Dare I say it? Yes, I’m shameless. A few minutes ago, while cruising Amazon, I realized I have yet to share an excerpt of my WANDA B. WONDERS series with you, my golden life family. True, I’ve highlighted the covers here and even posted two entire chapters in my notes on Facebook. Thus, to remedy the situation here, I am posting a chapter from each of the three books in the series.
I hope you enjoy making her acquaintance!
MIDNIGHT PUMP PARTY
“Of all the places I ever thought I’d wind up spending the night, the gas station was never one of them, but that is precisely where my car swallowed its last sip of gasoline and promptly put me down right in front of the first of three pumps in the centre island of a four-island gas station on Glenwood,” said Wanda B. Wonders. “Darkness and the gas needles of other cars were falling faster than my cell phone could call Willie Wonders, who was no where to be found.”
“What a frightening ordeal. How did you let your gas gauge get so low?” I asked.
“Looking for petro.”
“This gas scare has got to let up sooner than later.”
“Miss Lady, if later, the gas families will be the only ones able to eat and travel to safer places where petro is still king, while the rest of us will be left to battle food wars and crime, being food and gas prices are climbing higher than Jack’s beanstalk in a patch of fertilizer.
“Hopefully, the situation will right itself before the country knows such dire straits.”
“Yes, prayerfully. As for this present moment, a lot of Blackfolks’ purses and wallets are singing the blues trying to remain law-abiding in these thumb-tack times. I never thought I’d see the day when a gallon of gas was nearly $5.00. Just last week a half tank of gas cost me $50.02. Baby, I almost asked the gas station attendant if their employees got gas discounts, because if so, I needed an employment application.”
“The gas dilemma is squeezing white purses and wallets, too. At the pumps, a white man once asked me for a dollar to pay for his gas so he could get home. In times like these, people become ingenious. Some organize car pools, negotiate flex- time workdays and think about returning to home gardens,” I said.
“Some trifling folks will climb fences and harvest what’s in your garden, while you’re at work and siphon gas from your car, but the criminally-challenged will be with us always, in the best of times and in the worst of times,” said Wanda B. “I am just not going to be a victim whatever time it is, which takes me back to my midnight pump party.
“I drove into that gas station happier than a toothless, 12-year-old dog chasing a frisky, classy lassie in slow motion. Got out of my car and before I could find my debt card to pay at the pump, a white man in a button-down, tired shirt kindly informed me that the Indian station owner had not two minutes ago locked up and slapped a Will Open Tomorrow sign on the glass door. A mumbling crowd was forming at the entrance. Complaining.
“Above my braids, the eggplant-purple sky was yawning and turning over, bedding down for another restful night, as though it were oblivious to the distress right under its nose. ‘Awww, no,’ I told myself. ‘This white man has forgotten he is a bonafide, red-blooded white man.’ Perhaps he is overworked and underpaid, like the average Black man, I thought. Good thing I am in command of all my faculties and have not forgotten that I am Wanda B. Wonders, Black, free and me. Here was another blessed opportunity to be The Woman.
“I strolled to that glass door, smiled and waved Mr. Owner to his sign.
“ ‘Good morning, Mr. Keeper of the Gas!’ I greeted him. ‘How are you?’
“ ‘I am fine, but I’m also sorry. There will be no gas sold tonight. Please come back in the morning, when the gas truck is expected,’ he called through the glass.
“ ‘You do know that most of these cars cannot leave to return in the morning. Mine for one has taken her last swallow, and if she moves from your station it may be behind a tow truck.’
“ ‘I am sorry, ma’am. I cannot help you.’
“ ‘Mr. Gas, if there is petro in these pumps, why not sell it tonight, and let tomorrow take care of itself? I am not a woman to hang in the streets all night. My husband is waiting for me same as your wife is waiting for you, I’m sure. Why keep us up all night, peeking over our shoulders at strangers, hoping someone doesn’t catch a case and go to robbing in this captivated spot? Supposed we organized out here and didn’t let you out of your station, until we each bought a few gallons of gas?’ I asked.’
“ ‘I would be forced to call the police, ma’am. I said I am sorry. Now please go home.’
