Chapter VIII

Chapter VIII

A Chapter by Mounsell

As John awoke, he could feel the breeze caused by the fan's blades caressing his face.  Sunlight trickled through the window and served to warm John's left flank.  He forced himself out from under the bed's sheets.

               Sitting at the foot of the bed, John reached out to open the chestnut dresser's drawers.  He searched the mounds of clothing for some clothing suitable to the weather and found a loose chambray shirt.  He buttoned it and then pulled on a pair of chinos he had also found in the mound.  Their looser fit pleased John.  He pulled his boots on and tied their laces. 

               Standing up, John felt invigorated.  The sleep had served him well and he was ready for the day ahead.  He walked to the bedroom door and pulled it open.  Peering through the doorway, he noticed that Bill had left his spot on the armchair.  The only sign of the man's presence there last night was a light blanket. 

               John followed the soft sounds of conversation that reached his ears from across the house.  The sources of these sounds stood in the kitchen, discussing the day ahead. 

               "You should help me carry some of the stuff to the contest site," John heard Martha say.

               Bill replied, "You can set it in the back of the truck and we can drive over there."

               Both Bill and Martha noticed John's entrance.  He stood at the threshold, listening to their conversation.  Bill was the first to speak to him.

               "You could help Martha carry pots and pans to the chili cook-off, right, John?"

               John replied, "I would be happy to."

               Bill turned to face his wife and said, "I told you, Martha."

               Martha ignored this and spoke to John.

               "I'm sorry, John, but I won't be able to fix you breakfast this morning.  I'm trying really hard to get ready for the chili cook-off.  I'm sure you can find some place in town that will serve you breakfast."

               Martha began to grab pots and pans from her cabinets.  Each container she pulled was studied carefully and either placed on top the kitchen counter or placed on the round table.  Within a few minutes, a large collection of pots and pans sat on the table and an even larger collection sat on the counter.  As soon as the cabinets were cleared of containers, Martha began to pull out utensils.  She seemed much less discriminating when it came to these and placed the vast majority of them in one of the larger pots on the table.  Once she had decided the fate of each utensil, Bill began to carry the materials out to his truck.  John followed suit and the table was quickly cleared.  When the two men set the last of the pots in the back of the truck, Martha came out carrying a blue apron and a few boxes of ingredients.  She took the boxes and dispensed them between the containers.  However, she kept the apron in her hand and carried it into the truck cab.

               As Martha sat in the passenger seat, Bill chatted with John.

               "Thanks for your help, John.  Do you have any money for breakfast?"

               "I have a few dollars." John replied.

               "Why don't you take these, too," Bill said, pulling several dollar bills from his wallet and handing them to John..

               John thanked Bill and the man continued speaking.

               "I'm sure you can find a place in town that serves breakfast.  I doubt Lissie's diner is open today, but there's a small coffee shop less than a block east of it.

               He thanked Bill for the money and information as the man pulled himself into the cab of the truck. 

               From the driver's seat, Bill placed his key in the truck's ignition and brought it to life.  John walked away from the truck and back inside the house.  From his bedroom window, he could see Bill's truck pull away.  John looked through his jean's pockets and found his wallet.  He placed the money Bill had given to him in his wallet and grabbed his sunglasses from the night stand.  He walked out the bedroom and grabbed an extra key hanging from a hook beside the front door.  John moved out of the house and locked the door behind him.  It gave a satisfying click once he set off towards town.

               John discovered that the weather was much more pleasant than previous days. The sky was cluttered with heavy grey clouds that told of the impending storm.

               He reached the middle of town within a few minutes.  Following Bill's direction, he was able to quickly find the coffee shop.  John looked through the dirty windows and was unable to see any person inside.  Peering in, he also found that no lights were turned on within the building.  He tried the door but it would not budge. 

               Disappointed, John decided that he would try Lissie's restaurant.  Walking to the restaurant, he began to doubt whether it would be open.  His suspicions were confirmed when he tried the door.  It refused to open.  He glanced through one of the windows.  Although the dining room remained unlit, John was able to see a light in the kitchen.  Even from his position on the sidewalk, he could hear the sound of dishes clattering in that distant room.

               As John turned back towards the road, he could hear a pair of shoes walking across the restaurant's tiled floor.  He listened as someone fumbled with a set of keys and placed one in the door's lock.  A few moments passed and the lock clicked.  John, who now faced the door, watched as it opened and Lissie appeared from behind it.

               "John!" she exclaimed, "I wasn't expecting to see you here.  I thought you would be at the cook-off by now."

               "Yeah," he replied, "I helped Martha get ready for it.  Unfortunately, she didn't have time to cook breakfast for Bill or I and the diner down the road is closed."

               He added quickly, "I'm sure you're too busy to cook me anything."

               She thought for a moment and replied, "I'll see what I can fix you up."

               Without waiting for a response, she walked into the kitchen.  John took a seat at one of the smaller tables.  Looking about him, he was able to see a few tables that remained covered with the stained dishes, scattered napkins, and dirty utensils of past diners. 

               As John looked around the room, he spied Lissie walking out of the kitchen with a plate.  She came closer and John was able to see that the plate was piled high with sausage links, slices of toast, and scrambled eggs.

               Once she set the plate before him, he said, "You really didn't have to go to all this trouble."

               She smiled and responded with "It wasn't a problem at all.  I've cooked this meal so many times, it's gotten really easy to prepare.  Oh, and don't worry about the tab."

               John picked up his fork and poked one of the sausages.              He quickly set the utensil down and asked her, "What's the catch?"

               She gave him a sly grin and replied, "You have to help me carry my stuff to the cook-off."

               "I'd be happy to help you, John answered.

               "Great!  Just come on back to the kitchen when you're finished eating."

