An Excerpt From The Title Story Of “Filling Up In Cumby And Other Stories”

This story was truly fun to write. All I’ll say is that Jack, the POV character, is trying to do things right for his young son in a rather awkward situation with his ex-wife. He has struggled, not always with success, to keep enough distance from Maggie to protect his son from what he should no longer hope for. Now Jack wants to preserve an adventure for his son, but Maggie’s presence puts this in danger of being spoiled. “Filling Up In Cumby” is a serious story but also, I think, one that approaches a common concern with humor and, like all stories should, with flesh and bones. So, here is a tidbit from somewhere in the middle…an enticement for you to buy it or, just as good, to join the conversation about reading and writing fiction…

“A SPOT OF WHITE NEON appears in the distance and grows larger. Red letters take shape in a blue border. A possible gas station. I squint until “Metro Natural Gas and Propane” comes into focus. Not a gas station, but maybe there will be a pump for trucks and a Good Samaritan. I slow down along a high chain link fence topped with barbed wire. The right shoulder widens, and a gate opens to a gravel yard bordered by two huge warehouses that my lights sweep as I turn through the gate. In between them sits a small house with a covered front porch. No lights are on in the house, or atop a dozen tall poles on the edges of the empty lot.

The change in speed and the crunch of gravel awaken Maggie and Trajan.

“What on earth are you doing?” Maggie asks.

“Looking for a pump and signs of life. Some good old country man is going to wake up and help us out of this jam.” I downshift to first gear and ease toward the little house, looking left and right.

“A pump, maybe, but anything alive will be sleeping. You will wake it up, and it will be mad.”

“I thought you were a master of positive expectations. Ask and you shall receive. That sort of thing.”

I’m glad Maggie doesn’t respond. At the far end of the larger building on the right, a red-boarded windowless thing, sits a single pump. Diesel probably, I say to myself, but it’s worth a try. I let the car roll to a stop along the house, but keep it running.

“You’ve lost it,” she says.

“What’s Daddy lost, Momma?” I detect a hint of fear.

“Jack, this doesn’t feel right,” she says, peering at the little house. Trajan nuzzles into her and keeps his eyes on me. “Daddy hasn’t lost anything, little man. I just disagree with him. Jack, let’s get out of here.”