Rank River Rd.byi_am_marti©
I was driving down to Knoxville Tennessee to help my best friend move back up to Michigan. I had a six pack cooler filled with five bottles of Aquafina water and crushed ice sitting on the floorboard on the passenger side. The sixth was wedged between my legs. I was driving a rented Lincoln Town Car straight down I-75 and was screaming through Kentucky when I noticed the upcoming road sign. It was announcing an exit for a road two miles ahead.
What struck me about the exit was the name of the road. "Rank River Road", announced the green sign hanging over the highway. My mind started turning. Why in the world would anyone name a road "Rank River"? I was pretty sure that there was probably a small river that ran somewhere near this road that had an odor that could only be described as 'Rank '. Probably due to some sort of sulfur or maybe of decaying foliage.
What I didn't get was, why would you name a road "Rank River", especially if it has an exit off of a major highway? I mean, if it was a little back road in the country, I could see that. And if that was the case, probably only the locals would know it as "Rank River". Certainly no outsiders would have any idea that these old timers call 'County Road Number 43' (or whatever), Rank River Road when no one was around to hear their secret shame.
By this time I have the exit in my sight. I seriously debated if I should steer the big Town Car off to the right and see for myself just what "Rank River Road" was all about. As I debated the issue, the lettering on the sign got more and more legible. Just as I decided to pull the steering wheel a smidge to the right, I noticed that I was passing right under that sign. "Well SHIT"! I thought. I made a snap decision. I was going to turn around at the next exit and head back to Rank River Road. I also decided it was probably just as well that I get off at the next exit because the gas gauge was damn near on empty.
I pulled up on the next exit and eased the big Lincoln off the highway. When I got to the top of the exit I looked for the nearest gas station. I looked down the hill and there at the bottom was a little independent place. As I pulled up to the pump, I noticed two men standing near the front door. And as far as I could tell, there were probably a total of 14 teeth between them.
Stepping out of the Lincoln I suddenly realized I had no idea where the cap to the gas tank was. I started around the car for the second time when I heard a voice drift across the parking lot, "Hey buddy! Do you need some help"? I jerked my head up and was horrified to see that one of the two Bubbas was heading my way.
He was coming toward me from up wind and I smelled him before he got within ten feet of me, he smelled like gasoline and oil. The closer he got I could see he was squinting his eyes at me.
I am used to this confused look from strangers. I have to admit that I am pretty butch and look the part. I'm quite comfortable with myself when I'm in my own element and around my own friends. I can handle most any situation when I'm in my own surroundings. Actually, I can usually handle myself anywhere but, I gotta tell you, these boys turned my blood cold.
I decided that this being a time of crisis I would do my best "girl" imitation. I batted my eyes and put on my 'oh I'm so grateful you came to my rescue you big burning hunk of a man flesh' face. "I can't find the darn gas cap, got any ideas"? I said with a girlish giggle.
A look of total confusion crossed his face. Suddenly his eyes lit up. I could see him making the connection that I was biologically female. His face softened around the edges and for just one half of a second, I could see what he would have looked like if his mother and father weren't really brother and sister. I watched him as he inspected the Lincoln. He found the gas cap hidden behind the license plate.
"Just gotta know where to look ma'am," he said rather chivalrously. "Can I fill'er up for you"?
"Why sure" I said with a smile. "I can't believe you all still pump gas for the customers."
"Well, we don't all the time, just for special customers." He said and then let go of a stream of chewing tobacco spit that landed about three feet from my new white running shoes.
The way he said "special customers" echoed through my mind and I almost laughed out loud. "My God 'I thought, "he just made a pass at me." That's when it occurred to me that he was trying to 'mark' me with the tobacco spit. Just like a dog marks his territory. I was just grateful that he used tobacco spit instead of peeing on me. By then I had the inside of my cheek firmly between my teeth and was biting down hard. I knew if I let up on the pressure at all, I was going to be laughing hysterically in a matter of a few seconds.
He removed the nozzle from the gas tank and replaced it in the gas pump. "That'll be 54 dollars and 75 cents, how would'ja like to pay fer that"? he asked as he stuck out his hand.
"Oh, I have a credit card so I guess I'll have to go inside huh"? I asked.
"I could go inside for ya and take care of all of this" he said with his hand still extended.
