hate short guys.’

‘Bert’s just pissed off because he couldn’t get laid,’ shouted one of the obnoxious guys raiding the cookies.

‘Yeah, he never gets laid,’ laughed the other.

Bert went red and Nawal saw his clenched fists shake. She backed away, even though she was on the other side of the counter.

‘I’ve actually got a great personality,’ he said. ‘But girls like you would never take the time to learn that, would you? You can’t look past the surface.’

‘Sorry,’ she said, nonplussed.

Bert gritted his teeth.

Robbie returned with three six-packs of beer. ‘Who’s paying for this?’ he asked loudly. None of the other three said anything. The two unknowns continued to chew. ‘I paid for it last time,’ he said, his face getting redder.

‘Oh, watch out everyone,’ said Bert. ‘Robbie’s being alpha. Better do what he wants.’

‘Fuck off Bert,’ said Robbie. ‘You and your fucking terminology. You’re such a little bitch.’

 ‘Button your shirt up Robbie,’ said Bert. ‘It’s not sexy, you look like a twat.’

 Robbie said, ‘What would you know about it, virgin?’ He turned to Nawal and exposed his chest more. It was firm. ‘What do you reckon, Nawal? Think I’m sexy?’

‘I think you’re drunk.’

Robbie snort-laughed. ‘Hell yeah.’

Wheeyyy!’ shouted the two in the back, who had now taken to exploring the rest of the store, stumbling over themselves and pressing crisps and biscuits underneath their shoes. Nawal watched them.

‘Why are you looking at them?’ he asked. ‘Just chat to me.’

‘I’ll scan the beers,’ she said. She did so, and quickly. ‘Fifteen pounds.’

‘Don’t have the cash,’ said Robbie. ‘Don’t think any of us do, do we boys?’

‘No!’ they all shouted.

‘Listen,’ he said, and he cocked his head to one side. ‘You’ve got my number, let us take the beers, and I’ll come back in tomorrow.’

‘You have to pay now,’ said Nawal, her figure still.

‘Oh, come on, Nawal,’ he sighed. ‘You know we’re good for it, we just wanna party a bit longer. The night’s still young.’

‘My boss will yell at me’.

‘Oh, fuck that guy,’ said Robbie. ‘C’mon, we’ll all stay here and drink and it will make your shift more fun. You can have some of our beers.’ He had the audacity to hold a finger underneath her chin, and squinted his eyes at her in what he presumed to be a sexy expression.

The two meandering unknowns had started wrestling one another, and were crashing and careening off the walls and racks. They were laughing uncontrollably. Their forms were big, and together they looked like some twisted, transformative buffalo. Bert was watching me watch it all unfold with a smirk.

‘You all need to get out,’ said Nawal. She wanted to be angry, to be tough, but she couldn’t find the words or the authority. Any change in her tone might also make things worse.

The unknowns laughed as if the words had been uttered by a six year old.

‘Who’s gonna make us?’ asked Bert, his arms folded. ‘Why would I do what you want?’

‘Shut up, Bert!’ said Robbie. He turned to Nawal. ‘Come on babe, be cool. We’re not doing anything, just having fun.’ He pulled a beer can off its ring and offered it to her. ‘Drink a beer, you’ll feel better.’

‘You haven’t even paid for it.’

‘For fuck sake, why are you being such a baby? Just have a beer.’

Nawal reached for the landline telephone under the counter. Robbie jumped over and ripped it out of the wall. She shrieked.

‘Oops! Oh, man I’m so sorry,’ slurred Robbie. ‘I just got caught up in the moment. I… just don’t call the police, babe.’

Nawal put her face in her hands and sobbed.

‘What a fucking crybaby,’ said Bert. ‘Typical woman, bursts into tears the first time things don’t go her way.’

Robbie jumped back over the counter and squared up to Bert. He pressed his body against his and looked down on him. He was at least six inches taller. ‘You’re pissing me off, Bert. Why d’you have to say things like that? You’re fucking everything up.’

‘You are actually being a dickhead,’ said one of the unknowns. ‘You’re cock-blocking him massively.’

‘You’re being a fucking creep,’ said Robbie, breathing into Bert’s face. ‘You better back off. In fact, get the fuck out of here. You can walk home, I ain’t driving you. Go on, before I beat the shit out of you.’

Bert stared up at him, barely blinking. ‘Come on then, you piece of shit. Think I’m scared of you? I’ve wanted to fight you for ages.’

One of the unknowns opened a packet of popcorn and began eating. Nawal watched them all, barely breathing.

Robbie went to take a swing at Bert, but Bert’s instincts were faster. Bert ducked and immediately punched Robbie in the stomach. Robbie doubled-over and Bert took the opportunity to kick him in the upper thigh. Robbie spluttered and tackled Bert. They crashed into a magazine stand, sending an uproar of colour into the air, and the pages flapped like wings. They bashed and punched and the whole thing was like watching the inelegant dance of two blind elephants. Robbie pushed Bert into the store window, and a spiderweb of cracks split upon its surface. Nawal gasped. The unknowns egged the two of them on, supporting neither one nor the other.

