November, 2016 — Jackson, Michigan
It’s only eight-thirty in the morning by the time Felicia reaches Jackson, Michigan which, her new mind tells her, will be the last convenient place to stop. The car’s tank is nearly empty, so she looks for fuel first. It takes several tries to find a place with gas, and she finally succeeds only after the new mind intervenes, suggesting a direction that at first seems mistaken. At a service station that prominently displays a hand-lettered sign saying No Gas, Sorry! she catches a glimpse of a man in his eighties walking painfully around the inside of the station’s small “convenience shop” carrying a broom. The new mind directs her to go inside.
“Good morning, ma’am, what can I do for you?” The elderly gentleman sets the broom behind the counter and smiles at her.
“I just need to get a little way past Ann Arbor,” she tells him, “and I’m almost out of gas. Can you tell me who has some? It’s very important.”
As she speaks, she puts five hundred dollars on the counter. The old man looks at the money and hesitates. She has to remind herself that fuel is going for at least twenty dollars a gallon now. It’s been changing faster lately. And even at that price you often can’t find it.
“Please,” she says, “it’s very important.” Opening her elegant billfold, she sets another five hundred on the counter. She has plenty of cash remaining for the short distance yet to be traveled. There is no reason to save it.
“OK,” the old man says, covering the bills with his gnarled hand. “But you don’t tell anybody, OK?” He peers at her cautiously. “You don’t tell anyone I got gas.”
“Pull your car into the garage,” the man nods his head toward the structure. “I got some in there.”
Afterward, she checks into a small hotel near the intersection of 94 and 127, the new mind telling her that she must not arrive at the destination until well after sunset. She no longer requires food, or sleep, so she sits in the hotel room. The room has a south-facing window, so she opens the cheap curtains and watches the rectangle of sunlight drift up to fill the room’s eastern wall. When the light begins to redden Felicia uses the bathroom, then walks to her car.
Near Ann Arbor, Felicia gets onto US-23 heading north, and then after only a few miles exits near Whitmore Lake. The neighborhood she finds is close to the lake itself as well as to a large truck stop. The houses are run down, some deserted. Even now that night has fallen there are few lights burning in the windows and none on the street. Electricity is expensive.
She leaves her car with the keys in it, the driver’s side window rolled down to make sure it will get noticed.
Her fashionable autumn-weight coat isn’t warm enough for the chill night air, but that doesn’t matter anymore either. Felicia begins to walk northeast, between the highway and the lake, keeping to unlit streets.