As Sally dropped him off at the motel she mentioned an all-night café nearby if he was so inclined. His plan was to go directly to bed, but after a shower and changing into the only extra clothes he’d brought in his AWOL bag he stepped out the door of his room to take stock of the area. As she’d stated, a 24 hour café was only a block away and promptly set off in that direction.
With the dinner hour past he was the only customer and waitress bearing his menu appeared exhausted.
“Rough crowd tonight?” he asked, gazing at the offering she‘d handed him.
“It usually is,” she replied, struggling to present a smile.
He, too, was exhausted after the late night plane ride to Dallas and then the westbound Greyhound at 0300 hours. So he let the conversation go and ordered a hamburger, fries, and coffee. Upon returning to his room and fell asleep.
Old habits are difficult to break. He was up at the first glint of dawn. After dressing, he set out for the café again. Pleased to find a booth at an east window, he ordered coffee and waited for the Texas sun to make it’s astounding appearance. He hadn’t been there long before a tall, young fellow wearing cowboy boots and a Stetson pushed through the door and chose a stool at the counter.
“So how’s trucking driving school going?” the redhead sat a steaming cup coffee in front of him.
“So so. They haven’t been able to teach me anything I didn’t already know. This whole CDL business is a crock,” he said. She walked away, but he kept on talking, pointing out weaknesses he’d noticed in his driving instructor. She made no comment – didn’t even look up – just kept on with her busy work, filling salt and pepper shakers and napkin dispensers.
An older man, perhaps in his forties, entered, nodded as he passed Zeke and then occupied the booth next to Zeke‘s. He was dressed in gray slacks with an extremely sharp crease, shirt and tie and a zip up sports jacket. He ordered coffee and a glazed donut.
He was about to take a bite of his donut when another man dressed in a similar fashion pushed through the door “Good morning, Steve. Where are you off to today?”
“That’s a good place to be from.”
“True enough, but I won’t be there long.”
“How long will it take, do you think?” Steve’s friend asked.
“Oh,” he said, pushing up his sleeve and glancing at his watch. “Maybe noon. Depends on the traffic. You know how that goes.”
“Noon!” shouted the cowboy truck driver. “Hell, it’s fifteen hundred miles to Los Angeles.”
“You’re right. What was I thinking,” said Steve, dropping a five-dollar bill and sliding out of the booth.
“Did you know that fellow is flying a Lear jet to Los Angeles?” the waitress asked the truck driver.
“No! I bet he thinks I’m an idiot.”
“That wouldn’t surprise me,” the waitress replied, heaving a visible sigh.
Steve’s friend smiled at me.
The truck driver paid for coffee and left without a another word.
Zeke was about to go into his room when Sally rolled to a stop. “Have you had breakfast?” she shouted through the open pickup window.
“Good morning, Sally. No I haven’t. I was waiting. Let’s drive up to the café and I buy breakfast while we plan today’s work schedule,” he suggested.