Arrangements were made that Mr. Banner, Sally’s attorney, would arrive the following morning to draw up the papers and oversee an inventory. Zeke was admiring the Texas morning when an old Dodge pickup turned off the highway.
“I think you might have a visitor, Sally.”
She joined Zeke while drying her hands on her apron.
“That’s Mr. Banner.”
“I expecting him to arrive in a big Lincoln.”
“Dan asked him about that old pickup when we first started this business,” Sally explained. “He said he was finished impressing people.”
After rolling to a stop, he climbed out and fetched his cane and then headed inside.
“Morning Sally,” he drawled, reaching out to shake. “You must be Zeke,” he said grabbing Zeke’s hand. “I have two young men coming. I’m expecting them any moment,” he added, directing his statement to Sally.
“That must be them now,” she exclaimed, her eyes focused on a red convertible turning off the highway.
Mr. Banner sat up shop on the yellow Formica table, then issued preprinted forms along with detailed verbal instructions. And then everything was set into motion. By noon the inventory was finished and an asking price was established. Mr. Banner had already touched bases with the prospective buyer.
“These buyers wouldn’t share their plans with me. But I did some snooping and learned they use helicopters rather than fixed-wing aircraft. I suspect they won’t offer a fair price for these airplanes, so with your permission I have a second listing that excludes the planes and spare parts, just in case.
“What will I do with the Stearman?”
“That‘s a bargaining tool, my dear,” he said, smiling. “I’ll be in touch,” he added and then headed back to town.
Zeke continued on his inspection. Replacing a worn control cable took more time than he had figured. The shadows were lengthening by the time he was finished. Since it was late, she was preparing supper for him before heading back to the motel. He was closing the hangar doors when he noticed a bank of clouds moving in from the west. They were round and puffy. Orange lightning was playing through them, first lighting one, then another, in no special order. They reminded Zeke of gigantic Christmas balls.
“I don’t like the looks of that storm,” he told Sally when she came to fetch him for supper.
“I don’t either.”
He followed her to the yellow Formica table. After serving up two plates she turned on a white Arvin AM radio, a classic 5-tube superhetrodyne receiver that reached back into the years of Zeke‘s youth. After the filaments had warmed a local station issued a tornado watch advisory extending until 2 AM.
“What do you generally do when this sort of thing comes up? Do you have a shelter you go to?” he asked.
“No, I don’t have a shelter. I just stay here and stick it out. So far they’ve all missed me. I always keep a spare water jug, a propane camp stove, and a lantern in case the power goes out.”
“Dan wouldn’t want you being alone. I’ll stay here with you.”
She didn’t object. Instead, she fetched a fold-up cot from a storage closet and set it out for Zeke. And then they waited. In an hour the wall-to-wall static rendered the AM radio useless, so they turned it off and resumed waiting.
Eventually, the wind freshened and horizontal rain drops the size of quarters pelted the metal hanger like machine gun fire. Thunder made the Texas prairie sound like a giant bowling alley, rattling Sally’s dishes and cupboard doors.
In the midst of it they thought they heard the storm warning system sounding six miles away. Then lightning became continuous. Wind rattled the doors while testing every rivet and bolt holding the hangar together.
The severity of the storm lasted only twenty minutes or so before tapering off. Within the hour it was over, the only remainder being the sound of the storm growling its way in a northeasterly direction.
When he awoke the following morning he shoved a hangar door open and watched dawn usher in a new day.