Another chapter of A Voice from Beyond

On this, his second visit to The Groves, Gar entered Main Street just as the town was greeting the new day. He and a hoarded sliver of soap had already visited a stream, so his appearance had greatly improved and might not have been noteworthy. He was, however, a stranger in Small-Town America and carrying a duffel bag.
    At that point he was also the only one on the street. A Model T truck was parked by the pumps in front of Casey’s Automobile Repair/Tires/Blacksmith. Farther down, past the first cross street, an Oakland Touring Car was angle-parked in front of Arbuckle’s Mercantile and General Hardware. Except for the young man walking down the boardwalk, duffel bag swinging from a rope over his shoulder, there was no other sign of man or beast.
    After ten hours in an empty boxcar, his main thought was breakfast, and he strode directly toward a sign that read Jenny’s Lunch. Two doors past the diner, a door opened and a tall man wearing a Sheriff’s badge, and a gray Stetson hat stepped onto the sidewalk
    “Good morning, George,” Gar greeted the Sheriff with a smile. “You’ll need to be careful where you hide when you’re trying to catch bad guys,” Gar observed, his eyes on the Sheriff’s extensive stomach. “I see you’ve been living fairly well.”
    The Sheriff paused, both hands on his stomach, his head cocked at an angle, and a quizzical expression on his face. “Stone. Rock? No, Garnet something. You were here about a year ago.”
    Garnet shook his head. “A little over two years.”
    The Sheriff nodded, and then continued as if there had been complete agreement. “Since you’ve been here I’ve actually lost a few pounds. Nice to have a steady job, though.” He patted his ample girth affectionately.
    “On the other hand, ya don’t look too spiffy yer own self,” the Sheriff added, walking toward Gar.
    “I didn’t have a steady job,” Gar replied with a grin.
    “Not many do.” The Sheriff grasped the handle of the screen door and swung it back. The squeal of the return spring filled the empty street and bounced back at them. As he grasped the brass handle of the diner’s main door and thumbed the latch open he added, “It don’t make my job easy, folks not workin’. But it’s a job.”
    The Sheriff paused with his hand on the door handle and turned his head to look at Gar. “You on the bum?”
    “On my way home,” Gar replied, waving the Sheriff to continue through the door, “and I’m buying you breakfast.”
    “Well! Makes me mighty happy, that does,” the Sheriff responded, continuing on into the empty diner. “I’ll get fed well, an’ if you’re buyin’ yuh must have money. If yuh have money, I don’ have t’nab ya fer a vagrant.” He pointed at the table farthest back in the room, near the kitchen door, then went behind the counter and filled two cups with coffee.
    Gar dropped his duffel in the corner then took a seat facing the street.
    “Maybe it’s a bribe,” the Sheriff continued, a glint in his eye. He returned to the table, deposited the cups and took a seat, flipping the holster off the side of the chair. “Maybe you’re tryin’ to buy your way out of a night in jail. Or did yuh have a good summer?”
    Gar smiled and shrugged. “Nothin’ wrong with sleepin’ in your jail. You could do somethin’ about the bed, but it’s nice and warm.”
    He sipped his coffee, the first for him in two days. “I did have a good summer. It’s been a good year, actually. Most of two years I’ve been doing all right. It started to get a little better when some small town clown lined up three weeks of work for me back there. The least I owe him is a breakfast.”
    Replacing his cup on the table, the Sheriff smiled. Before he could comment, the door to the street opened and a tall thin man wearing a black, threadbare suit and carrying a black bag entered the diner.
    “Good morning, George,” the newcomer said, placing his bag on the floor beside Gar’s duffel. He turned and went behind the counter to get his own coffee. “Who’s your friend?”
    “Good mornin’ Doc,” the Sheriff replied. “Garnet,” he paused, looking at Gar.
    “Smith,” Gar offered, moving to the seat against the wall.
    “A likely story,” the Sheriff commented with a smile. “Garnet Smith, this is our local pill-roller and meat-cutter, Doc Logan.” He paused as the Doctor took the seat just vacated by Garnet. “Gar is one of them acky-demic types we see so often these days; travellin’ the country givin’ great study t’ society.”
    “Academic,” the Doctor offered, nodding his understanding. “Been working much?” he asked Gar.
    “It’s either getting better, or I’m getting better at finding work,” Gar replied.
    The Doctor nodded, and then sipped his coffee as a middle aged woman entered through the batwing doors leading to the kitchen.
    “What’s the stranger havin’?” she demanded abruptly.
    “Mornin’, Clara,” the Sheriff responded. “It’s jist the greatest pleasure to see you too.” He turned his eyes on Gar, his brow lifted in silent question.
    Gar shrugged. “Flapjacks? Eggs? Ham? Whatever the Sheriff’s having.”
    Clara nodded and returned to the kitchen.

...to be continued next week

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