Apparently, the boy, eighteen, nineteen, if he was a day, had his day in court up in Glenwood Springs, a far ways from home. Home being somewhere down below within the borders of the greater metroplex. Supposedly, his father was going to make sure his son's vehicle was adequately fueled for the journey, but this did not come to pass. The boy coasted in on fumes.
All he needed was just a little fuel. Just enough to get him down the hill. Back to down below. Back to home. His phone open-whether connected or ready to dial, it was unclear-providing a line to his father, who would pay for that little bit of fuel by credit.
"I'm sorry, I can't do that," the attendant said. "I need the card or cash right here."
"But he's right there!" The boy exclaimed desperately, pointing to his phone. "He's willing to pay! Please! I'm out! I'm stuck here!"
"I can't do that here," the attendant insisted, there was empathy in her voice, but this was beyond her power. "Have you tried anywhere else?"
"I've tried everywhere..." the boy said in a small, broken, voice.
A single tear ran down his cheek. He had the bearing of disappointment; people let him down. Creatures that walk upon two legs. His father, the attendant, and, apparently, others. It was a feeling I knew vividly.
I am not a nice man, let's just make that clear here and now. In fact, in the past, I've described myself as the worst kind of bastard with the morels of an alley cat. Fuck with me and mine, and I will slice you neck to nuts, either literally or metaphorically. So it goes. Anyone else who would tell you different is either daft or trying to sell something.
Seeing the boy, eighteen, nineteen, if he was a day, shaking and on the edge of tears, all but broken beneath the blade, was something I could not abide...
"Here," I said, reaching into my pocket. "Twenty for him, right now."
"Really?" The boy was gobsmacked.
"You should give him your address so he can pay you back at least," the attendant said.
"No worries," I said. "It's altruism. Give him twenty, end of chat."
"Are you sure?" The boy asked me.
My waxmoon reptile eyes, too big for the rest of my face, narrowed. A slight growl issued from my thin lips. The boy started a little. He might have had more meat on his bones, but so do thousand year old dessicated mummies, and I towered over him by at least a foot.
"Keep your ass out of trouble," I said. "End of chat."
"I will, Sir," he said, all but bowing. "Thank you."
The attendant would tell me a few minutes later that was nice. I did a good thing. Whether I did or not, the concept of nice, was not far from relevant in the heat of the moment. I knew the boy's disappointment for those who walk upon two legs.
There is part of me, cynical perhaps, but I doubt it, given I've neither a cynical nor sarcastic bone in my body, which questions whether or not it was all an act as to scam some for fuel upon another's coin. Yet, there's another aspect, Pollyanna, perhaps, that knew the look and bearing. It was all too...real...to have been on the grift. Between the two, I know the likelihood of me ever seeing that twenty again is akin to hitting Alpha Centauri with a rubberband, although I do sometimes try.
In the end, paper makes no nevermind. See, I hate money. I don't care too much for money, because money can't buy me love or any of the things I really want.
Although, I collected a story. And that to me is far more precious than folding paper, jingling coins, rubies, or glass beads.