Elana Joy

Teller of Stories

Berkeley, California, USA

I am a storyteller by nature, and I've been writing from the time I could string words together into a coherent sentence. My favorite way to capture a moment is by telling its story, and I am passionate about supporting others in this practice. I work as a writing coach, but am studying to be an English professor. I have interned as a creative writing instructor (remotely) with incarcerated students in solitary confinement. I hope to continue working with students in both academic and correctional environments. I love to hike with my dog, and take her on excursions all across the USA in the van we sleep in. I look forward to reading the work of my fellow storytellers!



Jan 06, 2023 1 year ago

When I noticed the illuminated gas light, I knew it was too late-I would never make it to the next big town, 22 miles away. Then, like a mirage, an old building with the words GAS/FOOD painted on its side appeared. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that there was definitely no gas in the pumps, and that there probably hadn't been for years. I looked around helplessly, allowing the worry train in my mind to run at full speed. What would become of a Black Jewish woman, alone and stranded in the boonies of a red state? I could feel tears pricking at the corners of my eyes, begging to fall. Suddenly, I heard the sound of laughter and followed it to a set of tall wooden doors. The echo of collective chortles, chuckles, and hee-has derailed my thoughts long enough for me to make a move, and I wrapped my hand around the cold metal moose-head door handle. The antlers made it so my fingers spread into an awkward claw. I pulled one of the doors open, and behind its heavy mass sat seven white strangers and a white bartender. My breath felt caught in my chest and butterflies fluttered up from my stomach into my throat, choking me. “Hi. Um, can y'all tell me where the gas station is?” My voice came out shaky and those damn tears were still fighting against me. A tall, thin man with shoulder-length grey hair, a thick mustache, and a familiar face stood, looked me up and down, and said, “You're shit outta luck in this town.” The tears finally won their battle and marched right out of my eyes and down my cheeks like hot soldiers pumped up with the emotions of victory and the price paid for it. "Don't worry, come on now. Don't you worry. Is your gas light on?” “Yes,” I replied, feeling foolish with my red eyes and puffy lips, “and I don't know how long but I've driven at least 20 miles since I noticed it.” A blonde woman, the only other woman in the bar besides the plump bartender looking on from behind the old wooden counter with an air of indifference about her, smiled at me. “Oh, I bet you could make it sweetie! I almost run out of gas all the time, but now I know exactly how far I can go once that light turns on!” She broke into a laugh that nobody joined. The tears incessantly fell from my face and were beginning to slide down my neck, which was already sticky with sweat. “I really don't think I can make it, I'm scared I'll get stuck.” The tall man still seemed to be analyzing me as he said, “I really think you'll be fine. Just go on ahead and try—" “I'll go get you some gas.” We all turned our heads toward the low, raspy voice. A man who had been sitting silent in the corner, wearing a white t-shirt and khaki pants stood and pulled his keys out of his pocket. "Be right back, y'all.” He pushed open the door and sunlight rushed into the room, brightening our faces. It slammed behind him with a thud and we were left with our jaws open. A younger man with a large body broke the silence. "So what the hell is a girl like you doing in lil' ol' Pringle, South Dakota?” I wiped the tears from my face and told them about my solo road trip. The large man seemed amused by my response: “Well honey, you sure ain't home in California anymore! You in Trump country now!” I laughed nervously. “Oh, hush Jimmy!” The blonde woman playfully slapped his arm. “What now, darlin'? I'm just tellin' her like it is!” And then to me, “You don't believe in this global warming bullshit now do ya?” The woman slapped him again, harder. “Don't listen to my husband, he's just giving you a hard time.” “It's okay,” I told them, "I wanted to travel this country because it's easy to come up with ideas about people who think differently than me, when I really don't know them at all.” The blonde woman liked that a lot and smiled at me, nodding her head in agreement. “So," I asked, "is this where Pringles chips were invented?” The people laughed and the air felt lighter. We carried on a cheerful conversation, ending abruptly when the door swung open to reveal the silhouette of the khaki man holding a gas can, and sunlight once again spilled over our faces. The blonde woman followed as I led him to my car. She was beautiful, with a face so warm; she could have been one of my grade school teachers. As the man poured gas into my tank, I dug through my backpack for a ten dollar bill I remembered tucking away earlier that morning. “Thank you so much, can I give you some money for all of this?” “No.” He tightened the gas cap and snapped the little door shut. “Alright, this should get you to town. Keep an eye on your tank now, ya hear?” “Yes sir, thank you, I will.” Pulling away, it struck me that I'd had a transformative experience. My gas light illuminated, and it brightened my perspective on humanity.

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