"No, that's ok" I said. "I have to go in anyway to use the 'little girls' room".
His face started to flush and his jaw began to go slack his eyes glazed over. I turned on my heel and left him standing there as another car pulled into the parking lot. I watched as an old man got out of his car and waited for 'my man' to go over to his car to begin pumping gas.
I stepped inside of the gas station and the first thing I noticed was that 'Bubba number two' was standing behind the counter whispering through clenched teeth to one of the sweetest looking women I have ever seen. It was obvious to me that I had walked into the middle of an argument and from the looks of things it was far from being over. I stepped up to the counter to pay for the gas; he glanced at me and then stormed out of the building.
As I handed this Goddess my credit card I reached for a pack of gum and a Twix candy bar. I had to get a grip on myself. I knew I was about to start babbling, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I had to get my heart and hormones under control before I spoke to her. If I didn't, I was going to make a complete and total fool of myself. She'd figure out my crush in about 10 seconds and I'd end up getting my ass kicked by either Bubba one or two probably both! They don't like my kind here in bum fucked Kentucky!
She asked me if I wanted to add them to the gas purchase and I looked up into her eyes. I had every intention of answering her. I mean, it was there in my mind. 'Yes please' was exactly what I was going to say but my tongue locked up on me. All I could manage was what sounded like a grunt. Luckily, she took that as a yes and pointed to the Lincoln and said, "That's your car? Gosh that's pretty; someday I want to have a car that's that nice." She said wistfully as she ran the credit card and turned to ask me what the plate number was.
She had the bluest eyes I have ever seen in my life. They were the color of the sky in the autumn. Bright blue. Sky blue. And when I looked at them, I couldn't help but to look in to them. I almost fell in. Her hair set off her eyes. It was long and shiny. She was a brunette and it was full of golden hi-lights. I'm no beauty expert but even I could see that the color was natural. It looked so shiny and so soft, I felt myself getting ready to reach up and touch it. Don't ask me how but I was able to stop myself.
She was about 5'6 and as I allowed my eyes to travel down her body, I saw that her breasts were pushing at the material that her blouse was made of. Her belly was swollen with about eight months worth of baby. She had a look of amusement on her beautiful face. Not the kind of amusement where she was making fun of me. It was the kind that she knew what she was doing to me and she was not upset by it. It was like she and I shared a secret joke. Her eyes were sparkling.
She asked me again what the plate number was. Hell, I had no idea what the number was. "I don't know, it's a rental" I managed to say with out sounding too stupid. "That's OK, it's not a big deal" she said softly. She stepped around the counter to the door and yelled out to my 'boyfriend', "Hey Lonnie? Will you check the plate number on the Lincoln for me please"?
I gotta tell you, I was impressed with good old Lonnie. He called the plate numbers right back to her and damned if he didn't know ALL the letters and numbers! I almost made a comment about that but thought better of it. "Lonnie is my brother," she said almost sounding shy; "he's got a heart that's made of gold".
"Thank you God for keeping my big mouth shut!" I thought.
"Who is the other guy"? I asked, never once considering that it was absolutely none of my business who he was.
"Oh, that's Jerry Lee, he's my boyfriend well, he was my boyfriend" she whispered. "He's the baby's father."
"Oh, I'm sorry" I said with just enough sympathy in my voice to make it sound like I really was sympathetic. In reality, my heart started beating faster and I felt like singing.
"No, don't be. It's OK really." She said. "It's really better this way, I don't love him. I don't think I ever did love him." She looked at me with those eyes. It didn't occur to me that she was telling me something that was absolutely none of my business! She looked right into my eyes. I felt my knees go weak. I wanted to touch her so badly but I had enough sense to keep my hands by my side.
"Um, do you have a restroom I could use?" I managed to squeak out.
"Why sure we do, right back there by the postcard rack", she said pointing to the back end of the store.
Just then, the old man from outside toddled into the store. She waved to him and called, "Hey Uncle JT! How ya doin'?"
"I'll be right back honey, gotta use the outhouse." He pointed to the UNISEX bathroom. The only bathroom in the place.
Kayla laughed and then turned back to me. Her eyes were sparkling. "That's my uncle. Sorry he beat ya!"
