GMO Short Story: Station Mission

Thursday, 26 June 2008 18:48 Written by  Priya A. Shah

As the sun arose one humid day, Al Sidetheeevendooor awoke into a gorgeous, thirteen-pound peacock with blue, green and gold feathers in his wings. It looked as though he had millions of tail feathers. As he looked behind his new body, he noticed he had a long green tail, which was about five feet tall. On his king-size bed, Al stood on his very thin boneless legs, almost like a giant beast and looked down upon his feet only to see that they looked like pointy claws ready to attack.

“What kind of a disease do I have?” Al Sidetheeevendooor thought referring to the sniffles he had the night before. “How sick am I? I must be dreaming.” But it was surely no dream.  He was in the master bedroom, which he and his wife, Sue Sidetheeevendooor shared in the hours where sleep and other confidential, intimate activities were permitted. It was a comfortable bed (maybe not quite suitable for Al’s new body). There were packs of Juicy Fruit and Doublemint gum on the dressing table, which had some sort of swirly design on it. He was a bit troubled for reasons other than the fact that he was an undomesticated exotic bird. All Al Sidetheeevendooor could think about was opening that God awful Gas Station on time.

“Ugh,” Al thought. “What an unsuccessful career path I’ve fallen into, where I can’t even take the day off when I have the sniffles because no one is there to cover for me and the town would surely hate me if their cars aren’t gassed on time, children aren’t feed, and the lottery tickets aren’t sold. I’m always standing on my feet, bored out of my mind, listening to radio. I’ll have to admit, it is a lonely man’s job.”

Unexpectedly, Al Sidetheeevendooor jumped off the king-size bed and as he landed on the solid, smooth floor he got one of his rich feathers caught on a bottom bed rail hook. “Ouch!” Al felt as though a hair was being plucked from a human’s skin. His cool feet were placed on the cool floor, and it was a strange discomfort that made his body tick with terror. But no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t be released. It was as if someone was holding him back by the collar of his shirt and his skinny legs tried to run—like he’s running on a treadmill and was placed still in the same position. “Ouch! Mother of God,” Al Sidetheeevendooor squeaked with the same voice of fear he had when first spoken aloud. Every time Al Sidetheeevendooor moved, the feather pulled and he felt a tender pain only a peacock could define.

“This is outrageous,” Al thought. “Can’t I ever get a break? Other towns have more than one Gas Station, but no… not this town; it has to be too distinctive. I mean, I’m a good guy, a good husband, a decent lover, a well father, a loyal citizen. I pay my taxes on time!  And what do I get in return?  Just more stress to my life, that’s all. And now what? Should I yell for help?” Al Sidetheeevendooor thought. “Garbage! I can set myself free. I am after all, the man of this household. And as the man, it is my obligation to bring in the pay envelope and make sure my wife and daughters are well nourished. So I must, I absolutely must free myself and open up that crummy Gas Station, because it is after all, the only Gas Station in town and without it, the town will go under.”

So without thinking twice, Al Sidetheeevendooor was suddenly motivated to yank his biddy body away from the trap the bed sucked him in. He pulled himself in the opposite direction until the feather got plucked. And the force instantly made him dash into the nightstand, where a lamp crashed and made a loud racket.

“Holly mother of a cow, son of a nutcracker, what have I done?” Al Sidetheeevendooor squeaked with the full of his voice from the core of his lungs. “My wife will kill me.” And then as if expected, a solid chilling knock came at the bedroom door. “Honey, is everything alright?” Sue said. “Are you still sleeping babe?"

Al was afraid to answer. Sue awoke before Al did and locked the door from the inside because she knew her husband was a bit under the weather and didn’t want their girls to trouble him. Especially Ella Sidetheeevendooor, she was only five-years-old and loved her father to death. She was daddy’s princess and a hand full too. And Sue knew that Ella would run into the room to demand that daddy attends her formal tea party. “Open the door, potato pie! People are probably waiting at the station to get their tanks filled. You’re already three hours late, starch oil. Are you dangerously ill, lemon lime?”

Al walked towards the door, leaving a trail of blood behind a few inches from the broken lamp. Still in dreadful pain, Al managed to utter a few words hoping to be as clear as possible.