“ ‘Yes, I know just how sorry you are. And, yes, I will be going home as soon as I get what I came for,’ I promised, opening my cell phone. ‘However, this newsworthy occasion calls for a few telephone calls: one is to our friendly neighborhood police precinct and the others are to local news and television stations. I’m pretty sure this is an all-time, first affair of its sort in this neck of the woods. Have you ever heard of such? I can see the headlines now: ‘Midnight Pump Party on Glenwood Calls Attention to Gas Crisis.’
“ ‘Ma’am, there has been no law broken. Why call the police?’
“ ‘To know that law and order will be maintained out here, when you are safe and sound at home in your cozy bed. Now if you will excuse me.’
“After that, Miss Lady, my cell phone went to smoking, I called so many people. One lady produced a phone book from her trunk and that was all she wrote. Within ten to fifteen minutes, DeKalb’s finest strolled up, three deep, a young Chinese officer and two, middle-aged officers, one Black, the other white.
“ ‘Where is Miss Wanda B. Wonders?’ This from the young Chinese officer.
“The crowd parted. I emerged and said, ‘Good morning, officers! I am Wanda B. Wonders. Thank you kindly for coming out to check on the gas-out, law-abiding citizens of this great county. We don’t want any more trouble than we already have. I called you to help me mediate an agreement with the gentleman inside this gas station to sell us some petro so we can roll home to our families and prepare for another day.’
“ ‘My pleasure, ma’am, but am I understanding correctly? Is there no more gas to sell?’
“ ‘Perhaps you should pose that question to the gentleman,’ I said.
“Mr. Gas unlocked the glass for the three officers. Then he re-bolted the door behind them. Giving me a ‘you-think-you-are-so-smart’ smile, he turned and started explaining his position to the policemen. Mind you, as they talked, I talked…to every news station that answered at that time of night.”
“I should have known you’d make an effective spokeswoman, Wanda B. What was the result of the mediation?”
“The Chinese officer was their spokesman. He said, ‘This man has committed no crime by withholding the gas but we have tried to get him to sell the gas yet he refuses.’
“ ‘Thank you for trying, Officer—’ I eyed his tag, ‘—Officer Chin. I’m inviting you to stay, but I realize you may be needed to keep the night’s peace in other places. Before you go though, is it against the law for my fellow stranded and gas-less citizens to have a midnight party in this station under the rolling cameras of a local television station? After all, have you known this to have happened before in all your, short I’d assume, years on the police force?’
“ ‘No, ma’am, I’ve never seen a party of this sort. We will stay as long as we can, but I can’t promise how long that will be, okay?’
“ ‘Fine by me,’ I assured him, raising my voice so Mr. Gas could catch my drift. ‘It’d be delightful to get a statement from the police and the station owner for our fellow citizens to understand what could very well be their next experience.’
“And at that point, I introduced myself to Officer Chin’s cohorts and them to the milling crowd. Then I informed the other folks newly spilling from their cars, patiently waiting for someone to bring them wind of what was going on.
“ ‘Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am Wanda B. Wonders, the organizer of your premiere Midnight Pump Party. The owner of the station has decided to have us spend the night here, so that he can sell us the same gas when the sun rises. Meanwhile, you and I will pass the time getting to know one another and sharing our feelings and opinions about where we are in this moment. So if anybody has a portable radio, turn it on, and let’s party away the time. A local news station will be here momentarily.
“ ‘There is always a choice in any situation, and my choice is that we make the most of every moment. Upbeat and hopeful. Not cussing and fussing and wishing Mr. Gas ulcers and other heart and body aches. If you’re with me, let’s follow Marvin and get it on!’”
“Wanda B., I’m sure that last part caused the gas station owner a major headache.”
“Possibly. After he saw the mood shift and sway and brighten under the lights of his pumps, the revelry rivaling the midnight stars, with the police joining in, exchanging small talk, dancing and laughing, Mr. Gas hurried up and powered up those pumps, Sweet Pumpkin. And I don’t blame him, being pedestrians began swelling our ranks, asking about admission and the prices of sodas and sandwiches and other goodies people were spreading across their hoods!