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Jean Anne

by Sharman Ramsey

Jean Anne watched the car drive up to pump number two, south side.  when the light indicated the pump had been lifted, she flipped the switch to activate the machine.  Immediately the numbers lit the screen.

"I've got a gas card here somewhere,.  Just a minute."  the well-dressed woman avoided looking at Jean Anne directly.  She fumbled through her Gucci bag hunting the credit card case, then flipped through her numerous cards to find the right one.

Jean Anne watched from the corner of her eye as the numbers mounted on the screen there beside her behind the counter.  Another young woman in tight ragged jeans and a blouse tied above her navel pulled a six pack from the cooler on the back wall.  Her youngster fidgeted beside the candy counter, eyes sliding from the mother back to Jean Anne and then back to the red hots.  Jean Anne was so tense, everybody looked suspicious. 

"How about pressing the button to unlock the restroom door?"  called an anxious young woman with a small child by the hand.  Jean Anne could see the youngster clutching his crotch beside the Men's room door. 

"Just hand me a package of those filter tip generics there behind you, Jean Anne," said a regular who drove a Sunbeam bread truck as he laid the exact amount on the coubter there before the woman still fumbling through her purse.  He looked Jean Anne in the eye, grimaced, and shook his head just ever so slightly.  Jean Anne cast down her eyes, unable to meet his look. 

It didn't take much imagining to guess what had happened to her, she figured.  She didn't know how much more pity she could take before she broke down right there behind the counter in front of all those folks.

The numbers had stopped their rapid progression.  Jean Anne looked toward the door for the customer on pump two.  The car was parked to where she couldn't see it for the Sunbeam truck.

Her heart pounded.  She turned to find the cigarettes and caught a glimpse of herself there on the monitor behind her from the video camera angled to catch every transaction made at the counter.  Hell.  Her eyes looked wose than she thought.   She'd thought she'd pretty well camouflaged that horrible purple blue swelling that circled her eyes with layers of foundation and powder she'd bought at the neighbors garage sale yesterday afternoon.  But that was hours ago when she'd run into the bathroom before relieving the other attendant when she'd come to work that afternoon.  Three to eleven was the busiest shift.

No way to fix the whites of her eyes that were so blood read customers' eyes had been watering out of synmpathy when they looked at her.  The sympathy made her want to crawl into a corner and curl up like a baby and just cry.  Hell of a lot of good that would do, as she looked anxiously out the window and wished the Sunbeam truck would hurry up and move.

The door opened and a young black man put five dollars on the counter.  "Pump two," he said and then he left.

"There it is!"  The woman's make-up was flawless, Jean Anne noticed.  Her smile was open and friendly as she laid the card down for Jean Anne to run through the machine.  Jean Anne filled in the blanks.  You could tell only good things happen to her.  I bet she feels real Christian about feeling sorry for me, spreading a little sunshine by smiling.  Why shouldn't she smile?

Jean Anne handed the slip over the counter to be signed.

She glanced at the machine to cancel the previous sale.  fifty cents the man put down.  The machine read "ten dollars."  The truck was still there blocking her view, but Jean Anne could tell the car had already gone.  Her heart did flip flops.  It had happened again. 

Weakly she said out loud, "Five dollars.  He owed ten dollars.  That's five dollars out of my pay..."  She handed the truck driver the cigarettes, avoiding his eyes knowing she'd cry if she looked t him.

The woman looked up from signing the sales slip.  "You're responsible when they don't pay?    What are you supposed to do to make people pay?"

Jean Anne tried to keep her voice from trembling.  She heard the deep rumble of her husband's voice as he drew back his fist.  "Get the license number and run after them."  She left out the profanity he had included before she lost consciousness.

The woman's compassion made Jean Anne continue, "Same thing happened last week.  Guy drove off with fifty dollars worth of gas that came out of my paycheck."

There was hell to pay when she handed her husband that paycheck that had come up short for the second time in a month.  He didn't understand how difficult it was to watch everything that went on.  On, God, and already the week was going to start up with another short.  The memory of her daughter biting her knuckles stuffed in her mouth standing there in the doorway behind her father, trying t keep from crying out, flashed through Jean Ann's mind.  They had both learned they came off easir to take the punishment and apologize for whatever real or imagined wrongs they had committed than to further enrage the man.

