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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sad (07/26/07)

TITLE: Pain at the Pump
By Brad Paulson


The sky was crimson as the sun began to ascend on a new day. The lights of the Zip-Mart went out one by one as the morning light took over the duty of illumination. Steam began to rise from the pavement, wet from the previous night’s rain. The musty smell and humid air prophesied a coming storm. Pump Number Three awaited the morning commuters with a sense of dread. In the past few weeks he had been verbally abused and vandalized. The future would bring much hardship. Gas prices were expected to rise again.

“What have I done that I should deserve such sorrow?” A memory flickered like an old news reel to a happier time, when families looked forward to a trip to the Zip-Mart. In those days a gas tank could be filled and there would be money left over to buy the kids a treat. Children laughed playfully and asked mom and dad if they could help pump the fuel. Everyone seemed happy in those days, polite and cordial. It had been a long time since Pump Number Three had experienced that kind of day. The movie ended abruptly, the imagery blurred as the film melted and broke. The grim reality returned; enraged consumers with an unquenchable thirst for gasoline, a constant pummeling of insults and obscenities, unjust attacks as they struggled to pay for their addiction.

Sadness loomed like the coming rain. “When will it end?” A prayer of desperation went up to a silent creator. “Why must I be scorned by people who once thought well of me? If I have offended you, please forgive me and ease my grief.”

A motorist pulled up and grimaced at the price per gallon. “This is ridiculous; I can hardly afford to go to work.” After dispensing five gallons of unleaded, he slammed the lever down and jammed the pump handle back in its slot. The tension grew as he inserted his debit card and violently tore away his receipt. “This sucks!” were his parting words. Screeching tires continued to mock Pump Number Three as the angry customer sped away.

“How much longer must I wait for these fuel prices to fall, for the dissipation of the gloom that dominates my horizon?” Years of faithful service were being rewarded with anguish and pain. Hope for a solution to the problem was being replaced by hope for an end to the sadness. Being dismantled and thrown into the scrap heap would be easier than walking his current path.

“If that guy comes back, I’d fill his car with diesel instead of unleaded and make him pay for the way he treated you.” The paper towel dispenser tried to console Pump Number Three.

“No, I will not jeopardize my honor by stooping to revenge. I will fulfill my obligation to do my job as long as necessary. Although my heart is broken and sadness pulses through my circuitry, I will not fall prey to evil. I have honored my maker in the good times and I will honor him in the bad times. I will bear this burden as long as I am able. If the Zip-Mart were to close tomorrow and put an end to my suffering I would accept my termination with gladness. But, until then, I will continue to pump, enduring scorn and mockery as it is flung upon me.”

“Suit yourself,” said the paper towel dispenser, “but a little revenge might make you feel better.”

Pump Number Three did not respond. A light rain began to fall, dampening the suns rays and magnifying his despair.

Perhaps the rain would keep the angry customers away.

The front door of the Zip-Mart opened and the attendant emerged wearing a yellow rain coat. He walked briskly to the sign at the corner of the parking lot. Removing several placards from the protection of his raincoat he changed the fuel prices on the sign, another ten cent increase per gallon.

When would it end?

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This article has been read 1119 times
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Catrina Bradley 08/02/07
A very unique MC! Good writing, but I wasn't sure whether to take this seriously or not - the pump's lament was so "heart" felt. But I enjoyed it either way. Good job. :)
Joanne Sher 08/03/07
It's very difficult to move someone and make them laugh in the same entry - and you have definitely achieved this. Your descriptions are very crisp. I enjoyed this!
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/03/07
I was intrigued by the personification of the gas pump and the paper towel holder. This was a unique way to illustrate a sad message.
Lynda Schultz 08/03/07
No problem, Pump Number Three. I can get you gas at 11 cents a litre — and then everyone will LOVE you! Delightful story.
Dee Yoder 08/04/07
I love inanimate-objects-come-to-life stories! (I think shopping carts that roll away from me in parking lots are really trying to run away, but darn, there's always a curb there to stop them!)Uh-huh. Great minds think alike. Loved your story!
Dianne Janak08/04/07
I never cease to be amazed at the creativity shown on this web site... loved the story.. making a very depressing subject a little lighter for us is healthy in my opinion!
Marty Wellington 08/07/07
This was marvelous. Such a unique take on the subject--sad & humorous all in the same storyline.
Loren T. Lowery08/07/07
About as sad and truthful tale I've read to date. Clever and fun!
Patty Wysong08/13/07
I loved your descriptions--I could see the steam rising. I've never thought about life as a gas pump, but I'd guess you captured how it must be for them. :-)