Jordan Farmer turned up the dial on the volume. 80’s on 8 played on SiriusXM. His shift was over at the steel mill, and now, he faced the long, stressful drive home. He had been used to it by now. It had been five years and counting, that he’d traveled such long distances. As a ten year employee, he had acquired a respectful position as a foreman. The job came with great benefits and decent pay. He had no intentions of starting over, even for a closer commute.
But none of that mattered today.
Nothing could get him off his cloud-nine. He received a significant raise, much bigger than he had anticipated. Mr. Ellis, his supervisor, informed him how pleased he had been with all his efforts to produce for the company. He gave him a pat on the back, encouraging him to keep up the good work. Pride enveloped him, promising Mr. Ellis he’d try his very best moving forward.
Pulling into the Arco, next to the 65 freeway, Jordan stopped to gas up and buy a couple of Monsters for the long ride home. The sensor beeped as he entered the Econo-Mart, the clerk behind the register, quickly taking notice. Jordan scanned the store, locating the cold beverages behind frosted glass, against the back wall. He stood, looking over the many options he had. After brief consideration, he pulled two tall Monster cans off the rails, and headed towards the register. The clerk, an older man of Indian origin, eyed him carefully.
“Is that all?” he asked. Reaching out, he grabbed the Monsters from his grip before Jordan had a chance to set them down on the counter.
“No,” Jordan said. “Let me also have forty on ten.” The clerk tapped and swiped the screen.
“Forty-three-thirty-five,” he exclaimed.
Raising a brow, Jordan removed his debit card from his wallet, slipping it into the card reader. After a couple of prompts, the transaction completed, and the card returned to its leather slot.
“Receipt?” The clerk asked, rudely.
“No thanks,” Jordan replied. The clerk tore the receipt, mid-print, crumbled it and threw it into a plastic container.
The gas cap came off and dangled by its chain. Jordan removed the nozzle from the cradle and started pumping fuel into the tank. The Monsters rested atop the pump dispenser as Jordan kept his eye on the counter display. Reaching for one, he accidentally knocked the other over the edge, sending it crashing to the concrete below. It exploded on impact, sending a stream of sticky spray in every direction, fizzling out gradually.
“What the fuck!” A voice called out. Jordan turned and saw a tall, muscular man, staring him down from the pump, opposite to him.
“Shit!” Jordan said. “Im so sorry bro! Dammit Jordan!” He bent down, picking up the empty can, unsure of what to say next.
“Sorry?” The man scoffed. “You sprayed that shit all over my ride, asshole!” He looked the car over, growing angrier by the second. “I just had it washed and waxed!”
“Shit, brother,” he continued, apologetically. “I don’t know what to say? I take full responsibility. What can I do to correct the situation?”
“You can start by wiping that shit off of my car!”
He sprang into action. “Hell yes, brother! Of course.” He pulled a handful of paper towels from above the waste bin and started for the hummer.
“What the fuck are you doing?” The man exclaimed. He swatted at Jordans arms, knocking the paper towels away.
“Not like that! Your gonna scratch the paint, dumb-ass! I meant you’re gonna cough up some money to have it re-washed and waxed.”
Jordan didn’t even realize he was being insulted. He felt stupid, not thinking the whole paper towel situation more carefully.
“Dang, dude, your absolutely right! Of course ill pay to have it re-washed. Forgive me, I’m completely out of it right now.”
“Damn right you will!” The man scratched the back of his head, irritated.
“How much do you need?” Jordan pulled his wallet out, shuffling through the loose bills inside the fold.
“A hundred and fifty,” the man said.
“One-hundred and fifty dollars?”
“One-hundred and fifty!” The man restated. “Did you think I was planning on running it through the drive-n-wash? I’m gonna have to get it detailed by professionals.”
Sorting through the bills, Jordan realized it all added up to a total of sixty-dollars. He quickly began doing the math in his head. His debit card balance was less than fifty after the last transaction. His heart dropped to his stomach. Holding out his palm, the perturbed man gestured payment with a jerk of the fingers.
“I’m sorry,” Jordan said. “I don’t have that much cash one me at the moment. I have around sixty-bucks on me, your more than welcomed to that.” Jordan extracted the bills, extending them out to him.
The man glanced at the notes between his fingers, then pushed them away. “Horse-shit!” He said. “You’re not gonna pull that one over on me. You will give me that money!”
Defeated, Jordan raised his hands. “Im sorry. I don’t know what else to say? This is all I have.” The mans brow sunk low, his anger rising at a fast rate.
“Then you’re fixing to get your ass whooped! Cause thats all I got on me, understand?” He came up to him, shoving him back.
“What the hell is your problem?” Jordan protested. “That wasn’t necessary, its just a couple splashes, relax!”
His words only infuriated the man. He lunged forward, his intentions were nothing good. Just then, another voice called out to them.
“Whats the problem here, gentlemen?”
A young man in a security guards uniform stood at the end of Jordans vehicle. He was making his rounds around the plaza, when he overheard the two men squabbling.
“Why don’t you ask him,” Jordan said.
“Sir?” The guard said to the man, who had not taken his eyes off Jordan. After a moment, he redirected his attention to the guard.
“This doesn’t concern you, rent-a-cop! Get lost.”
“Maybe not,” he replied. “But if you keep causing a disturbance, I’ll have the authorities called out. Then we’ll see how effective your remarks sits with them.
The pumped rang, causing a distraction. They all stared at the lifeless machine, as if alive. None of them said a word for a while.
“You’re lucky, faggot!” The man said, aiming his index finger at Him. “You don’t know how lucky you are!” He turned and stormed off, cursing under his breath. Jordan said nothing, leather wallet in one hand, tens and twenties in the other.
“Lets get moving,” the guard urged. “Secure that nozzle and get out of here.”
Placing the nozzle handle back in its cradle, he quickly hopped in his car, turning the engine over. Once inside, relief washed over him. He could not believe what had transpired, was over spray on some vehicle. The thought of it, brought a humorous grin as he shook his head in disbelief.
Knowing he shouldn’t, he could not help but glance over at the hummer. The man sat inside, fuming and mouthing something into his cellphone. Jordan stared, wondering, that if a few splashes of liquid got him that riled up, he’d hate to imagine what a more serious scenario would bring out of him. His thoughts had him so entranced, he did not notice the man staring back at him. Jordan had half a grin on his face. The man bit down on his lip, his stare was cold and unforgiving.
The car pulled away and merged onto the freeway.
A couple of miles down the highway, normalcy started to return to him. A sudden burst of courage as well. Jordan thought of the different ways he could of handled the situation. A more manly way. He spoke loudly, role-playing the dialogue of all parties involved. His character, always coming out on top. It went on like that for several miles. He knew it looked childish, but it made him feel better about himself. And no one would ever know.
Boy George came on the radio. Karma Chameleon began to play as he neared exit 231. The altercation faded from memory, and he found himself humming and tapping to the beat on the steering wheel. He pulled into his gated community, the gate retracted, and he continued down the path to the parking stalls ahead. The car came to a stop at the back of the complex, the gear shifted in park, and the ignition cut-off. The music stopped, echoing slightly throughout the interior. Jordan opened the door and stepped out.
Turning, the muscled man stood in front of him, raising a pistol to his chest. Jordans eyes widened, the keys came away from his grip, falling to the ground below.