I work nights at the gas station on Third and Mailer. And all the other clerks know what I’m talking about; anyone who’s worked the night shift knows Ronnie. The most frequent time is after 3 a.m., but any when after midnight is likely to bring Ronnie out. Look down for a minute, look back up, and there he is. Keith told me he comes out from between the hedgerow on the other side of station. He’s probably right, given the direction Ronnie is usually come from. It’s like he comes out of the bushes from nowhere. I mean, there’s houses on the other side, but he doesn’t look like anyone I’d expect to find around here. So anyhow, he comes up between the pumps, walking like he sees right through walls and expects to stroll through them too. That is until he marches into the station. First time I saw Ronnie I didn’t think anything. It’s late, but people come in at all kinds of hours. Fuck, we wouldn’t be open if that weren’t the case. And Ronnie comes in, and like most occasions, he stops with a shudder. Like he got grabbed and halted, you know what I mean? He just shivers violently and looks around. Sometimes he lets out this low sorta wail. I asked him once if he needed help with something and he just looked at me. Looked at me like he wanted to skin me for seeing him. So then he goes around the inside for a bit -- I get stoned kids in, especially in the summer, and they wander around similar, excited by the sight of everything like it’s the first time they ever witnessed the world; but Ronnie doesn’t look happy like those kids, he looks pissed. And when he talks, or tries to, I get the feeling he’s trying to make a point he’s lost the words for. Like maybe he knows what but not how to say. You know what I mean? He’s a greasy looking son a bitch. He looks as if he’s been dipped in bacon fat. But he ain’t fat. I don’t think there’s an ounce of lard on that skinny bastard. He’s a scarecrow come to life, that’s my guess. Some kind of creepy ass Pinocchio -- Ronnie Shannon wandering the burbs after dark. I got Keith to think the same. Tom Dollin doesn’t agree. He thinks Ronnie is an alien trying to figure out how to interact with human beings. And he’s got a point. Sometimes Ronnie can talk, though he only manages a few short phrases before falling back into that crazy muttering growl of his. “Getting’ cold,” he’ll say around winter, or, “Rain’s coming.” I’ve even heard he’s said, clear as a bell, “What’s to think?” That last one really sticks for me because frankly I don’t know.
Yeah we joke about him, but that’s just to keep from feeling all the terror he inspires. I like to think if it came down to it I could hammer the shit out of him. But he does look wiry. The down side is that he buys shit from time to time. Once in a while he just marches out again, gives that creepy fucking look, sometimes hollers, “Not this time!” then heads off, melting back through the hedgerow. However, on occasion he will bring something to the counter or hold up a pack of cigarettes, never says a thing, just puts ‘em down and waits for a price. Tom thinks we might be able to tell him whatever and he’d pay. But Keith and I don’t want to push him, seem like we’re fucking with him ya know? In case he is some kind of crazy. Ronnie Shannon. There are no words. You have to see him to believe it.
So anyhow, the other night Ronnie comes in close on three in the morning. It was raining earlier, but that had stopped for at least an hour. He comes in dripping wet, turns to me, gestures at himself, and goes, "You," pointing a finger at me and having a face like hell is coming. Then he bolts out the door and runs back through the hedges. Right away I just threw up my hands, said, "Fuck it." I shut the place down, hung up a sign -- "I Quit" -- and left the station.