“I’m fine dear,” Al finally spoke.  “I’m just getting up. I would let you in but I’m a bit contagious, but nothing serious. I will be coming out shortly.”

Al waited for a response from his wife, but he heard nothing. She must have understood him and gone downstairs. He looked at his side and he seemed to be bleeding a tad. His thin unsteady legs moved him to the curtains by the window and he twirled around in it until he looked like mummy, a very odd looking mummy, a peacock looking mummy. Al figured that would stop the bleeding and then he can figure out what he must do to unlock the door.

“But first I must get dressed. Oh yes, I can’t go butt naked to work, how embarrassing would that be? What will I wear today? Maybe a nice pair of slacks and polo white shirt. Yes, that would look professional.” The bleeding soon stopped.

“Daddy…” Ella called through the door. “Read me a story.”

No, go away! Daddy is not here. Al panicked but dared not say those words to his little girl. And then, the door bell rang. Someone opened the door. Al knew exactly who it was; it was chief—the main guy, Bob Olay, and he had come to see why the Gas Station hasn’t been opened yet.

“Daddy,” now the 11-year-old girl joined Ella at the door. “Someone is here to see you! Come downstairs.”

“Great.” Al Sidetheeevendooor thought. “Just great. Why is he here? He’s here to bother me, to tell me that the town needs me. And if I don’t run the station, the cars will stop running, the children will go hungry, mothers will go without water, drunks will go without beers, and soon people will start to use walking, biking, and the CTA as a form of transportation. God no! Not the buses and trains, and our feet! We can’t have that can we? No, sir. Can’t he run the station for awhile? Can’t he gas the cars? Can’t he sell the Nutter Butters and cigarettes? Of all the years I’ve been at this crappy station, I’ve never been late, never made an absence, and now because a few hours of my time have been delayed, Olay comes looking for me.” Al moves, despite the terrible pain he is in.

“Mr. Olay is here to see you, cookie crumbs,” his wife’s voice was at the other side of the door again.

“Daddy, come out and play,” little Ella cried.

“Daddy, that man is waiting,” the older daughter said.

“Baby cakes, are you sure you’re alright? It is unlikely of you to not go to work.”

“Daddy, give me a piggyback ride.”

“Daddy, that man is asking for you.”

“Caramel apple, why are you so quiet?"




“Well, what is going on? Where is Al?” Bob Olay entered the upstairs hall without an invitation.

“Mr. Olay, I don’t think Al is feeling so well. He won’t even open the door.”

“Well, I’m sure he is very ill,” Olay said to Sue. “Otherwise he wouldn’t have pulled a stunt like this.” Olay moved to the door. “Al, now listen son, the town is furious with you. There are cars without gas, son. There are eggs that need to be cooked. There are drunks without beer. There are children without bread and mothers without milk. Now I know that there must be a logical explanation for you not opening the station this morning son, but still, this is not how I like to run my business…”

Chills went down Al’s back and some of his tail features stood up. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing, after all the days and nights he’d put into that station, Olay comes to his house and disapproves him in front of his family. Soon, Al raised his head, his beak straight and firm, Al put on a brave face like he was ready to go off to war. He cleared his throat, and hoped to God that this wildly creature’s voice would not appear to be puzzling to those on the other side of the door.

“Mr. Olay, I can assure you that right this minute I am putting on my slacks, one leg at a time, sir,” Al said. “I am however, down with the sniffles, but not to worry sir, I have blown my nose, swallowed some Dayquil and I’m getting ready right now. I’ve almost got my pants on! And now I’m looking for a pair of clean socks! And in no time the station will be open, and cars will be gassed, and the children will be feed, and the drunks will once again have alcohol in their hands. I promise sir! Believe me––the town will not fall apart, just give me a minute to put my shirt on.”

Al took a breath to reassure himself because he was not dressed, not even close.

“Did you hear that?” Bob Olay turned to Al’s wife and daughters. “Is he mocking my business?”

“Oh, dear!” Sue put her right hand over her month nearly losing color to her face.  “Al must be extremely ill! And here you are going on about that darn Gas Station.”

“Daddy, you’re funny. Make that nose again,” little Ella called.

