Dan

Boundary Condition

A woman whose hair looked to be trying to escape her orbit pushed her way out of the night, into the gas station. Glancing around the garish walls, she shook her head, sending her black curls vibrating. “Hey, kid. You mind if I plug in somewhere?”

The bored kid behind the counter set down his phone. “Wazzat? Oh, yeah, whatever lady. There’s an outlet behind the Twinkies and shit.”

Kristin muttered to herself as she raced to where he pointed, floundering in her purse. Out came the cord, and she bent down behind the display shelf, not even caring if the kid stared at her ass. But he was back to scrolling, past heavy lids, scrolling like his life depended on it.

She hunched down in a squat because the cord wouldn’t reach far enough to stand, and muttered nervously as her phone danced through its stupid waltz of powering on. “Don’t do something stupid, Chuck. Just don’t ruin our boy. Just don’t ruin his life, Chuck.”

Flipping through the pending texts, Kristin swore and then put the phone to her ear. “Come on come on…” She really wanted to pace around, but the short leash kept her staring at the sunflower seeds as she ground her teeth. “Hey, honey. Now what the heck is going on? What did you mean, you found something?”

As he began to talk, she sighed and looked at the dirty tiled floor with clear distaste. Shaking her head, she put a hand on the floor to lower herself down to sit against the Ding Dongs and Nutty Bars.

“We promised we wouldn’t snoop on his… No, Chuck. We promised him his messages were…” Running a hand through her hair as his voice grew louder, a wave of anger rolled through her, and her forehead flushed. “Don’t you dare. Do not shame him. Do not shame our son.”

Kristen pushed herself back on her haunches, and then suddenly stood up. The phone flew out of her hand and hit the floor with a clunk. “Dang it,” she muttered, picking it back up. “So now you’re the judge? How dare you?”

Her face reddening, she glanced up to see if the kid at the counter was paying attention. He appeared to be ignoring her, so she let some of the rage into her voice. “No, wait. What do you mean? Why would I care that much if our son is gay? Why do YOU care?”

Pulling the phone off of the wire, she stood up and began to pace, her shoes clacking on the tiles in an uneven beat. “Charles, do not even THINK about it. What do you mean? It’s not our place. Are you really going to love him less, now?”

An angry buzz came from the phone, and she held it away from her ear. “Calm down, Charles. Not until we talk. No, damn it. NO. Yes, I’m fucking swearing at you now. I’ll be home in ten.” Grimacing, she slung her purse over her shoulder and stomped to the doors.

“Wait. He’s pulling in NOW?” She slammed into the door handle, but it didn’t budge. “Don’t you even. No, Charles. God no…”

“Pull,” said the sleepy kid at the cash register.

Howling like an angry dog, Kristin yanked at the handle and stalked off.

The dude working there blinked, with a look on his face like he just woke up and was preferring the dream. He yelled, “Hey lady, you forgot…” but trailed off. She was already getting in her car. “Your charger. Whatever.” He looked over at the cable snaking out from under the Twinkies, took a step around, and then stopped. Then he leaned over the counter with a groan and put his face in his hands. Trying not to think about his dead dad, how he hadn’t talked to his mom in months, or the disaster that he still hadn’t dealt with in the men’s restroom. The muzak helpfully started up a horrifically bland cover of Here Comes the Sun. “And I say, it’s all right.”

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