Gopher left the gas station and started back down the two lane highway, still puzzling over the attendant’s farewell.
“See you real soon,” he’d said.
It could be a local expression, Gopher thought, maybe just and example of the fabled small town friendliness that apparently existed outside of the cities, but something about the way it was said made him uneasy.
After a few more miles, he’d figured he was jumpy, a little nervous to be traveling along these back roads. Gopher usually kept to the brutally manicured, unbroken stretch of concrete and asphalt connecting cities. He’d still be on the freeway, if that accident hadn’t stopped traffic.
He’d waited an hour, although it seemed like more. The cars ahead of him lurched forward by inches. They moved that way until an exit appeared on his right, and Gopher veered sharply out of the slow-moving mass and took it.
The off ramp led to a four lane, and then a few miles later it halved and kept going. The trees grew dense and close, making it seem like evening when it was still afternoon. The road twisted and turned, skirting the larger trees or stones, or creeks, but kept to mostly the same direction Gopher thought.
After an hour, he was relieved to see the lights of the gas station, and pulled in. The attendant filled the car and told him there’d be another on-ramp in about one hundred and fifty miles, as long as he kept going the same way, and then took the third left after the old sagging barn, that he couldn’t miss, seeing as how it was the only thing out there.
It took some driving, but Gopher found the barn and then turned left. The sun set behind the trees, and the forest was darker than anything Gopher had seen in the city. He slowed down some and kept an eye out for the on ramp. An hour later, the horizon started to brighten, and Gopher realized he must be near the freeway. His excitement dull though, when he crested a small a hill and saw it was only a gas station. He pulled in anyway to use the restroom. After washing his face he came out and say the same attendant washing another car’s windshield.
Gopher hailed the man, but he just looked at him and said, “Something I can help you with sir?”
The way he looked and answered surprised Gopher, made him doubt it was the same man after all. He rubbed the road away from his eyes, and realized he must have been mistaken. He asked the attendant for directions to the on-ramp.
He said to keep going the way he was headed, and about 30 miles in, to take a right, then a second right and he’d be on an old logging road that ended right on the doorstep of the on-ramp.
Gopher thanked him and got in his car.
“See you real soon,” the attendant said, waving goodbye.