It was mating season, he could smell the volatile fumes thick in the air. He slowed the vehicle a bit more as he negotiated a series of turns around a toppled ancient tree. In the daylight, he knew, the trunk was blanketed with a vibrant coat of moss. But now, it loomed menacingly next to him, a shambling mound eerily lit by his passage. The ranger would need to be very vigilant tonight, for mating season meant poachers. There was a ravenous black market that hungered for the fertile denizens under his care. Unfortunately, poaching required very little effort when the prey were captured in the midst of their mating ritual. They were defenseless, except, that is, for the ranger.
The ranger continued his careful patrol through the darkness. Aware of the darker patterns around him, he compared his surroundings against his own mental record. Off to his left, he noticed a shadow that didn't belong. A vehicle had been left, partially obscured by the trees. A wry grin curled the ranger's lips.
He continued driving until he was out of earshot, then stopped and turned off the engine. Silently, he exited the Jeep and retraced his path back to the abandoned car. The smell was stronger here. He knew he didn't have much time. His hand brushed the sidearm holstered on his belt. He wouldn't need it, but its presence helped restore his focus. The ranger followed the scent, reassured as signs of the poacher's passage became glaringly apparent.
The ranger stopped. Yards in front of him, crouched behind a ragged bush, was the poacher. The poacher, his attention captivated by motion on the other side of the bush, held a length of rubber tubing. The hose ended in a five-gallon bucket next to him. The ranger's eyebrows knitted together, enraged by the site of the filthy tools. But he held his ground. While there were rules governing most everything in the state of New York, possession of a hose and bucket was not a crime.
A bubbling sound erupted from the dirt beyond the poacher, and the man lunged over the bush, hose thrust ahead. "Stop right there!" shouted the ranger, turning his now brilliant flashlight on the poacher. The man turned in mid-air, startled. He landed hard on his back, and scuttled backwards trying to escape the shadowed visage of his would-be captor. The rubber hose collapsed impotent to the ground. The ranger advanced calmly until the poacher backed himself up against a tree.
"You are under arrest for hunting a federally protected species," stated the ranger.
"What are you talking about, man?" protested the poacher. "I wasn't doing anything wrong!"
"Perhaps you didn't see the sign when you entered the park," the ranger began, "seeing as how you probably didn't come in through the front gate, but this is the Columbia County Wild Gasoline Preserve."
Hello, my name is Paul. My story was inspired by a front-page headline in our local newspaper that ran last Wednesday. It read: "Want to preserve gasoline? Drive responsibly, experts say". I prefer strawberry preserves, myself...