Charlie Crampon walked out of the snack shop with a giant slushie in each hand. It was too early for caffeine, too late for food but just right for two double slushies -- giant-size, sugar-filled, brain-freezing buckets of ice shavings. The best companions for nighttime driving his Dad used to say. Two-thirty in the morning and insomniac crickets drowned out the lack of traffic on the highway. Fog chased the mosquitoes, blurred the face in the moon, turned the fireflies into smudges and made the rows of self-service gasoline pumps glow. At the far end of the grassy expanse, a pair of big black dogs, Russian wolfhounds thought Charlie, lumbered out of the woods, howling and baying as they ran across the lawn between the shop and the highway.
An ear-splitting shriek of feedback from the PA system broke the night. The clerk burst out the doors with a shotgun. Charlie ducked behind his car.
"Damn you, you bastards, I told ya not to pull this shit anymore," the clerk screamed in a high-pitched, twangy voice. He tracked the dogs and fired both barrels.
Both shots went wide and the dogs yelped off into the trees. The crickets waited for the last echo of the shotgun blast before resuming their symphony.
With shaking hands spilling brightly colored syrup over his fingers, Charlie drank from each cup, a big gulp of cold raspberry followed by two freezing mouthfuls of Hawaiian Punch. Then he stepped out from behind his car. "Geez, mister," he said, "you really hate dogs, doncha?"
"Hate those two," the clerk replied. "They keep sneakin in my back door and pissing in the Slushie machine."
Opening: Dave F......Continuation: jrmosher/anon.