I was a kid. My father and I walked into the filling station. The bell above the door dinged.
Daddy was filthy from working under a car. He was always working under cars. He came from a generation of men who were born with Sears, Roebuck & Co. ratcheting wrenches in their hands. These were men who changed their own motor oil, who worked harder on off-days than they did on weekdays.
Old man Peavler stood behind the counter. He was built like a fireplug with ears. He, too, worked on cars all day. Except he did it for a living, so he hated it.
Daddy roamed the aisles looking for lunch among Mister Peavler’s fine curation of top-shelf junk food. In the background, a transistor radio played the poetry of Willie Hugh Nelson.
My father approached the ancient cooler, located beneath the Alberto Vargas calendar my mother warned me not to look at under threat of eternal hellfire.
The white words on the fire-engine-red cooler said DRINK COCA-COLA—ICE COLD. My father removed
the sensuous hour-glass bottle, dripping with condensation. Then he grabbed a plastic sleeve of salt peanuts from the shelf.
We approached the counter.
“Howdy,” said old man Peavler. Only it came out more like “Haddy,” because that is how real people talk.
Old man Peaveler looked at our items, did some mental math, and told us how much we owed by rounding up to the nearest buck. The old man’s cash register hadn’t worked since Herbert Hoover was in the White House.
We exited the store and sat on the curb in the all-consuming sunlight. There, my father and I counted cars. For this is what people did before Olive Gardens and Best Buys ruled the world.
Daddy used his belt buckle to pop open his Coke. He used his teeth to tear open the peanuts. Then he carefully dumped the nuts into the mouth of the…