CHICAGO -- The story of convenience stores’ move to larger footprints and ownership by chains has been told many times and many ways. But perhaps never as told in a new children’s book by a first-time author released this fall.
"Fill-Up the Gas Pump" tells the story of friendly fuel pump (Fill-Up) who, along with the small mom-and-pop gas station (McFriendly’s) he fronts, is about to be outmoded by a “20-pump gas station and superdeluxe mini-mart” being built just down the street.
“What will happen if people stop coming to visit us?” Fill-Up asks himself. “What will happen to Mr. and Mrs. McFriendly, and me, if Mr. McFriendly is forced to close McFriendly’s?”
Soon after, the glamorous new Darton’s Gas Station and Super Mini-Mart hosts a grand opening celebration that draws customers with “free gas, prizes and refreshments.” That day, “no one visited McFriendly’s for gas or refreshments, or even just to say hello.”
“That made Fill-Up ever sadder,” wrote author and illustrator Lekeda L. Vaughn. And that night, Mr. McFriendly announces he has no choice but to close McFriendly’s after 40 years.
“We just can’t compete with what Darton’s Gas Station and Super Mini-Mart has to offer,” he said.
The next day, just when things seem darkest for Mr. McFriendly and Fill-Up, the owner of Darton’s offers Mr. McFriendly a job as one of the managers of the new, shiny c-store. “I’ll pay you twice what you’re making now,” he said, “and you’ll have a phenomenal staff and great benefits.”
Mr. McFriendly prays on the offer, as “he knew God had sent a fabulous blessing his way.” The next morning, Mr. McFriendly accepts the offer on one condition, “My gas pump, Fill-Up, has to come with me.”
Will Fill-Up get the job? Will Mr. and Mrs. McFriendly live happily ever after? And can big business live in harmony with mom and pop?
Get the answers in Fill-Up the Gas Pump, available on Amazon. Although that’s not necessarily Vaughn’s intent with her first children’s book.
“My goal with Fill-Up the Gas Pump is to introduce the faith-based principals to children and let them know God will help them persevere in any situation,” she said.
Illustration by Lekeda L. Vaughn