Chapter V

Chapter V

A Chapter by Mounsell

John attends Lissie's concert.


Despite the oppressive heat, John was able to reach the edge of town within a few minutes. 

               Walking through town, he saw the effects that the salty air had on the each building.  Every structure’s paint had been slowly gnawed away by the salty air.  This corrosion left metal exposed and contributed to the rapid aging of each building.  The most severe cases were few in number.

               John walked for some distance before seeing a curio shop that piqued his interest.  From the sidewalk, he was able to make out a number of antiquities in the store’s window front:  An old bottle, an anchor, a ceramic ship, and an assortment of small trinkets.

               Once inside, John was greeted by an older man with salt-and-pepper stubble.  John returned the greeting and looked about the shop.  An acoustic guitar along the far wall caught his eye.  The instrument looked as though it had been exposed to the salty air for far too long. John inspected the damage and saw that it only had a few nicks on its surface.  The strings had uncoiled in several spots but were easily replaceable.  The instrument remained in John’s mind long after he left the shop.

               When the sun rose to a position directly above the town, John began to grow hungry.  He realized that he had only eaten a few bites of the breakfast prepared for him by Martha.  John strolled to the center of town and saw the restaurant that Martha had suggested he eat at.  The large windows of the building allowed him to see much of the dining room.  Only two people sat in the diner.  The man, sitting in a booth adjacent to the window, had his head stuck in a newspaper.  He seemed oblivious to the girl cleaning the tables around him. 

               John was suddenly struck by the girl’s appearance.  Her flaxen hair, her clear blue eyes, and the spray of freckles across her face all seemed so out of place in a town such as this.  The only residents he had seen thus far were much older and carried countenances weathered by time.  In regards to age, she appeared as young as John.

               Opening the front door, John could feel a rush of cool air rush to meet him.  The jingle of the bell tied around the door handle startled the girl.  She set the rag in her hand on a nearby table and walked to the front of the restaurant. 

               “Table or booth?” 

               John, still struck by the girl’s sweet looks, failed to register her question.  She repeated it and he replied “Table.”

               The girl led John to a table near the other patron.  The man looked up from his paper and spoke to John.

               “You look new here.”

               “Yeah, I just got into town last night.  I plan to leave as soon as I can get my truck fixed.”

               “It broke down on you?” the man asked, studying John.

               “Yeah,” replied John. 

               The man returned to his newspaper.

               The girl walked over John’s table and asked him, “Coffee or soda?” 

               “I’ll just have water.”

               She left and quickly returned with a glass full of water.  She placed it in front of John.  He looked closely at the glass and was able to see a layer of salt lying along its bottom.

               “This is the only water we can pump here,” she said.  “Now, if you want some coffee, it’ll cost you a dollar.”

               She bent over the table, pen and notepad in hand, eagerly waiting for his response. 

               John gazed glumly at the water placed before him.  His obviously false disappointment with the situation amused the girl.  She smiled, revealing two rows of pearly whites.

               John answered, after much contemplation, "I'll just have some coffee."

               "Very good, sir." she replied, noting his order on the pad.

               The girl walked back into the kitchen.  A few minutes later, she appeared by his table, and handed him a cup of hot coffee.

               John sipped his coffee until only a few drops remained.  While cleaning tables, the girl noticed John sitting with an empty cup still in his hand and asked him if he was ready to order.  John replied with a simple "yes," and she listed his choices.

               "You can have burgers and fries, a burger with no fries, or fries with no burger."

               John answered, "I'll have the burger and no fries."

               "How would you like your burger done?  We cook 'em medium-rare."

               John smiled and said, "Medium-rare is fine.  I was planning on ordering it that way anyway, but you went ahead and read my mind."

               The other patron, still sitting in his booth, interjected, "She does that."

               "I'll be back with your burger in a few minutes," said the girl.

               As John waited for his burger, he heard the bell on the front door jingle.  Looking up, he saw the other patron walking out the door.  A few moments passed and John saw Bill Hodge walk into the restaurant. 

