Running Out of Time

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Book: Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margaret Peterson Haddix
the twentieth century?
    Jessie couldn't figure any of it out. She was getting so thirsty she could barely think. She decided to try to look for a gas station, since it would have both a phone and a drink. But, again, she didn't know what she was looking for.
    Then, about a mile beyond Crooked Creek, she saw a sign on a tall post, with the words the stopping point. Underneath, it said gas, live bait, pizza, cool drinks. Beneath the sign, there was a small white building and strange contraptions that looked like hitching posts for cars. At least, people would drive up to them and loop a hose to the car, like someone in Clifton would tie a horse's reins to a hitching post. But not all the cars had to be hitched like that—others were just parked by the store.
    It didn't make sense, but Jessie didn't care. This had to be a gas station!
    Jessie dodged the cars waiting for the hitching posts and pushed open the door of the store. At first, it seemed dim after the sunshine outside. Then Jessie's eyes adjusted and she realized the globe-things were almost as bright as the sun. Jessie felt a pang, missing the dim coolness of Mr. Seward's store. But it was easier to see in here, and she was fascinated by all the bright packages. Where Mr. Seward had barrels and tins to hunt through, this place had shelves full of cookies and crackers and things she didn't even recognize, all in containers covered with labels and pictures. She grinned at a row of bread loaves in red-and-yellow wrappers—the same kind as the bread truck she'd ridden in. But there were also loaves in a dozen other wrappers. And the bread was about the only familiar food. What was a Frito? she wondered. A Cheeto? A Dorito?
    Jessie was tempted to buy a lot of things, just to see what they were. But habit was hard to break. In Clifton, no one spent money unless it was for something desperately needed. And Jessie needed only a drink and a phone.
    Jessie decided it was okay to get a drink first, since she was a little scared of trying to use a phone.
    She went to the back, where rows and rows of bottles leaned behind glass windows. Most of them said "Coke" or "Pepsi," and Jessie wondered what that could be. Both drinks looked like cough syrup. She settled on a bottle of something called "Papaya fruit drink." It was prettier.
    Jessie opened the glass door and felt air as cold as winter. She slammed the door. How could it be? This wasn't an icehouse or even a springhouse. Cautiously, Jessie forced herself to open the door again and grab the bottle of juice. The glass was cold. Jessie was tempted to let the juice warm up before she drank it. Pa always said it wasn't right to drink something cold in warm weather. But—it might taste better this way.
    As Jessie took the mysteriously cold bottle to the front to pay, she noticed two round mirrors in the corner. Were they like the mirrors in Clifton that people looked through? She didn't like all this watching.
    The strange cooped-up cold and the mirrors unnerved her. But as she stepped up to pay for her drink, she forced herself to ask the boy behind the counter about a phone.
    "Right outside," he said without looking up. "Don't know how you missed it."
    "Thank you."
    Jessie gave the boy one of the George Washington bills, and he took it as though he saw paper money every day. Well, that proved the one-dollar bills were good. Jessie was a little bothered that it had been so easy. Mr. Seward would have taken out his magnifying glass and checked the signature on the bill. Then he'd ask, in his dry pretentious voice, "Do you have your parents' permission to spend this?" Mr. Seward didn't believe in children doing anything without their parents' permission. Especially not girls.
    But this boy was not much older than Jessie. She watched him hit buttons on a box, then count out change from a drawer that sprang out when he stepped back. The box would have intrigued her if she hadn't been so curious about the boy. He had hair shaved close

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