Switchback
 



 

No More Nickernackin'

Peter Obourn

One day in May, the sun shone so hot you’d swear it was summer already.

Around noontime, Roy and I were sittin’ on Bill’s bench, soaking up the sun. A big, new white car, a Lexus, drove up to Walt’s and out stepped a lady in a white dress—real stylish—tight down to her ankles. She had to take little steps.

The sun was so bright that white dress looked blue. It had lace on top. She wore a white hat. She was maybe our age but spry, life in her eyes. She went into Walt’s and stood waiting until Walt smartened up and showed her to a booth.

Then I noticed Roy was pointing at the car, like it was a ghost.

“What?” I said. Then I saw it, too—California plates.

California. Love, Marjorie.

I slapped my head. Bill wasn’t there.

“Go get Norland,” I said. Roy shuffled off. I called Bill from Walt’s phone booth. It took him a while to get there. Norland, Roy, and I sat in our booth across from her. She looked at us a couple times and smiled, but none of us said anything. We didn’t want to be obtrusive or anything.

Molly was acting like a real waitress, standing up straight and saying, “yes, ma’am,” and, “would you like to see the dessert menu?” and actually writing stuff down.

By the time Bill got there, the lady in white was on her tapioca pudding.

I don’t think Bill had ever been so clean in his life. That’s what took him so long. Walt looked up and whistled. Bill went right to the booth and sat down across from the lady in white.

Roy jabbed me. “Look,” he whispered. They were holding hands across the table.

Norland nodded. “Yup,” he said.

Finally, she stood and smoothed her dress. Bill hadn’t eaten anything. She took his arm. They drove away in the Lexus.

A half hour later, they pulled up again. She was driving. He rolled down his electric window, waved me over, and handed me his key chain. “It’s a good thing I didn’t mow that lawn,” he said.

That’s about the whole story.

Never saw him again.

Except—one more thing. A few months later, near the end of August, another big, new white car pulled up—a Chrysler Imperial, another lady.

Right away we looked at the plates—Iowa.

Not as sharp as the lady in white. I don’t remember what she had on, but this one looked more like a piano teacher.

She noticed the “two men” postcard pasted next to Walt’s cash register. She asked Walt where he got it, but we knew she knew. We had to tell her that Bill was gone. We didn’t tell her where—just didn’t have the heart.

It’s hot again this summer. I suppose Bill’s sitting on a porch somewhere in California with the lady in white, sipping wine. And that piano teacher in Iowa, she’ll be sitting, too, on that wide front porch of her B & B, waiting for a cool breeze. She’ll never know about the lady in white who came out of nowhere, like the summer sweat on her glass of lemonade.


<< 1 2 3 4 5