Gas, pizza and politeness: a midwestern tale

Gas, pizza and politeness: a midwestern tale

In the heart of the Midwest, where the prairies stretch like a blanket under the wide sky, and the roads ribbon through fields of corn and soy, there was a Casey’s gas station. This particular Casey’s, a beacon of light and warmth, was perched at the intersection of two sleepy roads, in a town where everyone knew everyone, or at least they thought they did.

On a particularly crisp autumn evening, just as the sun began to dip below the horizon, casting long shadows and painting the sky in hues of orange and purple, two men found themselves at the front door of this Casey’s. The first, a tall man with a weathered face and hands toughened by years of work in the fields, wore a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. The second, a shorter, bespectacled fellow, clad in a tweed jacket, had the air of a professor or perhaps a writer.

Their encounter, under normal circumstances, would have been a brief and forgettable moment – a simple exchange of nods or a mumbled ‘after you’. But on this evening, something peculiar hung in the air, something that turned this mundane moment into a surreal standoff.

“After you,” said the tall man, stepping back and gesturing towards the door with a hand that seemed to have plowed a thousand fields.

“No, no, I insist, after you,” replied the shorter man, pushing his glasses up his nose with a finger that had turned many a page.

They both smiled, their Midwestern politeness as deeply ingrained as the rows of corn in the fields. But neither moved. They stood there, frozen in a bizarre tableau, each insisting the other go first with a stubbornness that was uncharacteristic for both.

As minutes ticked by, their standoff took on an air of the absurd. The setting sun slowly disappeared, and the neon lights of the Casey’s sign flickered on, bathing them in a surreal glow. The wind whispered through the prairies, carrying with it the faint sounds of a distant harmonica, adding a soundtrack to their silent duel.

Then, things began to shift. Something changed. The world around them seemed to melt into a dreamscape. The cornfields swayed rhythmically, as if dancing to an unheard melody. The stars above twinkled mischievously, casting long, bizarre shadows on the ground. The Casey’s itself appeared to breathe, its walls gently expanding and contracting, as if the building were alive.

The men’s faces stretched and contorted in exaggerated expressions of politeness, their smiles too wide, their eyes too bright. “After you,” they continued to insist, their voices echoing unnaturally, as if they were speaking from the bottom of a well.

A group of crows gathered to watch, perched on the gas pumps, their caws sounding like laughter. A scarecrow from a nearby field walked over, leaned against the wall, and lit a cornhusk cigarette, watching the men with button eyes that gleamed in the neon light.

Time seemed to warp around them. The pizza had gone. The night aged and renewed itself in rapid cycles. Leaves grew on the trees, turned orange, and fell, only to grow again. The moon raced across the sky, pausing now and then to peer curiously at the scene below.

As the standoff continued, the men began to realize the absurdity of their situation. Their laughs, at first hesitant, grew into hearty guffaws, echoing across the fields. They laughed until they cried, their tears watering the prairie grass.

Finally, as if by some unspoken agreement, they stepped forward together, passing through the door in unison. Inside, they were greeted by the warm smell of pizza and coffee, the mundane familiarity of the store grounding them back in reality.

They turned to each other, no longer in a standoff but as companions in an unspoken adventure. With a nod and a chuckle, they each grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down, their laughter mingling with the sounds of the Midwest night.

In the end, the Casey’s gas station, that humble beacon on the prairie, had witnessed not just a standoff, but a moment of surreal connection, a testament to the strange and wonderful tapestry of life in the Midwest.

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