"Oh well, story of my life. Day late and a dollar short". I said philosophically.
"So, can I buy you a soda?" she asked me.
"How did you know my throat was dry?" I croaked.
She just laughed at me. She had a great laugh. Musical almost. "Oh, here's your credit card Dana." she said reaching out with it in her hand. I reached for it at the same time and her hand touched mine. She didn't snatch her hand back. I felt electricity cross from her hand to mine. "My name's Kayla." she purred.
I was amazed! "How did you know my name?" I asked dumbfounded.
Kayla started giggling; "Your name is on your credit card silly"! Now it was my turn to go slack jawed.
I stood there looking about as intelligent as the village idiot. I felt a bubble of laughter in the pit of my stomach. I began to chuckle and then laugh and then before I knew it, I was guffawing. I had tears running down my cheeks. So did Kayla.
My eyes were drawn to hers. It was the color. God, I have never in my life seen eyes that beautiful. That exciting. Suddenly I knew that if given the opportunity, I could fall in love with her.
My mind did a quick run through our lives together. Kayla, the baby and me. Would we have to let Jerry Lee into our lives? Of course, he was the "sperm donor" so he probably would want to involve himself some how. I guess that's only fair. Well, he could have the kid for 2 weeks every summer and every other Christmas.
WHOA! Just a minute there dude! I have known this woman for all of 5 minutes and here I am planning to buy a house for her. Dear God! That must be where the old joke comes from: what does a lesbian drive on the second date? A U-HAUL.
Just then, two doors opened at the same time. One of them would change my life forever. The other? Well, it was just one of those things.
The door from the outside swung open just as the bathroom door in the back of the store did. I was standing next to the outside door and was almost knocked on my ass by Jerry Lee. He pushed the door open harder than he needed to. I managed to sidestep the big aluminum and glass beast that wanted to black my eye and remove a couple of my incisors.
"YIKES! You almost got me!" I squeaked.
"Jesus Christ Jerry Lee! You almost hit her in the face with the door!"
I looked in amazement at Kayla. Her bright blue eyes were now the color of smoke. She was looking at Jerry Lee with such venom, I was almost afraid for him. I could see he was afraid for himself. He looked over at me. It was like he was seeing me standing there for the first time.
"Sorry" he mumbled.
"No biggie" I said. I headed for the back of the store toward the bathroom. I could see that Kayla wanted some quality alone time with Jerry Lee.
As I approached the bathroom, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen the old guy come back out but, the door was open. What the hell? I could feel the hair on the back of my neck begin to rise. Damn! I was getting creeped out. I rounded the post card rack and had a clear view into the restroom.
I could see the old guy lying on the floor. I picked up my pace and as I hit the door, I realized two things. First, he was wedged in between the sink and toilet with his pants around his ankles. And second, the smell coming from the bathroom was nauseating.
The smell was almost like something physical. It was like a green mist was drifting out of the small room. It had a life of its own. It punched me with the force of a heavy weight boxer. I instinctively threw myself backwards. Directly into the postcard rack that hit the floor sounding like a bomb going off. Postcards with sentiments of "Wish you were here!" were fluttering to the ground looking like weird, rectangular snowflakes.
I felt myself going down on top of the rack but was somehow was able to stop myself before I went all the way to the floor. By the time I was able to get myself righted, Kayla was half way to me, her eyes back to blue and full of concern.
"Dana? Are you alright?"
"Kayla, you need to call 911." I said.
Kayla thought I was the one who was hurt. She ran to me, preparing to examine my body for blood or bone. She pulled up short when she got about 3 feet from me.
"Dana? What's that smell?" Kayla asked with a wrinkled nose.
"It's your uncle Kayla." I said, pointing toward that bathroom.
That's when Kayla noticed the old guy on the bathroom floor.
"Oh my gosh!" Kayla exclaimed. "Jerry Lee! Call 911 quick! Uncle JT is on the floor! I think he's had a heart attack!"
Kayla took a step toward the bathroom and then stopped.
"Geeze Dana, I can't go in there!" Kayla turned toward me with tears in her eyes.
I wanted to ask her if it was because of the smell or if it was because his pants were around his ankles. I decided I should probably just leave it alone.
"Don't worry Kayla; I'll go check on him."
