The other car was an old woody station wagon pulling a flat bed trailer. The same one I had seen at the peep store. A layer of snow covered the car and trailer both, like they had been sitting outside for some time. A well-used four wheel ATV was chained in the bed of the trailer, alongside a large roll of carpet or canvas. I noted it only in passing and didn’t take a good look at it. That was a mistake, but how was I to know that then.
I ate my ham and hard over eggs pretty much in silence, except when I asked Doris whether she thought the weather was gonna break bad. She had lived about them parts for over half a century and I figured she was as good as any of the weather folks I had been listening to on the radio all evening.
“Yeah, gonna be a real rip snorter, a howler no doubt ‘bout that. How far you got to go?”
“That’s a 100 miles. I wouldn’t do it tonight. Ain’t a chance you’ll get through. Storm’s coming all right. Be here within the hour I’m guessing. I’d think on turning around. Might be able to out run it back to Fargo. But heading west? Wouldn’t do it unless you got a death wish. Nobody else would be out on a night like this. I doubt even the state patrol will be out.”
The town car folks heard her talking I suppose, cause when they pulled out not long after, they did turn back towards Fargo. But not me. I didn’t have no death wish of course, but Fargo was a hundred miles in the wrong direction.
“I suppose I could stay the night in the motel.”
“State condemned that old wreck last week. Part of the roof caved in the first storm of the season.”
“No shit. Any other place in town?”
Doris pondered. “You could stay over with old Henry I suppose. He’s a bit particular, and ain’t much for strangers, but you don’t mind his farting all night and pay him enough he’ll be willing to take you in. Not happy, but willing. Only game in town just now.”
With that rousing endorsement, better to face death I thought but didn’t say. I wasn’t convinced I couldn’t make it the hundred miles to Bismarck and my business there was important. Doris was just a waitress after all. The last weatherman on the radio had said it might be another two, maybe three hours, before the real storm hit. I’d been in big storms before, had always been able to handle it. I finished my eggs and watched the round-faced boy and his folks walk out to the town car. Sure enough, the boy gave me the finger first chance he got. I dunno what’s wrong with some people.
The only other patron left in the diner was a middle-aged man and I took him to be Mr. Woody, the driver of the station wagon. I had sat with my back to his seat, so I really never got a good look at him, except to say he was largish. He never took his jacket off that I saw though, so his size could have been an illusion. He could have been forty or forty-five I thought, my age, but that was a very rough guess. I did notice he looked like a working man, calloused hands and all. I saw this as he retrieved his wallet. I saw one other thing too, but it was quick as he walked past me. He was ugly, had something wrong with his face. I only got a quick glance though, so it was mostly a gestalt just then.
It didn’t become a fact until later.
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