“Hippies,” Hektor Estevez thought to himself as the kombi pulled away from the antique gas pumps in front of his desert service station. Absently scratching his protruding belly, the older man returned to the small service shop attached to the two-bay garage. Snatching a Schlitz from the cooler, he plopped onto the wooden stool behind the old-fashioned cash register.
Too few cars passed along the rutted two-lane road for Hektor to hold prejudices against anyone who did stop for a fill-up. He had very little time for Flower Children, but their dough was as good as anyone else’s. Lifting the dewed beer can to his lips, he chugged half of it down. His Adam’s apple did jumping jacks as the cool liquid slid down his throat. Idly aiming in the direction of the waste paper basket, he chucked the can and missed. As though an afterthought, he rang up the gas sale. Then, cranking the handle to pop open the drawer, he uncrumpled the fiver and placed it in the correct slot.
“Bunch of stupid kids,” Hektor thought as he contemplated the trio who emerged from the VW bus half an hour ago. Two boys and a girl. They always seemed to travel in that combination. Had to be something hinky going on there, he mused.
The gal would have been a pretty little thing had she cleaned herself up. Her greasy blonde hair hung limply over her shoulders. The design on her Indian headband was too dirty to make out. Hektor’s late wife, Ester, would have cringed at the patched denim short-shorts that barely covered her butt cheeks. A fringed vest and scant bikini top hid the tiny buds of her breasts. Then, there were the scuffed white go-go boots. The older man cringed.
Dolefully shaking his head, Hektor turned his mind to her male companions. The white fellow had sauntered into the shop as though he owned the place. After several moments, he returned to spread an old map across the hood of the psychedelically painted kombi. While his chocolate-skinned companion leaned against the bus and rolled a joint, the gangly hippie peered studiously at the road map. Hugging her knees tightly together, the girl hitched herself toward the restroom.
“You know when a gal hasta go,” the old man thought as his eyes drifted after her. Grinning but suppressing a laugh, he lifted the gas nozzle and began filling the tank.
“What’s the plan, bro?” the girl questioned upon her return. Wrapping her arms around her companion’s waist, she pressed her face against his back.
Silently, the duo studied the map. When their buddy joined them, the gal flung her arms around both their waists then fondled the black fellow’s behind. Finally, whitey folded the map and climbed into the passenger seat of the bus. The girl leaped into the middle seat. Pressing a five-spot into the older man’s hand, the third of the trio swung in behind the wheel. The kombi roared off in a cloud of exhaust when the clutch popped. The last thing Hektor saw was the black peace sign painted beneath the back window.
Scratching his protruding belly, Hektor moseyed into the service station office, grabbed his beer, and plunked onto his stool. He figured he would never see them again. When it came to Hippies, out of sight/out of mind was his motto.
Well, he considered as he popped open a second Schlitz, they’d be all right as long as they stayed on the road. The hot New Mexico sun pitted the road, but it would get them back on the interstate headed toward Albuquerque. He doubted they had noticed the thin grey line that cut across the map. They were obliviously stoned, in his humble opinion.