- by Sarah Lipoff

This was absolutely the last time. It was impossible to explain to the husband, and the child screaming in the back seat wasn’t helping matters either. And, she was feeling like a total idiot, causing her body to sweat and her head to swim with emotion.

How could she have run out of gas again? AGAIN!

And, of course, she didn’t have her cell with her. He had just given her a hard time about this the other day when he had tried to call her, wanting to remind her to pick up this or that from the grocery store. Something HE could do, but for some reason wanted the domestic ability to call and tell HER to do it.

As she glided to the edge of the highway she gave into heaving breaths as she realized this was the first time her running out of gas had happened while on the freeway. The cars zoomed by at frenzied speeds, making her feel she was in a movie. She imagined she was and at any minute the director would yell, “CUT.”

But, there was no one to help her now. She didn’t bring her cell; she didn’t even have cash on her. Her wallet contained a debit card with a total of twenty-three dollars and she didn’t own any credit cards. Her daughter continued to wail in the back seat.

Her realization of what a horrible mother she was overwhelmed her. She hadn’t even brought anything for the child to eat or drink.

She was just going to run to the store and had decided last-minute to go to that cheaper place so they could maybe have something other than ground turkey and dry pasta for dinner.

The last time this had happened she was not even a mile from the house, and instead of suffering the humiliation of the husband having to come bail her out, she simply unloaded the child, thanked whatever was above that she had the stroller in the trunk, and walked home. She scrounged around for some change (enough for at least a gallon of gas), walked back to the car via the gas station where the attendant found her so funny he gave her five gallons even though she only had enough cash for one, and then dropped the mini gas can back at the station before heading home and crying herself into a total breakdown.

The time before that she had called her husband. He had been at work and really yelled at her over the phone. He made such a big deal about leaving work and having to save her. He told her it could never happen again. They had a child now, she should know better.

As she sat there staring straight ahead pretending she wasn’t stranded on the side of the highway with an unhappy child in the back seat, she heard a tap on the window.

Her heart heaved as she realized someone had approached the car without her knowledge. Her first reaction was to lock the doors and scream and scream and scream until someone like a policeman came to help. But, she grew up in the Midwest.

People are good.

She rolled down the window and was greeted by a smiling face, which was somewhat disheveled, but looked potentially trustworthy.

“What seems to be the problem, missy? Ya run out of gas or something?”

The voice seemed distant and surreal against the sound of the highway.

She figured he could help.

She was wrong.

* This week’s prompt –¬†Write a short piece – 600 words max – that begins with the words, “This was absolutely the last time” and ends with “She was wrong.”

Here’s the rest of the story:

Help: part 2 and Before


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