Jean Anne had come to with her head in her nine-year-old daughter's lap, her face being stroked with her child's gentle touch.  The sweet voice anxiously murmurred, "Mommy, mommy.  Please, Jesus."  She had resisted coming to.  But only the gates of hell could hold her back from that angel voice.  Her baby needed her.

"How can people do that?" the woman said, sumpathetically, and left the store shaking her head.  She didn't even take the carbons.  Jean Anne looked after the woman and ripped the carbons.  She knew that some people used carbons like those to make false charges.

Jean Anne fantasized about the home to which the woman would drive the silver Mercedes.  She watched the fur of of the woman's jacket ruffle against her well-kept skin as the climate control activated the heat in the luxury car.  Jean Anne didn't envy the woman any of her possessions.  But, God, how wonderful it must be to feel so secure and trusting.

The young mother still in the store picked up a bottle of the cheap wine from the display near the door.

Jean Anne glanced out the window and caught sight of her VW parked on the far side of the lot under the neon "self-service" sign.  It reminded her of the basket of clothes she'd brought with her that morning from the trailer to wash at the Launderette nearby.  Trina needed some new underwear.  The old had elastic so loose it slipped when she ran on the playground.

Young'uns shouldn't have to be embarrassed in front of their friends, she thought.  The little girl tried hard to make no demands on her mother.  Jean Anne thought of putting off paying some other bill so she could go to Walmart to buy her little girl some nylon panties with ruffled legs and tiny satin bows.  But, if the power bill didn't get paid this week, they'd turn it off again.

Jean sighed and jotted down the tag numbers she could see at the pumps.  She'd be damned if any she could see would get away.  She used to think anybody that could afford one of those fine expensive cars wouldn't have to cheat on paying a bill.  couldn't trust nobody.

She looked past the BMW at the pump to her car.  It was a 60s model, battered and needing a paint job.  "Still, it got good mileage. 

Jean Anne remembered watching the numbers mount on the screen on pump number two south side last week. At sixty dollars, the numbers were still rising.  Gas guzzler, she'd thought, thinking about her own car.  The glimpse of the hood ornament told her it was a Lincoln SUV.  A man in a suit held the pump with his back to her.  She had tried to see the license but that was the blind spot.  Same spot as the "five dollar loss" today.  The store had been full, snacks and small stuff, distracting. 

The light was still flashing Sixty-five fifty" when she noticed the huge vehicle had gone.  Jean Anne remembered her cotton-mouthed fear when she realized that whoever had pumped that gas had driven off.  All night she had prayed he would remember and come back.

But, he hadn't.  She had to face her boss...and then her husband.  She had worked that whole day to fill that guy's tank.

A rusted old Dodge rattled up.  Leaving the car idling by the door, a young black man ran in and laid a five dollar bill on the counter.  She tensed and looked for a gun...  But the man smiled at her and said, "I owed you ten, but pulled the five out of my wallet.  Sorry.  I didn't realize it until I went to pay for the milk my wife told me to pick up at the grocery store."  He ran back out and hopped into his car, never realizing the importance of his action. 

The depression that had nearly smothered jean Anne all day lifted just enough for her to breathe deeply.  She hadn't even realized she'd been holding her breath. 

The woman brought the beer and wine to the counter.  Jean Anne listened to the little boy beg his mother to buy him some red hots.  And, with surprise, she felt a smile tease the corners of her mouth. The woman opened her purse and glancing over her shoulder at the man honking the horn in the car outside the glass doors, she pulled out the money she owed and shoved a card over the counter.  "Somebody gave me this.  I got it memorized.  Looks like you might need it too."  She smiled and hurried out trying to strap the little one in a car seat before the man drove over her in his impatience.  Only his having to unscrew the beer bottle slowed him down long enough for her to jump in the car.

"Why does she put up with that?"  Jean Anne thought.  "She's so pretty...."  And then it registered.

The woman put her hand to the window and just looked at Jean Anne as she drove past.  Jean Ann heard the little boy crying as the back window went up.  Then she saw the man reach back to slap his kid. 

Jean Anne looked at the card.  House of Ruth it read.  A shelter for Women.  There was a number. 

She looked out at the pumps.  The driver of the Sunbeam truck saluted her as he drove off. 

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster

Copyright 1996  These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you.  The errors are my own.  But, perhaps they will give you a starting point.  All original writing is copyrighted.  Webmaster