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Daniel could barely keep his car on the road. He couldn’t remember a time when he had needed to crap as badly as he did at that very moment.

His own little version of Russian roulette had become more and more extreme over the past couple of years. When you spent almost all of your time on the road, you had to come up with something to pass the time. And so Dan had made a game out of seeing how long he could drive without stopping.

Dan had been traveling all over the state for about six years now, and after the first couple of years, the audio books and stops at historical sites and local attractions had lost their amusement value; as had counting road signs and all of the other games that people stuck in a car by themselves for hours often played. He realized that he could reduce the travel time by cutting out all but the most essential pit stops, and then realized that if he worked at it hard enough, he could even make the essential pit stops less essential. Part of his mind knew just how silly and even potentially harmful putting off relieving himself was, but it had become his own personal challenge, and he was determined to continue to beat his previous records time and time again.

Unfortunately, his digestive system didn’t always play along as well as he’d like it to. On this particular day, the chili that he had eaten over lunch was making it even harder to push for breaking his record.

Each time he’d pass and exit, he’d ask himself, “Can I make it to the next one?” It was getting harder and harder to answer himself with a “yes.” Along with the urges themselves, the fear of pushing too it too far and actually messing himself continued to get worse, so he realized that it was about time to end this particular round.

He recalled seeing a movie where a child had to explain to her father what the term “prairie dogging” meant, and quickly decided that those kinds of memories would not help him.

He passed a sign declaring that the “Midway Trucker’s Paradise” was five miles ahead, and decided that his game had gone on long enough for today. Time to pull over and drop the proverbial load.

Five miles later, his legs and his teeth clenched tightly, Dan spotted the overpass and exit leading to the Midway. Nothing spectacular about the view; it appeared to be one of those small-town truck stops that also served duty as a local diner and convenience store. As he eased his rented compact off the highway and onto the ramp, he could see four pumps out front for smaller vehicles, and a row of about eight pumps in the back for the semis and the occasional camper or pickup pulling a horse trailer. The building itself has a steep red slanted roof that made him think of pancake houses, and old fiberglass siding that was once a bright white, but had now faded into grey dinginess.

The windows to the left of the front double-doors were filled with all varieties of kitsch, and the ones to the left provided a view of the dining area. Dan didn’t care about either; he just wanted to use the toilet and get back on the road.

He pulled into a parking spot on the side of the building and shut off the car while leaping out in one seemingly fluid motion. He walked as quickly as he could to the front door without completely losing his dignity and opened it to head inside.

Inside the small space separating the outer and inner sets of double doors was the usual array of apartment and home finder guides, local and national newspapers, and flyers for local businesses. Dan didn't even see them as he flew through the second set of doors.

The elderly woman behind the counter smiled pleasantly at him as he stopped and stared at her. “Afternoon, sir. Welcome to the…”

“Where’s the restroom?” Dan interrupted.

“Sorry,” the woman replied. “Men’s restroom is out of service.”

Dan was sure he was going to evacuate right there. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope,” the woman replied. Had Daniel been less frantic at that particular moment, he might have noticed the twinkle of amusement in the old lady’s eyes.

“Can I use the women’s?” Dan was about ready to bolt for it regardless of her response.

“I’d let ya, but there’s someone in there right now.”

Dan took a deep breath and adjusted his stance to maximize the pressure keeping his lower cheeks together. “Ma’am, words cannot describe to you how desperate my need is right now to use the restroom. Isn’t there something you can do to help me out?”

The woman appeared to think about it for a moment. Then, as though a light bulb had just gone off above her head, she looked at him and nodded her head slightly. “Actually, you could use the outhouse. It’s around back. But…”

Dan didn’t wait to hear what else she was going to say. He flew out the two sets of front doors and rounded the building, barely avoiding being hit by the girl in the old Cadillac that was pulling up alongside the building.

He spotted the outhouse immediately as he came to the back of the building; it was something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting; untreated wood forming a rectangular pillar topped with a steeply slanted roof. The door was held closed by a latch secured with a small padlock.

“Shit,” Dan yelled, and immediately regretted his choice of words.

Dan almost broke the glass of the second set of double doors as he slammed them open and landed panting in front of the counter, glaring and trying to catch his breath to yell.

The old woman behind the counter, who had now been joined by a younger woman (the one who had almost hit Dan with the Caddy) smiled slightly as she held up a small key. “Tried to tell you it was locked.”

Dan didn’t even bother to say “thank you” as he snatched the key from her hand and shot back out the door.

Less than ten second later, Dan was standing once again in front of the archaic outhouse, fumbling with the padlock frantically. He could feel the inevitable already starting, and he prayed that he could get in and get situated before he caused permanent damage to his underwear.

Finally he heard the satisfying “click” of the lock coming open. He removed the lock from the latch, threw the door open, and leapt inside.

Again, had Dan been less frantic, he might have noticed that the interior of the outhouse was nothing but an open and seemingly endless hole before it was too late. Instead, he only had time to realize that he had indeed soiled himself as he fell.

Inside the Midway Trucker’s Paradise, the old woman laughed to herself. The younger woman turned to her with a puzzled look.

“What was that all about?”

The old lady stopped chuckling long enough to answer, “Like I told you, sweetie, the indoor restrooms are for paying customers only.”

Word Count: 1,226

Maggie's Caddy

Paradise by the Dashboard Lights

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Page last modified on April 03, 2006, at 03:25 PM by Ted Carter

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