Now, one thing you should know about me is I have never in my life been the "hero" type. Not that I haven't thought about it but the opportunity had never arose. Until this day. I was about to be Kayla's hero and to be quite honest; I was all right with the idea.
I entered the bathroom as bravely as I could. I was scared to death that I was gonna pass out from the smell. I tried mouth breathing but damned if I didn't taste it! Now ya just gotta wonder which is the lesser of two evils, smelling it or tasting it.
As soon as I got a clear look at Kayla's uncle, I was almost able to forget the odor. His face was gray and the skin around his nose and mouth was a bluish-purple. It was pretty obvious that he wasn't breathing and if I didn't do something soon, he probably wouldn't be breathing any time soon either.
As I bent down towards Uncle JT, I flushed the toilet on the way past. I decided it would probably be easier to "work" on him if I didn't have to squeeze in between the toilet and the sink. I glanced up and saw Jerry Lee standing in the doorway.
"Is JT gonna be ok?" Jerry Lee asked with hope in his voice.
I noticed Kayla was standing behind him and Lonnie was behind her. Kayla was on a cordless phone talking quietly to someone and I could see that she was crying. I had an overwhelming desire to jump up and run to her. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her until she quit crying.
"Jerry Lee, do me a favor will ya? Come here and help me move him out from the toilet."
Jerry Lee seemed relieved at having something to do. He moved into action. He may not have had much up stairs but the man was as strong as a bull elephant! He was also very gentle at least he was with JT. He picked him up as gently as he would probably be picking up his newborn child in a couple months.
"Just lay him down right here" I said to him as I pointed to the floor.
He laid him down and I got on my knees beside him and assessed the situation the best I could. All I could remember about CPR was ABC. I couldn't remember what the 'B' or the 'C' stood for. I knew that the 'A' was for Airway. I instinctively tilted his head so that his chin was pointing at the ceiling. Just as I bent down to pinch off his nostrils and breathe the breath of life into him, I heard the sirens coming in the distance.
I blew in his mouth and in the back of my mind was thinking that it felt so different when I blew into "Resuscitation-Annie". I watched JT's chest rise with my breath. For the life of me, I couldn't remember how many breaths I was supposed to blow. Luckily, I heard the front door slam open.
A voice called out "Did someone call the Rescue Squad"?
"Back here"! I heard Kayla's voice.
I decided that I could give him one more breath and it probably wouldn't hurt him one bit. His chest rose again and this time when I lifted my lips from his, I heard a gurgle in his chest. Just as the paramedics stepped into the bathroom, JT took a breath on his own. It wasn't much of a breath. He struggled to draw it down into his lungs. But, it was a breath! I felt as though I had just hit the lottery!
The paramedics politely nudged me out of the way and I was more than happy to let them take my place. I escaped the confines of the bathroom and worked my way past Jerry Lee, Lonnie and Kayla. Lonnie had one arm around Kayla and the other around Jerry Lee. Kayla had her hand on Jerry Lee's fore arm. All of a sudden I felt like a fifth wheel. I decided it was time to get back on the highway.
I began to move toward the door. I was being as quiet as I could when through the front door burst a woman who was about as big around as she was tall. She was crying and yelling, "Where's my baby? Where's my JT?" She was coming at me like a lineman for the Detroit Lions. I side stepped her in the nick of time. I don't think she even saw me.
She ran right into Jerry Lee's arms. "Jerry Lee, where is he? Is he alive? Is he alright?"
Kayla reached over and touched the woman's arm. "Aunt Elsie, Uncle JT is right there on the bathroom floor. I think he's gonna be OK. I heard the paramedics say he was breathin'."
Elsie swung Jerry Lee out of the way so that she could get a good view of the goings on in the bathroom. She pulled a wad of tissue out of her enormous bosoms and began to dab at her eyes and cheeks. She lifted it to her nose and let loose with a honk that would have stopped traffic.
The younger of the two paramedics came out of the bathroom and tried to dance his way past Elsie. She was not easy to get by in the tight space and on top of that, she was trying to get him to answer questions. The paramedic in the bathroom hollered,
"Damn it Elsie! Let him go out to the truck to get the stretcher. We gotta get JT to the hospital."
Elsie let loose of the younger guy and drew a bead on the one that was working on JT in the bathroom.