Out of Respect for the Pump
So, this one needs some explanation. In my creative writing class we occasionally do various in-class exercises, and this story grew from one of these in about an hour. In this case, the exercise was to write scene with a character with “the opposite gender, as different from yourself as possible.” As I think you’ll see, this character’s gender is about as different from a typical male human as you’re likely to find here on Earth. As to the quality of the story, well…I guess that’s up to you to decide. I’ve given up judging my own work worthy, I just can’t see it objectively :P.
Out of Respect for the Pump
I tug upward on the collar of my blouse, my cheeks flushed and red with a strangely embarrassed discomfort at the long, salacious glances of the man seated across from me. I close the catch on my purse and press it down, nestled safely in my lap, and hope the mechanic will finish my oil change soon. The man watches every motion, and his hands, stained by some kind of black grease, leave black-smudge fingerprints on the cover of the Car and Driver magazine over which his eyes, furrowed with grey and black smattered caterpillars above, undress me over and again. On most days I’m proud of the body I have, an accomplishment I earn with countless hours sacrificed at the gym, but not today.
I shift in my seat and reach for a magazine, Popular Science, my blouse slipping down again as I do so. His eyes are down my shirt, reveling in the smooth flesh I work so hard to keep clean and smooth and healthy. I think of the dollars spent on moisturizers and personal trainers and form-adoring undergarments, of sweat and tears and aching muscles, and my heart sinks as his tongue slides across chapped lips and chipped teeth. I tug upward on the collar of my blouse again and wince as his gravelly voice catches in my ears: “Nice tat. Know whatcha want, right?”
“Excuse me?” I reply, opening the magazine, a secondary shield against his roving guys. “Dollar sign. After they money, you. An’ I bet you git it, am I right?” He shifts in his seat, drops the magazine on the table and chuckles, his tongue half stuck out of his mouth, and I notice a large sheath with a beautifully carved knife handle protruding from his belt. My heart leaps and my tongue burns with an alkaline taste as I open the clasp of my purse and fumble, first for my pepper spray, second for a piece of gum.
“Actually,” I stammer out, “I wear it for moral reasons. An expression of love, you could say.” He chuckles and says dismissively, “Moral, that’s funny. Love, funny too. What you love, girl?” I quickly pop a piece of gum into my mouth and grip my pepper spray, set my purse to the side and answer, “My life, of course; those who love me. How about you?” But he didn’t hear my answer, much less my question, and I realize the mistake I’ve made as I follow his eyes, bulging from the burning red skin of his face, as they’re locked firmly on the form-fitting cloth of my skirt and the penis clearly defined beneath.
“You a god-damn man!” he breathes, his voice growling like some kind of animal. Tears I can’t control roll down my face as I stand, hands shaking so hard that I can’t remember how to use the pepper spray while he advances toward me. Suddenly I’m pinned to the wall; he’s breathing in my face, his voice like a barking dog as he calls me every name my father used to scream: “Faggot! Dirty pervert queer! Who you think you are, comin’ round where decent folk live!”
Suddenly he’s off me and a gruff voice rages from behind him. “Get off my customer, you som’ bitch! What I told you about your attitude, boy?” The shop owner quickly turns the man and shoves him out the door. “That’s a man!” he screamed again, “Look between her legs!” The owner took three steps toward the man, jutted a hard finger in his face and growled softly, “You listen here, boy, I don’t care if she’s got two dicks and a bag of rubbers down there, you don’t put your hands on a customer in my shop. Now you go the hell home! GO!” Still raging, the man turned and thundered across the parking lot, threw himself into an old, battered pickup truck and raced out of the parking lot, tires squealing, before the shop owner turned back to me.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry about what just happened there. I don’t put up with no bull like that. Your car’s finished and your service is free, with my apologies.” My heart, still pounding, began at last to slow. “Thank you,” I said, and stepped to the counter for the keys to my car. My hands still shook as I signed the service receipt, and as the shop owner handed me the keys I said, because I thought I should, “I appreciate your kindness and help. I don’t know what I would have done.” As he placed the keys in my hand he smiled and said “Ma’am, don’t get me wrong here, but I see you same as that loud-mouthed idjiot does. Difference ‘tween us is, I respect your right to be different however you want, long as it don’t make no nevermind to me an’ mine. Now you git…an’ don’t come back.”
A lump caught in my throat and tears welled again, my heart both sinking and swelling all at once, torn between the sorrow of being hated and the warmth of being respected. And as I pulled out of the shop’s driveway and caught a look at myself in the mirror I smiled as the faintest bit of pride and confidence crept back into my soul.