Within minutes, the store was like the home of a hoarder. Magazines and food and bottles lay scattered across the floor, lumped together like abstract art. Robbie was unconscious, and Bert was breathing hard, his face bloody and broken. The unknowns backed off from him slightly. Bert’s dark eyes scanned the room. They landed on Nawal.

‘It wasn’t a fight for you, yeah?’ said Bert.

Nawal gripped the counter.

‘We were fighting coz he’s a fuckhead, get it?’

Nawal shook her head up and down.

Bert looked around at the chaos he had created. ‘Fuck it.’ He strode over to the alcohol section, took two bottles of wine off the shelf and threw them against the wall, where they exploded, sending shards of glass spinning in all directions. Nawal shrieked and the unknowns cheered. Then they all joined in and started grabbing bottles. They threw and smashed and beat. For a time, only the sound of spinning, blasting bottles could be heard. The tirade only stopped because there were no more left, and by that point, there was no sign of Robbie.

The three of them, now starting to sober up and having executed their dramatic finale, walked to the door. They all filed out and without a word to Nawal, closed it, then hopped into Robbie’s car and sped off.

She should have locked the door there and then. Because Robbie walked back in less than a minute later. His shirt was in tatters and his face was a blotchy pulp. Nawal’s heart slid into her stomach.

‘See what assholes they are?’ he slurred, limping towards her. ‘Look at this mess. Sorry, babe.’

Nawal wished she had a weapon, but there was nothing feasible.

‘I’ll kill Bert,’ he said, and he reached the counter. ‘I’ll literally kill him… aw, babe don’t cry.’

Robbie tried crawling over the counter, and Nawal tried pushing him off. He was heavy though, and her arms were skinny. He dropped off the counter on her side, and she cringed into the corner.

He roared in frustration. ‘Why are you still acting like such a bitch? They’re gone now, the place is a mess, it’s just me and you. Can’t you just chill out?’

‘Just go away, Robbie!’ said Nawal, her tears staining her face. ‘I don’t want you here! Look what you and those scumbags did. Just fuck off!’

‘Shh, shh,’ said Robbie, and he stood up and put an arm around her that also doubled as something of a headlock. ‘Let’s just forget all that. Come on…’ and he tried pressing his face against hers, but she struggled. ‘Just… give me a kiss… give me a… you’re really starting to piss me off, just give me a fucking…’

The bell at the door rang. Both Nawal and Robbie looked towards the door. There stood Mr. Crub, baseball bat in hand. Robbie froze, but Crub had eyes only for Nawal. He said to her, ‘I knew you’d fuck up.’ He plodded over to the two of them.

Robbie straightened himself. ‘Who the fuck are you?’

‘I’m the owner of this place you just trashed. You’re in big trouble, boy.’

Robbie stumbled over the counter and Crub looked down on him in disgust, this drunk, wretched creature that looked in an even worse state than the store.

‘Are you actually going to try to fight me?’ asked Crub. ‘You’re drunk, you’ve had the shit kicked out of you and I have a baseball bat.’

‘I’m not going to fight you,’ said Robbie, now limping to the middle of the room, ‘but what I am going to do is…’

And then Robbie quickly hopped out the door. Once outside, he stumbled and tripped his way into a thicket of trees.

Crub locked the door, called the police and turned to Nawal. ‘Tell me everything.’

She did.

*

‘And the worst part is,’ she said after telling her story, ‘they’ll get away with it. They’re gone now, and the only evidence is this trashed-up place.’

Crub exhaled. ‘You know, the whole lot of you really are idiots. They’ll be caught within the hour. There are cameras outside to catch the licence plate of the car, there’s a camera in the store that caught everything.’ He nodded towards the unblinking black camera in the corner of the room. ‘You have that Robbie boy’s number. You know their names, you know they went to Secret, you know what they look like. You’re just as stupid as them if you think they won’t get caught. They’re gonna pay a heavy price for what they did, and they’re young… what a terrible way to fuck up your own life.’ He gestured to the store. ‘This chaos… it doesn’t matter. I have insurance, they fucked things up for themselves, not me and not you.’

Nawal met his eyes. ‘I’m sorry for being such an idiot, Mr. Crub, for allowing all this to happen.’

‘You didn’t allow anything,’ said Mr. Crub. ‘You were a prisoner. And don’t beat yourself up about your own idiocy. From what you’ve told me, you reacted poorly to the situation, but I knew that about you. You’re not stupid, but you are silly and sheltered. Had I not known that about you, I never would have come back, and then who knows how bad things could have gotten for you? Being a known idiot, in a way, is what saved you.’

‘Oh… well, thanks, I guess?’

‘You’re welcome, Nawal. Bloody idiot.’

 


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