Lost in Stephen King country

Tales of Maine, Part II

After bolting for the safety of the Love Machine, Eleanor and I promptly shriek with laughter for a good ten minutes.
“What should we do now?” I ask, wiping away tears.
“We need some good trash,” E. says.
E. and I have a ritual that involves reading the worst tabloids we can find. The CONDI RICE IN LOVE TRIANGLE WITH BAT BOY AND THE GHOST OF LIBERACE kind of trash. CELEBRITY CELLULITE GONE WILD! reporting. We usually read these aloud with dramatic emphasis and debate the veracity of select articles. As rituals go, it’s pretty silly, but it’s ours and we’re sticking with it.

So we set out along Route XYZ in search of a grocery store or 7-11 that can provide us with tabloid treasure. We get lost again (really, it’s a wonder we didn’t end up in Nova Scotia) and find ourselves on a dark and mostly deserted road that offers precious little in the way of places to stop but features one or two isolated homes where I’m pretty sure the mailbox reads “Leatherface.”

Finally, we spy a Gas N Go type place. The front parking lot is blocked off, so E. angles the Love Machine into the ill-lit back parking lot. But we’re not alone. There in the corner is a freakin’ HUGE black truck with tinted windows. Really? Tinted windows? In Maine? Because….?
The truck is idling. But no one gets in or out of it. The truck is just sitting there. Waiting.
“Wow, that’s creepy,” E. says.
“You think?” I say, suddenly glad we’re in a minivan.
“Let’s see if we can find another place.”
Not being a fan of creepy, possibly haunted trucks in deserted Gas N Go parking lots, I agree. We drive down Route XYZ for another five miles and find absolutely nothing except for a place that sells whirligigs and birdhouses. So we turn around and drive the five miles back, drive into the parking lot…and the truck is still there, still idling.
“Definitely creepy,” E. says.
“Well, this IS Stephen King country…” I warn.
“But we need trash magazines and water and junk food.”
I eye the truck, thinking back to the movie, “Duel,” in which a possessed semi hunts down a desperate Dennis Weaver for an entire 80 minutes. “Maybe there’s another place in the OTHER direction?”
Eleanor raises an eyebrow. Even in a minivan, she can rock the raised eyebrow like no one I know.
“Alright,” I say. I waggle my fingers. “Hellooo creepy haunted truck.”
Eleanor starts to sing the theme song from “Deliverance” as she pulls into the parking lot.
“Haha! You’re funny,” I say.
“Okay, please stop singing that song. It gives me the creeps.”
“Badawowwowwow,” she says, drawing out the banjo part.
We are now both singing competing songs at the tops of our lungs and no doubt the Stephen King creation driving the evil, possessed truck is frightened of the two weirdos in the gray minivan.
E. parks the minivan as far away from the truck as we can get.
“Don’t go into the woods tonight, you probably will be killed…” I sing cheerfully as we climb out of the Love Machine and slip past the Devil Truck.
We step into the shiny florescence of the Gas N Go. We are the only two people in there except for the guy behind the counter. He looks surprised to see us, like he’s never seen people in the joint before, and I’m reminded of Kelly Link’s wonderful short story, “The Hortlak,” and I expect to see zombies clambering out of the chasm at any moment.
“Cold one out there tonight,” he says.
“Sure is,” I say, because, really, this is not a debatable point.
“They say we’re getting a storm,” he adds.
“Don’t go into the woods tonight you probably will be killed,” Eleanor whisper-sings near my ear.
“You better quit,” I say back, fearing another laugh tsunami.
E. has found the magazine rack. One of the rags has a story on Marie Osmond AND “Dancing with the Stars” which means we have hit the motherlode of trash. I grab the waters and some crunchy Cheetos and we head to the counter. I notice they have Webkinz cards and I buy a pack for my kid.
“We just got the monkey in,” the man behind the counter says. “Isn’t he cute?”
He puts the monkey Webkinz on his shoulder. And why is it that I can only think of Monkey Shines?
“He is a cute little fellow,” E. says.
“I wanted a monkey but the company won’t give me one,” the guy says. He puts the monkey back on the rack. “You’d think they’d give me one. You sure you don’t want a monkey? Awfully cute.”
I whisper to E. “If I don’t buy the monkey, will there be some horrible retribution? Will we find the monkey’s head in the van down the road?”
“Buy the damn monkey.”
“No, I hate those Webkinz. They’re not even cute. They’re like the stuffed animals the other animals won’t sit with on the shelf. You know what? They’re creepy. Creepy stuffed animals.”
“You want the monkey?” the guy asks.
“No, thanks,” I say too brightly. “Got too many of those things as it is.”
The guy rings us up and puts the monkey on his shoulder again. “You’d think they could give me one of these. They’re so cute.”

We say goodnight, take our goods, and walk out into the parking lot. Haunted Devil Truck is gone. The wind’s picking up in a serious howl, though. Seems like Gas N Go guy is right about the storm.
We climb into the van.
“Is it me or is this night just getting weirder by the second?” I ask.
Eleanor puts the Love Machine in drive. “BadawowwowWOW.”


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