No Pepsi, Coke.
by Paul Beckman
The bus picked me up after waiting four hours
outside the prison, and two hours later pulled into The Junction Rest Stop,
where I carried my prison-issued backpack of clothes and personal effects to
the gas pump, where I hung around asking for a ride.
“Where you going?” the gas pumper asked and I
told him anywhere he was going was good enough for me, so he told me to hop in
and asked if I just got out of prison and I told him I did, but that I wasn’t
looking for trouble.
“Can you kick in a couple bucks for gas?” he
asked, and I told him I had less than twenty on me but if he insisted, I could
come up with a deuce.
I gave him a crumpled single and a dollar’s
worth of change.
He pulled around to the side of the diner and
asked me what type of sandwich I’d like, and I told him I was hungry, and any
kind was good, so he came out and handed me a bag with tuna on rye, a bag of
chips, and a can of Pepsi.
“Didn’t they have Coke?” I asked, and he said
they did, but he was a Pepsi guy.
“Do you mind if I go in and change for a Coke?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’d mind very much.”
“Are you always this sensitive?”
“Do you always look a gift horse in his mouth?”
I reached over, yanked the car keys from the
ignition and said, “I’ll be right back after I get my Coke.”
I got back to the car with my Coke, opened the
door, tossed him the car keys, and said, “Drive.”
He pulled out of the station, and we rode in
quiet until I turned to get something from my backpack, which I didn’t see.
“Where’s my backpack?” I demanded.
“With your Pepsi.”
“Well, turn around and get it,” I ordered.
“Can’t. I’m on a tight schedule.”
We were stopped in line at the turnpike toll,
so I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to me. “You don’t know who you’re
messing with,” I said, and then heard the click of a switchblade and felt it in
I let go of his collar and got out of his car.
The driver floored the car, and then I heard
him jam on his breaks and watched the trunk pop and saw him run out of the car,
reach into the trunk, and grab the backpack. I watched him watching me and then
I started running towards the car as he tossed the backpack into the woods and
drove off, flipping me the bird as he went.
I caught a ride with an eighteen-wheeler and
told him my version of the story where I got picked up, robbed, and had my
backpack gone through and all my money stolen.
We spotted Mr. Pepsi filling up at the turnpike
rest stop some three hours later, and my driver pulled a pistol from the glove
compartment and told me to wait while he went to get my money.
As he reached the car I slid over to the
driver’s seat and took off for parts unknown, blowing the airhorn as I went by
him and the Pepsi guy, laying on the ground in a puddle of gas or blood.
Paul Beckman’s latest flash
collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist
for the 2019 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories have appeared in Spelk,
Anti-Heroin Chic, Necessary Fiction, Bending Genres, Fictive
Dream, Pank, Playboy, WINK, and The Lost Balloon.
He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and
was short-listed in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Paul
curates the monthly KGB FBomb NY flash fiction reading series (currently
It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying,
so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his
bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop,
Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection
of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com. He's done art for several magazines, newspapers,
websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling
- on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He
was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He
recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy
magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's
killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.