21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: Crazy Gas

$20 a Gallon
Adam Graupe

The Inspector stepped into the gas station and demanded to see the manager.  A gaunt older man stepped forward and said, “I am Doctor Grift, the owner of this station.” 
The Inspector growled, “I am from the state department.”  He flashed some credentials and demanded, “What is the meaning of charging $20 a gallon for gasoline?”

  The Inspector stepped into the gas station and demanded to see the manager.  A gaunt older man stepped forward and said, “I am Doctor Grift, the owner of this station.” 
  The Inspector growled, “I am from the state department.”  He flashed some credentials and demanded, “What is the meaning of charging $20 a gallon for gasoline?”
  Doctor Grift said, “It’s a free market and I’ll charge what I want.” 
  A short pale man sprang forward and sang, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times it was the age of wisdom—“
  The Inspector turned to the short man and said, “What are you blabbering about?”
  Doctor Grift said, “That’s Professor Macwalsey, he is a former literary professor and is a clerk at this station.”
  Professor Macwalsey cried out, “It was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief—“
  The Inspector asked, “What is he talking about?”
  Doctor Grift said, “Why, that’s the opening line from A Tale of Two Cities.  Haven’t you ever read that?” 
The Inspector stepped away and walked about the station.  He looked around and noticed two blonde twin women engaged in a game of chess.  Then there were three short greasy faced men crowded around an old folding table playing Stud Poker and using batteries in lieu of money or poker chips.  Another young man sat in a corner at an old student desk writing in a notebook.  His hair appeared oddly compressed as if he had been wearing a hat too small for his head for weeks.  He wrote intently in the notebook and the desk’s metal legs went squeak squeak squeak while he wrote.  The Inspector leaned over the young man’s shoulder and read what he wrote:  “I will make a profit of $5,000 in the stock market” repeatedly page after page. 
      “It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope!”  Professor Macwalsey sang. 
The Inspector strode over to Doctor Grift and demanded, “Who in the hell are all of these people?  What kind of gas station is this?”
  Doctor Grift said, “These are my employees.”  He pointed to the men playing poker and said, “Those are my mechanics.  They are three brothers from Estonia.”  The Inspector overheard one of the Estonians call, “I’ll raise you two D batteries,” one of the brothers murmured something in appreciation.  Doctor Grift pointed to the blonde girls playing chess and said, “Those are my accountants.  Oh, I almost forgot, here is Al, (he pointed to the man writing in a notebook) another one of my clerks.”
The Inspector shook his head and said, “This place is filthy.” 
  “I do need a janitor.  Would you like to fill out an application?”  Doctor Grift asked. 
  The Inspector ignored the offer and said, “I’ve been watching this station from across the street all morning and I know you haven’t had a customer since ten a.m.  How can you afford eight of you working at once when you only have three gas pumps and one service garage?  It doesn’t make any sense to have three mechanics for one bay and two accountants when you don’t have any sales.  What is the meaning of all this?”
  Doctor Grift smiled and said nothing.
  The Inspector pulled a small notebook out of his coat pocket and a pen, turned to Professor Macwalsey, and asked, “What’s your name again?”
  Professor Macwalsey grimaced and said, “Call me Ishmael.”
  The Inspector nodded and asked, “Ishmael.  Is that one m or two?”
  Professor Macwalsey continued, “Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing in particular to interest me on shore—“
  The Inspector groaned, “For the love of—“
  Doctor Grift cackled and said, “Didn’t you ever read Moby Dick?’
  There was a cry of joy from the twin girls playing chess and one of them called out “checkmate in two!” 
The Inspector turned to Doctor Grift and said, “Why are you charging $20 a gallon?  Are you aware that state law prohibits price gouging of fuel?”
  Doctor Grift scratched his head and said, “Price gouging of fuel is hard to define.  Why state laws touch on it but federal laws avoid it.  It’s a gray area.”
  The Inspector laughed and said “$20 a gallon is about as clear a case of price gouging as I’ve ever seen as a matter of fact—“
  “But this is a free market!  Capitalistic society allows me to charge what I want when I want.”
  The Inspector shook his head and said, “But state laws dictate that—“
  Doctor Grift shouted, “You are preaching communism!’
  Professor Macwalsey said, “Big Brother is watching you.  War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.”
  The Estonians barked in unison, “Communism is Stalinism and Stalinism is evil!  We escaped from the USSR to get away from swine like this inspector.”
  The Inspector shouted, “You guys are all insane!” 
  The Doctor grinned, “sanity is statistical. I’ll tell you what is insane.  Insane is working at a job you can’t stand for 40 years and spending every night after work watching commercials or looking at catalogues to buy stuff you don’t need to go further into debt to the job you hate.  Insanity is being married to someone you hate for 50 years and then calling it an accomplishment!”
The Inspector was dumbfounded.  “What does that have to do with anything?  What exactly are you a doctor of?”
  “Psychiatry.  I got my residence at—“
  The Inspector said, “All of this is nonsense!  I am going to inspect your fuel pumps now.”
