evenly spaced stationary targets

Her bare feet rested atop the dashboard and she caught me glancing at her legs. She flashed a smile, and said, “So where are we going?”

“There’s a novelty museum up ahead. Pet rocks, pink flamingos, Mexican bouncing beans. Little robots that make tea.” I said.

She laughed, “There are not!”

“And a bit further beyond there is an old motel with those vibrating beds that cost a nickel to activate.”

She glanced at the car’s empty ashtray filled with coins, “Do we even have nickels?”

It was a good question. I grinned, shrugged, and focused on the road, which was lined with evenly spaced palm trees. Although there were no cars ahead of us, the trees brought the three-second rule to mind: pick a fixed object in the road; once the car in front of you passes it, count to three slowly. If you pass the fixed object before reaching three, you are following too close.

The rule is meant to keep you at a safe distance. To avoid collisions.

Abruptly, the neatly spaced palm trees on the left were broken up by a gas station sign. I glanced at the gas gauge – it was edging perilously close to the E. I pulled into the station and up to one of the pumps.

“Why don’t you grab us some snacks?” I asked, opening my door. She followed suit, hopping out of the car. She paused just long enough to look back at me with another smile before disappearing inside the station.

I studied the gas pump. Just how far could we go without any more gas? We certainly wouldn’t collide with anything if we weren’t moving.

Could we?

I counted to three slowly, replaced the gas hose without using it, and followed her inside.

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