-- Jackson Browne
There is little traffic on the road.
The man on a mission stares out the windshield at a damp, dark dawn and realizes he's been counting the empty gas stations.
When he gets to nine, he thinks this is pointless, and maybe he should have been counting gas pumps -- the ones wrapped in tattered, plastic bags.
He is not in the best of moods.
He is not used to being awake this early on a Saturday morning.
He is not even driving his usual car. It is still resting back home in a warm, dry garage -- its tank modestly filled.
He is driving her car -- the good one, the newest one. And, for the moment, the one with an arrow almost on "E."
It's the car that has to go to an out-of-town wedding.
"It's what husbands do," he tells the little white dog riding shotgun in the seat beside him.
How the tank got to "E" has been a point of discussion between the woman, who generally obeys the rules and follows the advice she hears on TV about topping off your gas tank, and the man, who has little confidence in what he hears on television.
The little dog doesn't know all this, but he does know he should behave.
He doesn't ride so much in the good car, the new car, the one with an arrow now on "E". So he sits stiffly and watches the lights and listens to the man on a mission who talks while he drives.
The little dog is a good listener with a good memory.
He has known the man to sometimes stop in one of these places with all the lights and return to share a Slim Jim, so he remains attentive.
The man on a mission stops the car at one such place, gets out and walks over to talk to a woman adjusting a homemade "No Gas" sign on one of her convenience store pumps.
She tells the man she doesn't know when the next truck will come.
"Not soon enough," she says.
The man on a mission feels sorry for her, and he smiles and tells her that this will all be back to normal in a few weeks.
"I sure hope so," she answers.
He gets back in the car and keeps driving. A fog has begun to complicate things.
"Just great," he tells the little white dog, who is sitting very still in the good car, the new car, the car with the arrow currently a little past "E".
But then the man sees it. Through the fog.
The 13th gas station of the morning appears to be the lucky one.
There are a few cars parked beside its pumps and people appear to be getting fuel.
He turns in.
"Premium Only," a homemade sign reads.
"Premium it is," he tells the dog, who will watch while he fills the tank.
A wedding day saved. Disaster averted.
"A mission accomplished," the happy man says after he goes inside to pay for the gas and comes back to the car.
The dog is happy, too.
He smells the Slim Jim.