               The girl noticed Bill's entrance as well and walked out of the kitchen to greet him.  The plate she carried out of the kitchen held a large steaming burger.  As the girl walked by John's table, she placed the plate in front of him. 

               "If it isn't Bill Hodge!" Lissie exclaimed.  "How are you doing?"

               "I'm doing just fine, Lissie.  Thanks for asking."

               "And Mrs. Hodge?"

               "She's good.  She's good."

               "Well, what can I do for you, Bill?"

               "I just came in to see how John was doing."

               "Well," Lissie said, turning towards John, "from the look on his face, he's enjoying one of my burgers."

               John heard her say his name and looked up.  Lissie smiled at him, revealing two rows of pearly whites, and walked back to the kitchen.  Bill took the seat across from John and began to speak.

               "I talked to Neil Bruner and, unfortunately, his truck's winch is broken.  This might make getting back on the road a bit more difficult.  It's gonna take a few days or so to get the winch repaired.  As for fixing truck, that could be anywhere from a week to a month.  Salton isn't exactly a metropolitan center.  Fortunately, this predicament gives you more time to stay in town."

               "Well," John replied, thinking back to the girl in the kitchen, "It is a pretty nice town."

               Bill nodded and glanced at the kitchen door.  John followed suit and saw the girl walking out of the kitchen with a coffee pot.  She walked to John and Bill's table and filled both their mugs with coffee.  Once both their cups were full, she took a seat at the table.

               "So you've met Lissie?" asked Bill.

               Exchanging smiles with Lissie, John said "We've talked a little bit."

               Lissie interrupted, "I read his mind."

               "She read my mind," confirmed John.

                "She does that," said Bill.

               Lissie directed the conversation towards John.

               "So what brings you to Salton?"

               "Well," John began, "a few dozen miles out of town, my truck broke down.  Bill, here, chanced upon me and saved me from the cold weather."

               "Staying anywhere?" she asked.

               John replied, "Bill's letting me stay in his home."

               "That's pretty nice of Bill," said Lissie, "He's not like Mrs. Hodge.  Doesn't care much for visitors."

               "Well, John's different." Bill spoke.  "I could tell he was a lot better than the people that usually come to my house."

               "You mean Debora and Sarah?" asked Lissie.

               "Yeah.  Anyway, John's going to be staying in town a few days until we can get his truck fixed."

               John nodded and Bill continued speaking.

               "Lucky for him, the chili festival is in a few days." 

               "The chili festival?" John enquired.

               "It's an annual event here in Salton." answered Bill, "All the townspeople come out to watch and to eat.  You'll get to taste Lissie's chili.  It really is some of the best in the region." 

               He added quickly, "Still can't beat my Martha's."

               Lissie jabbed Bill in the side with her elbow. 

               "Now, Bill, you know my chili has won the contest three years in a row."

               "Maybe, but don't expect a fourth.  Martha's been perfecting her recipe and I'm sure it has what it takes to win this year.  I should know.  She's been making me taste test it.

               "We'll see when the contest comes."

               After this exchange, Bill and Lissie directed their attention towards John, who sat listening to their banter with an amused smirk on his face.

                John told the two that he would love to attend and Bill cheered.  At the man's exuberant exclamation, both Lissie and John laughed. 

               Bill glanced at his watch and spoke.  "Well, I should probably get going.  Martha wants me to test some more of her recipe.  I swear to God, I'll be sick of chili by the time the contest is over."

               Bill stood up from the table.  Lissie walked to the door with him and they exchanged a few words.  John saw Bill hand her a few dollars and walk out the door.  John walked to the front and asked the waitress about his tab. 

               Lissie responded "Bill already paid it, but if you want to give me more money, I'd gladly accept it." 

               John smiled and left the restaurant.

© 2012 Mounsell

Author's Note

Critiques would be greatly appreciated.

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Added on May 20, 2012
Last Updated on June 2, 2012
Tags: salt, city, sea, truck, salton, guitar, song, songs, concert, performance



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