“Shut up stupid,” said the older daughter. “Daddy’s sick, he’s not trying to be a comedian on purpose.”

“Both of you hush,” Sue said. “Go call the ambulance and get a hammer. We will break the lock on this door!”

The older girl went to make the phone call while the little one went to get the heavy tool.

But Al was surprisingly calm. The disturbing sounds that came out of Al’s month, was nothing like the English language nor was it sensible. Regardless of the reality that his words seemed normal to him, his wife, daughters, and Bob Olay couldn’t understand anything Al said, but Al in contrast, could understand what they were saying. But now the rest of his family and that boss of his were well aware that Al was not in the proper condition that he should be in. They were concerned, and that strangely touched his human cumulative peacock heart. Al felt his soul reunite with his mortal family and desired for the ambulance and the hammer to work at its greatest strength. However, silence was his safety plan; he didn’t want to risk his voice again. On the other side of the door, Sue Sidetheeevendooor and Bob Olay sat on the floor next to the door. They were discreetly talking about Al’s situation trying to make sense of the whole thing.

Al Sidetheeevendooor quickly used the flight feathers on his wings to fly for the first time. He landed on his tail on the ground. But he didn’t give up yet. He tried again, this time making a very unpleasant sound that came out of his mouth and he surprisingly landed on the dressing table that was right next to the locked door. And now, his upper half was on dresser, with his beak practically inserted into the wooden table and his lower half was hanging on the door. With his skinny legs, he grabbed on to the doorknob. Al Sidetheeevendooor started using his claws on his feet to pick the lock. As his body stretched, he wrapped one leg around the knob and then used the other to push the lock in the opposite direction.

"What’s that?” Olay said. “I hear something.”

“The lock!” Sue exclaimed. “Al is unlocking the door!”

Al Sidetheeevendooor continued fiddling with the door. He felt as though it was a workout; he was nearly out of breath. “Boy I am out of shape!” Al thought. “I should hit the gym more often.” Soon the lock was completely turned and the door knob clicked and the door cracked a little and Al once again fell to the ground. “Ouch!” Al said. “So they didn’t need to smash the door with a hammer after all.” Al was pretty pleased with himself.  And then slowly but calmly he used his beak to nudge the door and pop his head out.

Bob Olay jumped at the very sight of Al and yelled “Jesus Christ” and Al, unknowingly, flapped his wings viciously. Olay bit his lip, slowly moving away from Al.  Al Sidetheeevendooor tried to smile, as though everything was normal. Olay looked as though he had just seen a ghost, his eyes widened, his jaw dropped, and his legs were a bit unsteady.

“Ok,” said Al Sidetheeevendooor.  “I’ve forgotten to put my pants on. But as soon as I put my pants on, I can assure you that I will open up the Gas Station and everyone in town will have gas in their cars, and ten percent off the expired bread. Yes, all the children will be fed and all the drunks will have alcohol. Please understand my condition sir, I do have the sniffles. Don’t you worry sir; I am a hard-working man! And because of the inconvenience that I’ve put the town through, I will put in some of my own money towards free gas, free milk, and free beer. I will just take it out of my eldest daughter’s college saving. Sir, as you know, I have a wife, and two daughters—you wouldn’t fire a man with a family would you? I know you have a heart Mr. Olay. And as sick as I may be, I can assure you that I am the man for the job. I’m the man with the gas, and the town knows that sir. The town will be fine sir, I promise! Cross my heart and I hope that something like this will never happen again.”

But by the time Al was finished with his speech, Olay was at the bottom of the stairs. Olay had never seen anything like this before and secretly he was terrified of birds—all kind of birds. And running after Olay, Al tumbled down the stairs to his death. His wife came by side and grieved for him. The Gas Station was his life.

Priya A. Shah

Priya A. Shah

Priya A. Shah lives in Chicago. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2010, where she studied magazine journalism and fiction writing. She has been a staff writer for GMO since 2007. She’s written and interned for various media outlets such as India Tribune, Today's Chicago Woman, Tribune Media Services, GlossMagazineOnline and Echo (the student produced magazine for Columbia College Chicago). She’s contributed to A Fresh Squeeze (, an online publication for green living in Chicago, and her school newspaper, The Columbia Chronicle.

Priya can be reached at or