Old Home Café: The Next Generation

By Edward Floden, based on characters and situations created by William D. Fries, Jr.

Episode I: One Day in Iowa

(Originally published in The Legend-News of 2002 October 7.)

The air temperature was hot and the humidity was high on Saturday afternoon, as Jonathan Bach sat in his car near the corner of 1st and Main Streets in beautiful downtown Pisgah. He had been driving since 8 o’clock that morning, visiting several small towns in the area with no goal other than driving somewhere that an Interstate highway couldn’t take him. He was thirsty and had hoped to find a cold drink in this town, but there was no grocery store or restaurant that was open for business. In fact, Pisgah didn’t even have a grocery store or restaurant.

To his right, a resale shop was open, presenting its collection of Dale Earnhardt wall clocks and beer-branded pseudo-Tiffany table lamps to the half-dozen people who had wandered in from the heat outside. Catercorner from his parking space was the new branch of Community Bank. Bach wondered how optimistic was that bank, erecting a new office in a town that seemed to be shut down during a prime tourist weekend in June.

And to his left, across the street, stood a not-terribly-large cinder block building with two small picture windows bracketing a wooden door with latticework over its window. Overhead was a sign advertising “Old Home Café and Bar”; but in the right-hand picture window was a brown-and-white “for sale” sign with the name and telephone number of a local real estate agency, and the front door was locked.

Jon sighed. The only restaurant in town was defunct, and all that he had was a half-bottle of warm Coke that he’d bought in at the Casey's General Store in Audubon, six hours earlier. He took a swig of the not-so-carbonated drink and stared at the Café, wondering what financial difficulty had caused its demise. Someone must have faith in the future of this town, he thought, with a new bank building on the corner and, a couple blocks to the south, an under-construction visitor center for the Loess Hills area.

He had decided to resume driving and head for Mondamin. It was closer to Interstate 29, about 10 miles away, and he could probably find a diner there. He reached to turn on the engine’s ignition and noticed a black BMW stopped on Main, preparing to make a right turn onto 1st. That car looked out-of-place here in cattle-and-corn country, and the thin layer of dust upon its shiny paint bespoke of a recent journey away from the streets of a big city.

The car turned onto 1st and headed north. The driver’s side window was down, and Jon glanced at the driver as she rolled past. She was blonde, young, and didn’t look particularly happy. Jon surmised that a her air conditioning wasn’t working, as today wasn’t a day for enjoying a cool breeze through an open window. That and the fact that her short hair was extremely messy, as if it had been wind-blown for several hours.

As the BMW continued up the street, Jon started his engine, glanced in the outside mirror, and pulled away from the curb. In the mirror he saw the license plate of the BMW:

The license plate on that BMW.