Old Home Café: The Next Generation

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

Episode XXXIII: Out Of The Darkness

(Originally published in The Legend-News of 2004 November 11.)

Not too many tourists stop by the Old Home Café at 3 A.M.

A half-dozen idling rigs where parked in the Café’s lot on a cool late October evening, as a light fog rolled down the highway and through the parking lot. The lights above the pumps glowed fuzzily, like UFOs coming in for an abduction.

Carol was the only waitress on duty at this time of night. She had just poured another refill of coffee for a trucker from Denver who was headed east to Ohio with a load of empty beer bottles. It was her twenty-seventh cup of the night, by her count.

Carol didn’t know the driver — he wasn’t a regular, but the tag on his shirt said ‘Sam’ — but she could tell you the load of any 18-wheeler that stopped by the Café. Steel, appliances, home electronics, paper, she tallied it all as it came through town, and thought about the places that the trucks had been and where they were going — places that she would probably never see.

Outside, a black Mercedes pulled up to the unleaded pump. The driver swiped his credit card, pumped his gas, and squeegeed his windows while the tank filled. Carol noted the car; it had Nebraska plates, and Nebraska was forty miles away. Most likely a rental, thought Carol.

The Café didn’t see too many four-wheelers at this time of the morning. Back before the Interstate took most of the traffic, seeing a car traveling at night wasn’t unusual. A lot of long-distance tourists drove by night then, when the traffic was low and the temperature was lower. But most travelers now blew past on the blacktop, at 65 miles per hour or better, too stressed to stop on their way to Omaha, or Des Moines, or points further away. The Old Home Café was an exit ramp to a too-long pause in their harried journey.

His tank filled, the driver pulled over to a parking space outside the front door and came inside. “Morning,” he said, and took a seat at a window table. “Is your boss in?” he asked.

Carol gave him a who-do-you-think-you-are look. “Honey,” she said, “at this time of the day, I’m the boss. Whatcha need?”

To be continued…

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