Part 1 The Merlin
The old Budweiser clock in the garage said eight forty-five. Bobby finished tightening the lug nuts on the front tire of his baby, a red '77 Camaro. He doesn’t close up the garage until nine, it's Friday night, he's geared up for some drag racing.
About six months ago Bobby joined his mother in Duck Lake, a small town on highway eleven, between Saskatoon and Prince Albert. He knew they were both devastated after his dad died during flight training at Cold Lake Weapons Range. His mother wanted him to stay at his job in the city, where he’d been a mechanic for the past two years. When she decided to settle in her home town, he left it all to join her.
It was pure luck that the small gas station and garage next door to their house was bought out by an old guy who needed someone to run the place. Theirs being the only house near the gas station meant his mom and the old guy got to talking and next thing you knew, he was running the show.
It wasn’t a big show, just locals during the week and cottagers heading north on the weekends. There wasn’t much traffic coming through. Honestly he didn't care, when there weren't any customers to pump gas for, he worked in the garage which wasn't being used for anything yet. He heard the bell ring if a customer pulled up, otherwise he worked on his car. It gave him time to think.
His mother was right that coming to Duck Lake didn’t look like the best career move, but he needed to know she was okay before heading back to the city. He also needed to figure out some things for himself, decide where he was going, what he really wanted to do. Losing his father had kind of brought him to a standstill.
Bobby was lowering the car down off the hoist when he heard the bell outside. He started cleaning his hands off, and as usual, the impatient customer ran their car back and forth over the rubber hose a few times, the bell dinging constantly. Shaking his head he walked out to the pumps, pulling his ball cap down over his eyes to shield the against the late day sun.
The BMW was in show room condition, dark blue, almost black. This was obviously not a local. The country boys round here used mud covered pickup trucks and beat-up cars or souped-up hot-rods. On the passenger side the tinted window slid down letting the music pour out. The rap beat punched him in the chest as he leaned in towards the car.
The woman was shockingly gorgeous, and naked from the waist up. Pushing a few long strands of hair from her face, she said seriously, “Fill her up please.”
When Bobby’s eyes came up to hers, she started laughing. He started blushing at the same time he realised his mouth was hanging open. Glancing quickly at the guy in the driver’s seat, he saw that he was cracking up too.
“Yes Ma'am.” He moved around the back of the car, focusing on filling the gas tank, while a new round of laughter burst out of the car.
Women. They were one of the things he spent a lot of time thinking about. Jesus, they made him silly. He clammed up, got nervous and lost all sense of control around them.
Growing up in a military family, constantly moving, should have made him used to meeting people, but he was shy and reserved. At twenty years old he was spending too much time thinking about women instead of dating them. But then his chance of meeting someone here in Duck Lake was a million-to-one.
Actually, there was only one. Suzanne Ryan. At twenty-two she was a couple years older than him. The only other prospects around the area were kids just into high school and some divorced women, or separated cougars that have been in the station clearly on the hunt.
He slapped on the gas cap and walked up beside the driver. The guy forked out some twenty’s and said “Keep the change.” Bobby thanked him, his eyes on the guy's other hand sliding up and down the woman’s leg, squeezing her thigh just below her mini-skirt.
Again, Bobby’s eyes met hers, and she erupted into laughter.
As the car squealed out of the station, he was left standing in a cloud of dust and fumes with a five-dollar tip and one overwhelming thought.
Jesus was she hot.
Looking up and down the highway he said to himself, last call everybody. No one answered. Inside the station, he threw the big light switch, killing the floodlights and leaving the yard in darkness.
Pulling his Camaro out of the garage and locking up the station, Bobby wondered if he’d see Suzanne tonight.