Shootout At Gasoline Alley

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Smoking is bad for your car’s health.

Submitted: September 03, 2015

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Submitted: September 03, 2015

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A lot of things changed between my parent’s generation and mine.  Fathers for example.  Now they are all touchy feely.  They change diapers.  Unless my mother was ever in a coma, or had broken fingers, I doubt my father ever did that.

Another thing.  Fathers back then were cheap.  Really, really cheap.  I am not kidding.  My dad would stick a penny into the tread on the tires and he wouldn’t buy a newer set of used tires until he could see all of Lincoln’s head.  But that was nothing compared to the Gasoline Alley War.

Back then there was a lot of socializing in the neighborhood.  Block parties, bridge and scrabble games, Cub Scouts and sleepovers.  Everyone talked.  And of course, the men competed with each other.  Like when Alvie Meadows bragged about how much money he saved buying gas in Lacey’s Spring. 

At that time, in the 1960s, gas in my hometown was 31 cents per gallon.  Lacey’s Spring is an unincorporated community six miles south of our suburb, in the next county.  Taxes were lower there.  Gas was 26 cents per gallon.  Alvie had saved almost a dollar.  He was now the King of Lily Flagg Acres.

That Saturday, there was a caravan of station wagons heading south, across the Tennessee River.  Every tank and gas can came back full.  Several dollars were saved.  It was on.  A weekly competition to see who could save the most on gas.

I remember my dad being pretty ticked off when every store he went to was out of gas cans. It took a few weeks for them to restock, then he was back in the game.  But nobody could outpump Alvie Meadows.  Behind the seat of his 1965 AMC Rambler station wagon, there was nothing but gas cans as far as the eye could see.  No one could fill faster than Alvie.  He was the undisputed Gasmaster.

Not necessarily overloaded with common sense, though.  Another thing about my hometown.  Fireworks were illegal.  They weren’t illegal in Lacey’s Spring.  And there weren’t any deputies on our side of the bridge looking for fireworks offenders. 

So it was natural for Alvie to stop at the fireworks store, the Saturday before the Fourth of July, after he’d tanked up.  When he left, the passenger seat was filled with bottle rockets, roman candles and cherry bombs, all the good stuff.  There were 12 five gallon gas cans in the back.  And the Rambler had a full tank of gas.

Still, he probably would have been okay if he hadn’t stopped at the vegetable stand.  Or, if he’d visited any other time.  Or, if he’d put the window up on the passenger side.  At the moment Alvie got out of the Rambler, Doyle Anderson was flirting with Daphne Mullins, the young lady running the stand.  Doyle, who also happens to be my cousin, is something of a loser.  One of his tricks, that he thinks impresses the ladies, is to flick his still burning cigarette butt over his shoulder, no looksies.

Alvie climbed out the door of the Rambler at the same time Doyle blindly tossed his butt into the open window.  Daphne was looking down at her feet to avoid making eye contact with Doyle.  Doyle was ogling Daphne.  No one saw anything.  While Alvie was squeezing tomatoes and deciding how much he could talk Daphne down on the price, the first cherry bomb exploded.

Doyle jumped and made a yipping sound.  Alvie didn’t move, he was clueless.  Daphne was no fool.  She saw the smoke, smelled the gas, and she had seen the Rambler at the fireworks place moments before.

Before that moment, Daphne Mae Mullins never uttered a curse word.  But as she took off, she yelled, “Holy shit y’all, you better start running.”

Daphne was on the high school track team and she made full use of the muscles she had developed.  Doyle was not in great shape, but he is a big boy and can run fast when motivated.  He was keeping up with Daphne.  Poor Alvie was bringing up the rear.  Still, he probably had not moved that fast in 40 years.

While this was happening, my father and I were at the gas station two blocks away.  He was filling the car's tank and I was filling cans.  Two pumps are better than one.  We both looked up when we heard the cherry bomb, and saw the trio of screaming runners.  Then more fireworks.  Then, all hell broke loose.

Technically, the gas cans didn’t explode.  But there was a giant flashover.  Enough force to split the roof of the Rambler wide open, like someone ran a can opener across the top.  I could feel the heat from hundreds of yards away.  Poor Alvie got knocked down and had second degree burns on his backside.  The Rambler was beyond recognition by the time the volunteer fire department showed up.  We watched them put out the rest of the fire.

All that was left of the Rambler was the metal parts.  The window glass formed little globs on the ground.  We came back the next day and collected souvenirs.

That ended the Gasoline Alley War.  After he healed, Alvie bought another Rambler.  The exact model, color, and features as before.  Like it never happened.  The men began their next competition.  Who could build the best golf practice area in their back yard.  I remember my dad being pretty ticked off when the hardware store was out of fertilizer.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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