“Soleil was on her way to meet Warren for their first date when she ran out of gas. The engine shuddered on its last fumes, and she looked down the highway at a long stretch of nothing. She was alone on the road, save for one pair of headlights drawing closer in the rearview. She put her hazards on, hoping to coast as long as possible, but the vehicle behind her, a black SUV, raced up to her bumper and stayed there. High beams filled her mirrors. She braked and pulled halfway onto the shoulder, and still it loomed close. Teenage girl, no gas, highway at night—she felt her vulnerability like a chill in the air. But as she rolled to a stop, the SUV swerved and accelerated, finally passing her with a snarl of engine rev. She didn’t want to look but did; two men in the cabin stared back, lit red by the instrument panel. The driver had a dark beard.”
“Optimistic People” was published in issue #224 of One Story.
It features an empty gas tank, soybean fields, and questionable personal philosophy.