The van was sturdy. A well-oiled machine built from grease and blood. And it would cruise down that lonely stretch of highway like a serial killer looking for a hitchhiker. The miles accumulated. The flat, desert landscape slowly morphed into patches of green and rocky terrain. Van Man tuned his transistor radio. It came in handy when he was not singing to himself. Channel after channel, static filled the airwaves. What a shithole, thought Van Man.
DUANE'S FRESH JERKEY. The gas station signage was bold and red and ostentatious. But with a font and flair that just demanded a person to try the best fucking jerkey this side of the Mighty Mississippi. And the nuts! The van pulled into the gravel pit pump housing. Van Man checked out the old gas pump. Three dollars for a single gallon of gas. Fuckin' as bad as LA, thought Van Man. He sighed and began to pump. Then, the rusted pickup truck pulled up to the adjacent pump. The dirty, wide-eyed driver stepped out wearing a hunting jacket.
"Thought I was gonna run out!", exclaimed the Driver. Van Man tried to ignore the crazy bastard.
"Where you goin'?", asked the Driver, he spoke with a nasally, strained twang that could not be placed.
"Alabama", replied Van Man.
"Ooh, Alabama...long trip", said the Driver and Van Man nodded.
"Huh?", asked Van Man.
"Said, you comin' from California", replied the Driver, as he looked down at the license plate.
"Yeah, LA." The gas then pumped loud.
"Got a cousin that lives out there. Johnathan Cawkins."
Van Man stared blankly.
"Think you might know 'em?", asked the Driver.
"Oh, I don't know", replied Van Man.
"Yeah, he's somewhere out there."
"Yeah, he's out there somewhere. He's just a character, I love 'em."
The driver continued to speak, but Van Man tuned out. It was all static. He smiled and finished up pumping.
Inside Duane's, Van Man found a stash of local raw honey. He was all out. Seventeen bucks for a jar. Fuck...worse than LA, thought Van Man. At the counter, he was rung up by a woman of a certain age. The two engaged in a pleasant conversation about natural skin care. Van Man was from LaLa Land, after all.
"You know, before I used apple cider on my face, I used Clinique. Well, I used it when I could afford it...some time ago." The Counter Woman looked around Duane's Fresh Jerkey store. This was her place now. Jerkey hung on her walls and jars filled with raw honey sat against them. But Van Man could only think of who the woman was before Duane's. Who was she when she could afford Clinique? What did she think about in those olden days? Did she have dreams and aspirations before Duane swept the woman off her feet, only to make her a counter girl at his fresh jerkey stop? Life was hell, Van Man knew that to be true for all.
Back on the road, the van drove on. Eastbound, no rest until Texas. The sun inched lower in the rear view mirror. The Van Man had a grand adventure ahead of him. Life and love. His contribution to the human experience. But somewhere behind the van, Johnathan Cawkins danced in the mind of a crazy fellow and a counter girl dreamed of her Clinique days.