  “Well that may be difficult as we are all out of fuel.  Sold out first thing this morning.”
  The Inspector cried, “At $20 gallon!  Impossible.”
  “It’s a seller’s market.”
  The Inspector said, “But today’s state average is $3.62.  Let’s take a look at your financial records.  Now, where are they?”
  “Well…”  The Doctor hesitated.
  Professor Macwalsey said “’Oranges and lemons’, say the bells of St. Clement’s.”
  “Come on, let’s see the records.”  The Inspector said.
  “Well,” The Doctor looked down at his feet and looked as if he were deep in thought.
  The Inspector growled, “Come on now, let’s get to it.”
  Professor Macwalsey continued the rhyme: “’You owe me three farthings”, say the bells of St. Martin’s.  ‘When will you pay me?’ say the bells of Old Bailey.  ‘When I grow rich’, say the bells of Shoreditch.’  ’I do not know’, says the great bell of Bow.”
  “What the hell is he quoting now?”  The Inspector asked.
  “1984. That’s required reading for any college student.  Shouldn’t basic literature be a requirement for being a state inspector?”  Doctor Grift said.
  “Where are your records?”
The Doctor sighed, “They’re downstairs.”
  “Well come on!” 
Doctor Grift walked toward a door and opened it.  The Inspector followed him down the creaking wooden stairs and listened to the Professor following him. 
  “’Here comes a candle to light you to bed.  And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!’’
  “What was that?”  The Inspector asked.  He started as the noise of the other employees descending the stairs wondering why they were following.  There was nothing but darkness.  He let out a cry when he felt someone pin his arms behind his back and handcuff his wrists together.  “What the—“The lights flashed on.  The staff surrounded him, lifted him up, and set him upon a table.  Someone jerked up The Inspector’s coat sleeve and he stared in disbelief at the Doctor holding a needle.    
  Doctor Grift said, “40 should do the trick.”  He brought the needle toward The Inspector’s arm. 
The Inspector’s mind spun and he looked about the room at all of the faces staring at him.  He noticed above Professor Mcwalsey’s head the door to the room, which stood open.  Written on the door was Room 101.  “Room 101?” wondered The Inspector aloud. 
  Professor Mcwalsey said, “You know what’s in room 101.”
  The Inspector’s eyes flashed back to the needle and he stared in terror and asked Doctor Grift, “What are you going to inject me with?”
  “It’s an experimental medication I’ve been tinkering with,” explained Doctor Grift, “I call it 10-289.  The immediate effects of this injection are amnesia of your life before this moment, destruction of most of your brain cells, and monomania.  You will most likely become obsessed with one thing for the rest of your life.  Like Professor Macwalsey here being obsessed with literature.”
  The Inspector shook his head from side to side, “You injected all of these people with this drug?  Why?”
  “It’s an experiment.  Don’t worry.  I take care of all of my subjects, and they are always much happier than they were before coming to this establishment.”
  “You are sick!”  The Inspector cried.  “You are ruining people’s lives in the name of science?” 
  “Thy Lady doth protest too much.”  Professor Macwalsey said.  
  Doctor Grift said, “I haven’t even told him the long-term effects!  Oh, one more immediate effect:  you will sleep for about 48 hours after the injection.  Ready or not here it comes, have you any janitorial skills?”
  “What?”  This was The Inspector’s last word before the injection.
  Professor Macwalsey murmured, “Chip chop chip chop- The last man’s dead.”
One week later a furnace repairman stopped at the gas station to fuel his work van.  He was a plump man who shambled into the station and asked, “Is that $32.22 on your sign a mistake in price for $3.22?”
  “Why no,” Said Doctor Grift, “$32.22 is our price.”  
  The furnace repairman eyed Doctor Grift for a moment.  “Oh, well I think I’ll pass on that but I could use—“
  Professor Macwalsey looked at the furnace repairman’s nametag and read his name aloud: “Buck Mulligan!”  Professor Macwalsey sang out rapidly in a cockney accent, “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”
“What the hell?”  Buck Mulligan said.
  Doctor Grift smiled genially and said, “He is quoting Ulysses.  What can I do for you, Mr. Mulligan?”
”Pack of Marlboro Reds,” Buck Mulligan said.
  “That’ll be $75,” Doctor Grift said. 
  Buck Mulligan heard a lock click and looked uneasily over his right shoulder at The Inspector holding a mop handle with his left hand and using the other to lock the front door.
  Buck said, “Say, what’s the big idea locking me in?”
Doctor Grift, with a cheek-to-cheek smile, said, “Oh, that’s just our janitor.  Don’t mind him.”
  Professor Mcwalsey sang in a sad voice: “Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me.  There lie they, and here lie we, under the spreading chestnut tree.” 
Buck said, “What kind of crazy house is this?”  Buck looked at all of the other employees inside and began to count them.  “It takes nine of you to run this place?  And why are you crazy people locking me in here anyway?   
  Doctor Grift frowned and began, “sanity is statistical. I’ll tell you what is insane.  Insane is working at a job you can’t stand for 40 years and spending every night after work watching commercials or looking at catalogues to buy stuff you don’t need to go further into debt to be further tied to the job…”

© Adam Graupe December 2008
Anonymous Anonymous <

Adam has been published in, Midnighttimes, Pen Pusher Magazine, Scars Publications, Nuvein Online Magazine, Ovi Magazine, Burst , and Slow Trains Literary Journal.

More fiction


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.