Thursday, August 7, 2008


Yesterday at Bill's, the neighborhood mom & pop gas station near the homeless center where I work, I stepped out of our beat-up Camry with what I'd like to think was '70s flair. Taking out a handkerchief, I blew my nose -- but cool. Marley, my companion, leaned against the passenger door, waiting while I pumped the gas.

I thought I knew why we were getting the unwelcoming stares.

Marley has a bit of a scowl. It's not that he's mean -- in fact, he's as kind and gentle as they come. It's just that Marley "hears" by reading lips, and so he tends to concentrate deeply on the faces of those around him. Granted, it looks a bit like Harvey's glaring. Like he hates you, at least a little.

He's not, and he doesn't. Ask him and he'd gladly bake you a pie. But with this misinterpreted scowl, a couple of missing teeth, arms covered in skulls and whatnots and a tattooed tear falling from his eye, Marley "ain't from around here" in small town Missouri.

Thus, the stares. Or so I thought. Meanwhile, I tried to distract myself by pumping gas like (I assumed) folks did in the '70s. You know. Cool.

From across the car, Marley's hissed whisper snapped me out of my reverie. "Nate -- the mask!"

In the rural Midwest, Marley was right to be concerned. Meth labs are rampant in these parts, and with a dust mask propped on my head like a tiara and a look on my face like I hadn't slept in weeks, I'd just turned myself into local Suspect #1. We were lucky nobody could see the rubber gloves, gram scale, household cleaners or mason jar "beakers" on a table back at the ranch.

You know. Cool.

Why the beat-up look? This one's easy: I was a few days into one of my signature colds, which left me the eerie sensation that someone had (yet again) inserted a baseball squarely behind my nose.

But why the mask? The beakers? The methanol and Red Devil Lye?

Marley, Jamaal and I were just beginning the wonderful journey of discovery that is Making Your Own Biodiesel. The person who usually teaches our eight-hour biodiesel workshop just skipped town to marry an old ex-girlfriend, leaving the rest of us in the lurch. Now, tomorrow, I and the new trainees will be teaching the class ourselves. No time like the present to make our first batch.

Back to the books...

1 comment:

Kathy Barron said...

Wonderful story. I loved reading it. Lots of suspense all the way through.