The rusty old truck stutters to a stop from it’s smooth fifty five miles an hour, interrupted by a stop light. “Grandpa, why is there a traffic light here? We always get stopped and there’s never any cars going the other way…” A small boy asks, sitting in the passenger seat without a seatbelt on. His hair is curly and brown, in need of a cut, his curious eyes full of admiration for his grandfather.
The man smiles down at his grandson, nothing but love in his gaze.“Scotty, someday there’ll be lots of cars going down this road, and we’ll need the light to organize all the traffic. See where the trees are all cut down there? It’s going to be a gas station, once it’s built they’ll put restaurants and stores all along this road. I think this area will see a lot of expansion, and the traffic light is planning for that.”
He sat up straight as the light changed, allowing them to move again. Building his family in such a tiny dead end town was never his intention, but they never found the opportunity to move. He hoped that the new gas station and traffic light were a sign that development was headed their way.
“Who's going to build all that stuff pop pop?” Scott questioned, old enough to know it wouldn’t appear by itself.
“Lot’s of people Scotty, maybe even Uncle Steven.” Steven hadn’t been able to hold a job since high school. Maybe the construction company would hire him, at least temporarily.
Scott sits behind the counter gazing endlessly at the gas pumps in front of the store. It was a slow day, as usual, not a customer to be seen and only the rare car passing through. He pushed breath through his nose and rests his head on the counter, now looking at the graffiti there. At this rate the small gas station wouldn’t stand a chance against the big name companies slowly invading even small towns. His homework had entertained him during the morning shift, but now well into the afternoon he was fresh out of ideas. This was pointless.
He sighed and sat up, spinning his chair to reach for the phone on the wall without getting up. He punched in the numbers and waited. One ring...two...three...god gramps was getting slow. Halfway through the fourth he picked up. “David Camp.” How old fashioned.
“Grandpa, it’s me. Listen, there hasn’t been a single customer all day and I doubt there will be, so...is it alright if I close up early?” He is met with silence, and for a moment wonders if the phone hung up. “Hello?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s alright buddy. You head on home.” A click. Scott hesitates, but puts up the phone and swipes the store keys from under the counter, locking the back before he goes out the front and locks it behind him. He rounds the side of the building and just stops to look across the horizon at the sunset. He can’t seem to tear his eyes away.
He stands there for a long time, thinking, wondering, hoping. He sighs and rubs his eyes, suddenly a crash and raining glass explode behind him, and he rushes back to the front of the store to see two men and a girl who looks dead on her feet. Two motorcycles parked behind them. One is holding a fist sized rock.
“What are you doing?” It feels like a dream, the glass of the front door is shattered. The one with a rock approaches him.
“Why don’t you go on home and pretend you didn’t see anything kid? You didn’t see anything.” They clearly expect him to obey without another word, but that’s not his style.
“But I do see something.” He challenges, heartbeat filling his ears. “I see two thugs vandalizing my grandfather’s store.” They stare him down, no fear in their eyes.
“Okay. So you see it. What’re you gonna do about it?” The second taunts, wrapping his arm around the girl and in slow motion she holds up a gun. The traffic light behind them turns red.
An elderly man sits slumped in a plush arm chair, a nearly empty beer bottle swinging back and forth in his grip. The house around him is empty aside from scattered photos and stacks of overdue bills. He should have gone when the light changed.