• Jerrole Hosler

The Marathon

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

By Jerrole Hosler

The gas station opens at 6:00. It's currently 5:48. Mary, a woman in her 30's that looks like she's in her 40's, is brewing the first pot of coffee for her regulars. She works methodically, without thought, her hands opening bags of coffee and spreading filters. The fresh aroma of coffee beans wrinkling her nose with disgust. You can only smell coffee beans so much before you start to hate them. She hears a knock at the door.                "Fuck off Frank." She says, barely needing to look up from the coffee machine.                "Come on, Mar just let me in. I need to buy a monster." Frank, an overly fat man in his late 20's was always one of her first customers. He didn't drink coffee, but he drank energy drinks like it was going out of style. Frank worked the morning shift at the McDonald's next door, but they opened at 6:30.                "You can wait, just sit in your truck and listen to that noise you call music." Frank was a fan of something he called, American Melodic Death Metal, but to Mary it just sounded like, Goth kids screaming out how much they hate their parents. Frank, knowing Mary wouldn't budge, went back to his car; but he would be back at 5:45 tomorrow just the same. Fucking Frank. It was 5:55.                Mary flipped on the rest of the lights, put her till in the cash register, and waited the 2 and a half minutes, just to piss off Frank, before unlocking the door to the store. He flies in and buys two energy drinks, as well as a handful of slim jims, saying "breakfast," as a way of explanation, and walks out the door at a trot to get to work on time. After Frank follows the usual crowd of construction workers. They come in and raid the coffee pots and snack aisle of all the little debbies that they can carry.                "Mornin' Mary," they all say in greeting. "How're the kids?" Some of them will add.                "God damn fools." She usually responds. Mary's sons are 12 and 14. She was 19 when she had the first one, and she was 22 when their father decided to die of a heroin overdose. Probably on purpose; she thinks. Not that she's ever touched the stuff.                "Drugs are for losers." She says aloud, remembering her time in High School and the DARE program.                "What's that Mary?" Bill, an old man who always came in to buy a diet caffeine-free coke, asks. Mary is shocked out of her daydream.                "Oh, nothing. I was miles away. Sorry." Mary answers. Bill gives her the knowing nod of the elderly and walks away with his coke.                6:00 to 8:00 is busy. The store is bustling with people going to work and needing that morning fix of coffee, or sugar, or mummified hot-dogs, whatever their vice may be. 8:00 to 11:00 is quiet and Mary spends her time stocking the aisles and making more coffee. She gives the bathrooms a quick clean and is happy to see that no one dropped a bomb in the toilet or threw chewing tobacco in the urinal. So far, so good. She was in the back cooler, stocking some juice into the racks when they hear the doorbell ring as a customer enters.                "I'll be there in just a minute," She yells from the cooler.                "Take your time dear," She hears back. It's a man's voice, but soft with age. She thinks that it must be David. Crazy David, some of the less kind residents called him. When he was a boy David's father was mauled to death by a bear, right in front of him, but David swears to God that it was the Michigan Dogman. David was called crazy for a reason.                "Morning David, how's Julie?" Julie was David's third wife, he'd outlived the other two. Julie was a righteous bitch by Mary's account, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't ask about her.                "Julie's fine, thanks for asking. How're your boys?" He asks.                "Damn fools," She responds with a smile. This is usually how far friendly small talk went.                "You keep em safe, you hear me?" David says.                "What?"                "It's the seventh year." Oh right, Mary thinks. The Dogman only hunts people on the seventh year and it was January 1997. Mary rethinks, David he wasn't crazy, he was fucking nuts.                "Oh yeah, I will, thanks, David."                "See that you do." David says, and departs. What a weirdo, Mary thinks. It's 11:23 and the store is starting to get busy again, on account of the lunch rush. She didn't see any Dogmen, but she did see some extra hairy farm boys and a few farm women that could pass as farm men.                She can usually guess what people buy before they do it. The coffee drinkers look like coffee drinkers and the bottled water buyers look like bottled water buyers. Sometimes she would get tripped up when a 21-year-old pretty girl bought a can of Copenhagen long cut chewing tobacco, or when an old man buys a bug juice, but she usually gets it right.                Suddenly Mary realizes that it's 14:00 and her shift change should have been here 15 minutes ago. Where the fuck is Jean-Ann? Jean-Ann's phone just rings and rings when she calls it. Mary calls her manager.                "Where the fuck is Jean-Ann?"                "I don't know, can you cover until she gets there?"                "Do I have a choice?" Her manager gives a small laugh to make it seem like she isn't a huge bitch and answers,                "No, not really."                "Call me when you know she'll be in."                "Okay, you're a lifesaver, Mary."                "Yeah, sure." Mary hangs up the gas station phone and hopes everyone through the door is that fat idiot Jean-Ann. Mary would never have hired her, Jean-Ann was a lazy piece of human garbage that never closed the store the right way. Mary was always fixing her mistakes in the morning. But Jean-Ann was the manager's nephew's girlfriend, and that was family around here.                It was 15:08 and the sea cow still wasn't in yet. Mary was about to call her manager again when Tiffany, a young skinny blonde girl with a prominent snaggle-tooth, walked into the store.                "Tiffany!"                "Yeah, Mary?"                "You want to work tonight?" Tiffany was a weekend opener at the store, but Mary thought she could handle closing as well.                "I don't know Mary...where's Jean-Ann?"                "She isn't responding to anyone, I'm assuming she's passed out somewhere or she just quit and didn't tell anyone." It wouldn't be the first time, Mary thinks.                Tiffany hems and haws for a few seconds.                "Come on Tiff, I've got to pick my boys up from school." She did too, school got out a 14:50, and she knew they would be waiting for her at the public library, next to the school; they lived too far in the country for the school bus to drop them off; plus their road was mostly dirt and the bus was likely to get stuck in the snow in January. All of this passes through her head, and through Tiffany's.                "Oh fine, I'll do it. But if my husband asks why he isn't getting a hot supper and some nooky tonight, you have to tell him." Tiffany jokes and Mary calls up their manager to explain.                "Okay, okay," The manager says, eager to just make the problem go away, "I'll adjust the schedule. You can go home, Mary." Mary hangs up and does her shift change after Tiffany puts her till in the cash register. Mary counts out her till and stocks whatever she hadn't stocked during her slow hours and leaves the store at 15:32 with a thankful wave to Tiffany.                She drives her beat-up car to the library and scoops up her boys. They take the 30-minute drive home to their mobile home in the shadow of a forest and Mary makes macaroni and hot-dogs for dinner; the boys' favourite. They watch Jeopardy together at 19:30 and the boys beat her soundly, they were already so much smarter than she knew she'd ever be. In the morning she wakes up and starts the day again.                She leaves home, with the boys, at 5:00 and drops them off with her sister in town at 5:30. They'll sleep on her sister's couch for a few more hours before walking to the school. She's at the gas station at 5:35 in order to get ready for whatever Tiffany forgot, or didn't know how to do. The day passes much the same as the day before, and so does the day after, and the day after, and the day after. Mary will work at the gas station until Frank goes from his late 20's to his late 40's and from a fry-cook at McDonald's to a morning shift manager; the sweet life. She'll work at the gas station when Tiffany moves to Ohio and after both her boys go to college, but only one graduates. She'll work at the gas station after she beats breast cancer, but is left with one tit and a medical bill that she'll never pay off.                She'll work at the gas station until it closes down and she gets a job at the new station down the road, with less pay and a manager that is half her age. Most of her regulars will follow her to the new store, but only 4 people will go to her funeral when she dies: her two sons, her sister, and that bitch Jean-Ann.                Mary died having never left Michigan and never wanting to; Mary died a gas station worker and that was fine with her. Mary died and the next morning her regulars came to the gas station and bought coffee and diet caffeine-free diet cokes. They said, "Mornin' Mary." No matter how many times the young girl at the cash register told them, "my name is Claire."                Mornin' Mary, just sounds better; don't you think?


More on the Author: Jerrole Hosler was born and raised in Northern Michigan (USA). He graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2013 with and English Writing Degree. He has spent his time since then working numerous jobs. Under his resume you will find restaurant work, warehouse labor, nursing home care, and secretary work at a University.  Through all of this he has kept his love of words. He currently works as an English teacher to adult students in Shanghai and is writing his first book.  In his free time he enjoys complaining about the US Government and making gross oversimplifications of America to people of other cultures.