               John, eager to help her, ate his breakfast quickly.  As he did so, Lissie brought out pots and pans from the kitchen and placed them on one of the dining room's larger tables.  John, once finished with his meal, walked back into the kitchen.  He found her scouring the drawers and pantries.  The kitchen appeared as though a cyclone had passed through it.  Various boxes of ingredients sat on the counters and the doors of each pantry were wide open.

               Lissie noticed his entrance, and asked him, "John, could you help me find the pepper?  It should be in a red tin box."

               John looked through a nearby drawer and quickly found a crimson metal box.

               He held it up and asked Lissie, "Is this it?"

               She turned around and replied, "That's it.  Where did you find it?"

               He pointed to the drawer by his feet.

               "Ah," Lissie said, "It's always the last place you look."

               She took the box from John and placed it by the pots and pans in the dining room.  She came back and grabbed a stack of boxes by the stove.  John followed her as she walked from the kitchen and placed them beside the metal tin.

               She stood for a few minutes, looking over the materials set on the table.  Lissie turned to John.

               "I think I got everything.  What do you think, John?"

               "Did you get the onions?"

               "Got that."

               "What about the tomatoes?"

               She paused and said, "I forgot that.  Wait here for a minute."

               She returned just seconds later holding a jar of tomatoes. 

               She held onto it and told John, "Now, if you can just grab the pots and pans, we should be set."

               John did as he was instructed and Lissie walked to the door.  She pushed it wide open and held it there for him as he carried his load out.  She took a key from her pocket and locked the door.

               She turned to John and said, "Ready?"

               John shifted the containers in his arms, and replied with a terse "yep."

               Lissie led the way to the cook-off.  She made sure to check back on John, who was struggling to carry all the pots and pans.  She herself carried a few jars but entrusted him with most of the materials.

               Turning a street corner, John and Lissie came to a large paved area.  John figured it to be an old parking lot and the faded white lines that crossed much of its surface confirmed this.  On the other side of this lot stood a large, one-storied building.  The structure appeared well maintained and stood in stark contrast to most of buildings within Salton. Across the building's front was a sign whose white lettering had been painted and repainted countless times.  This sign declared the building to be the "Salton Civic Center."

               Lissie led John across the lot and into this building.  They passed quickly through a small entryway and entered a large hall.  Once inside, John was able to see rows of tables set up in the far half of the room.  Each held pots, pans, and assorted boxes.

               John and Lissie walked towards an empty table near a wall.  John passed several stands before spotting Martha.  She stood across her table from Bill.  Both husband and wife noticed John nearby.  However, Martha was the first to call him over.

               "Ah, John," she said, cheerfully, "I was wondering when you would arrive."

               "Yeah, I'm helping Lissie set up her stand.

               Martha smiled sincerely and replied, "How nice of you."

               Lissie, waiting on John, was spied by Martha.

               She spoke solemnly, "Lissie."

               "Martha," Lissie returned.

               Lissie directed John towards a table near the far side of the room and had him set the pots and pans down.  She placed a small stove in her hands on the table.  As she placed a pot on the stove and arranged the boxes of ingredients, she turned to John.

               "John," she began, "I'm probably going to need your help when the cook-off starts.  That's a while from now, so you could go check out the other stands."

               John took his leave and walked to Martha's stand.  She was busy sorting her ingredients and appeared flustered. 

               She turned to Bill and asked, "Did I remember the tomatoes?"

               "Yes, they're in the jar behind you."

               She grabbed the jar that Bill had pointed out and placed it on the table.  As Martha looked through her items, Bill spotted John walking towards her stand.

               "John!" he exclaimed, "I need to speak with you.  I have some news about your truck."

               "Is it good news or bad news?" John asked.

               Bill replied, glumly, "A little bit of both."

               Bill led John to an area of the room far from the stands.  From this point, he began his conversation with.

               "Okay, first the bad news.  I talked with Neil Bruner today about getting your truck into town.  He told me that his tow truck's winch is broken."

               "How long will that take to fix?" John asked.

               "Just a day or two.  Now, getting your truck to town will take a few hours.  You'll need to go with Neil when he goes to get it."

               "Do you know how long it will take my truck?"

               "I'm not sure about that.  You could ask Neil but he probably won't know until he looks the truck over."

               John thought about his predicament, and remarked "You said you had some good news?"

               "Yeah," Bill replied, "I'll make this short since it looks like the cook-off is about to start.  I'm going to pay for you to get your truck fixed."

               "Oh, Bill," John said.  "That's really not necessary."

               "No, I'm happy to do it for you."

               Bill turned his head towards the stands and watched the people around them for a few moments.  John followed suit and saw that the contestants had all taken to their stands.

               "We should probably get back.  The contest is about to start."

               Bill turned and walked towards Martha's stand.  John returned to Lissie's table and found her preparing.

               She noticed John and asked him, "John, could you help me set my stand up?  I want to make sure I have everything ready when the cook-off starts."

               "Sure," John replied.

               He began to place boxes of ingredients onto Lissie's stand.  As he placed the final box on her table, he saw that she was looking intently at a man walking past each stand and taking careful notes.

               Once the man had passed Lissie's stand, she turned to John and told him, "That's Neil Bruner.  He's the head judge.  He's pretty serious when it comes to the contest rules."

               John watched Bruner move to a microphone stand in front of all the tables.  The room fell silent.  Bruner's face remained staid as he examined each stand.  He glanced at the watch on his wrist. 

               Looking towards the contestants once more, he took the microphone and spoke the word "Start." 

© 2012 Mounsell

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Added on May 23, 2012
Last Updated on June 2, 2012
Tags: salt, city, sea, truck, salton, guitar, song, songs, concert, performance, yawn, sleep, paris



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