- Reading time: three minutes
- Word count: 409
- Published: 9 dec 2KXV
- Author: Matador the First
- Copyright: Matador the First, 2015
“People have all ripped me off long as I been breathing. I figure why not do the same. Keep things balanced.”
“You’re just—all it is is you’re keeping that cycle running.”
“Madam.” He smiled. “Please. Not like they know they getting ripped off. Think they doing me a favor, a solid, giving me a good turn or a leg up. They got no reason to feel cheated.”
“That’s the difference. They feel good helping me.”
“Bullshit nothing, ma’am. Those four phrases I tossed out I got from four different people the last day or two. Shit. Like I’m helping them. Cheapest therapy they’ll ever get.”
She crossed her arms.
“Not like it’s a total lie, neither. You see my car. These my clothes. Yeah I got money. Just enough I can’t tell it’s keeping me floating or trying to drown me.”
“Those people might have more or better stuff, but it’s not like they can actually afford it. They miss a check, they miss a payment. They’re boned. And you’re asking them for gas you don’t even need.”
“I got a car, right, I drive it, right.”
“So I need gas.”
“Could you pay for it?”
“Not the issue here. I need it, I ask. This how I spend Saturday and Sunday. This how I’m staying up. Yeah I could pay. Couldn’t afford, though.”
“You just ask different people, is all?”
“I never pressed on anyone. Some say no, I leave ’em alone. Never took from someone didn’t think they could afford it.”
“The ones who can’t won’t say no.”
“They should say no. I’ll talk someone else to help me being independent, not riding the bus two hours to go what should take half one.”
“The ones who say no probably can afford it.”
“Yeah. And the ones who say no probably call the cops. They do. That’s how I run out of gas one week.”
“I got another why for it. You wanna hear?”
“See who say no. See who say yes.”
“I wear this polo every day. That’s why it’s black. Hide the stains.”
Her eyes burned a bit as they picked up the wobbling white salt patches of sweat pooling under his arms and on his chest.
“I got two pair khaki shorts. Me working outside all the time, I gotta spend clothes money on socks and underwear and shit shoes. So don’t say I take advantage.”
“Never Took” is a poorly titled deleted scene from “Eighteen Gallons to Freedom,” the first short story published on fingerpuppet raygun. Why did I cut this scene? A couple of more technical reasons: (A) I couldn't figure out how to start or end it, so I didn't know how to fit it in to the story; (B) it really didn't add anything to the story and didn't move it forward in any way.
But my biggest concern when I was writing and revising the story was that this exchange would cast the protagonist—Daniels—in a negative light, and I wanted to make sure readers knew that he was someone to root for. Reading this exchange now, it doesn't make me see Daniels negatively—but I still think it would slant many readers’ minds in that direction.
Hope you enjoyed this short, non-canon exchange between Daniels and a random woman at a gas station.