The Suitcase is a 500-word, weird fiction piece published in Cowboy Jamboree's inaugural issue.
As it often was, they sat in front of the gas station and chewed tobacco. Their mouths rolled like cement mixers. They looked around at things: the old pumps, each other, the dusty building behind them. The suitcase between them. One of them spat onto the ground, and it sizzled like a morning skillet. They wore what they always wore: denim overalls and dirty white shirts and brown leather boots and straw hats with a gradient of browns painted by years of sweat drawn under every condition. They’d become a piece of a dying environment full of asphalt and oil and dust with nowhere else to go.
A car arrived, and they craned their necks to get a look at it. A red Ford compact. It stopped next to the gas pumps near them. A woman stepped out of a car full of screaming children and pulled out a credit card. They looked at each other then back to the woman. They chewed. She swung the small plastic card back and forth like she was performing some brand of capitalist voodoo while trying to find a place on the old analog pumps to plug it in. She did, at times, push the plastic card against pieces of jutting metal, and nothing happened. Frustrated, she put the card away and looked up to the men.
She stared at them like everyone did, with a sort of confused anxiety. She shuffled her feet near the old, rusted pump looked back to the kids in the car before stepping cautiously toward the men.
Excuse me, she said. Any chance you know where I can pay for gas? I’m running pretty low and this looks like the only place within driving distance.
The two men looked at each other, then to her car. One spat. She looked at the saliva on the hot concrete. She didn't realize her own grimace in response. One of the men made a sucking sound from his mouth, and he rolled his neck. The woman looked between them yet. They chewed.
I can pay cash if that’d be best, she said. I didn’t see a place for a credit card anywhere on the pumps. Maybe I didn’t see where to put it?
One of the men scratched his thick eyebrow and opened and closed one eye a few times. The other smacked his hand down on his knee to kill something. He lifted his hand then and looked under it to see if anything was there and nothing was. The woman looked at the suitcase.
Then both men stopped chewing and stared at her. They’d become still and unbreathing. One’s eye twitched, but that was all. The woman took a few steps back. She turned around and moved double-time to the car, and she got in. She left with what gas she had, and the men breathed and scratched at themselves again.