Angels Unaware- Nearly-True Tales from Surf Route 101

Angels Unaware- Mostly-True Tales from Surf Route 101- First Draft. 02/05/16
It was one of those still-Winter, cold light, late dawn mornings; only the ridges across the highway fully-lit, the snow level obvious, and obviously lower, an obviously-new dusting that will disappear from the dark branches by noon; the kind of morning where someone you don’t really know well, on the pump across from you, might just say, blowing out warmth into the chill; “Another day in Paradise, huh?”
Sure, but it’s winter, heating season, and just the fact that the daylight hours are so few means less work; less work, less money. But I’m putting some alcohol-free gas into the car my wife inherited, the nice car; the good car; the car we cannot afford to have any mechanical problems. There’s a ten cent discount for cash, so I went to the ATM, got the fast forty, went inside, made a deal to get fifteen of the higher octane fuel (in case my wife asked- the car needs the high test). The other fifteen would be the regular; the regular unleaded still seventy-five cents or so higher than the price for the alcohol-added regular; and that price, well…
“Great,” I said to the new guy at the counter (there have been a parade of people behind the counter since the store reopened, the only gas for fifteen miles in the three directions one can go, mountains blocking the west- and we’re not supposed to complain about the price), “I look for the cheapest gas I can get for my rig; but for my wife’s…”
He nodded, I nodded; he gave me my change; ten dollars. “For my gas… later… somewhere else,” I said. “You’re set,” he said. “Just give me a signal when you switch.”
The woman I seemed to be holding up from getting to the counter with my whining looked like she had forgotten something, but, as I started to fill the tank with the high octane fuel, she approached, holding a bank card in one hand. “Can you spare a dollar?” She made some vague motion toward her car, parked sideways away from the pumps.
“I only have the ten,” I said, the bill still in my hand. She said nothing. “Why is it always me?” She nodded.
“I’ll bring you back the change.”
I handed her the bill. “She doesn’t know,” I was thinking, “how poor I actually am.” She couldn’t know that I was waiting for one job to start, waiting for someone at some desk somewhere to get to the paperwork necessary to close the deal. I was hoping a check I’d written would take a day or two longer to get back; I was hoping, worrying, taking small jobs to fill in. Then I thought about faith, and how we’d always survived; and how we’re tested, and how…
“Shit!” I’d allowed twenty dollars and fourteen cents worth of the high-priced fuel to be pumped; and couldn’t quite figure out how to make the switch. The woman saw me waving, alerted the counter guy. He switched the pumps.
“I had to do it,” I told myself, preparing for what I’d tell my wife. “Maybe she was really…”
The woman came back out, handed me my change. A five and three ones. Eight dollars.
“Thank you so much,” she said.
“Sure,” I said, draining the last of the fuel into the tank.
“You’re an Angel,” she said as she fondled the Lotto ticket I’d just bought her. “Wish me luck.”

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