Saturday, March 30, 2019
Still whispering her song, Rose sat next to Al. She said, “I only have a minute and then I have to get busy again. Isn’t she a remarkable woman! I’ll tell you about her in a couple of minutes, you are gonna be really surprised.” Al thought, “How can I be any more surprised?” Rose got up from the chair and said, “I’ve got to go to Hazel.”
Rose sat across from Hazel, placing her hands on the crisp linen tablecloth. Al could tell Rose was talking to Hazel but this time he couldn’t understand what was being said. A moment later Rose put her hands on both of Hazel’s. Then she walked around to Hazel’s seat. Pulling it out for her, Hazel stood and the smile on her face was an absolute glow. As she turned to walk to the back door, the front door came open.
Hazel turned around to see a man dressed in khaki slacks and navy sports coat standing in the doorway. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Frank, it is real, this is such a lovely place. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.” Rose walked over and introduced herself and said, “I will be right with you Frank. I’m just getting ready to introduce your wife to Etche, the River Guide. Please allow me to walk with Hazel to the back door.”
Frank spoke up, “It is okay Hazel my dear, I will be with you in just a short time.” Al watched stunned and emotionally moved as Frank walked to his wife and took both of her hands in his. He bent forward and kissed her on the cheek. Al heard him whisper, “I’ll see you in just a few minutes.”
Just as Hazel turned back to Rose, the back door opened and in stepped the River Guide. He took Hazel’s hands in his and bent forward and whispered something in her ear. As they moved towards the back door, Hazel turned and gave Frank a wink and a smile. Rose said to Frank, “Welcome Frank, I’m honored to know you. Please come and have a seat.” Rose guided Frank to the table his wife had just occupied.
Friday, March 22, 2019
Just before Rose and Gene got to the door, it opened and in stepped a man. He was dressed in dark green brush pants, a dark rust colored heavy cotton-canvas shirt, and an oiled dark olive hat. As he stood in the door, his presence was powerful and striking. The stubble on his face, hair to his shoulders, and his countenance gave the impression of a very rugged woodsman.
Stepping forward, he took Gene’s hand, pulling him forward the two men embraced. As they turned to the door, the newcomer looked across the diner and caught Al’s eye. He gave Al a slight smile and nod of his head.
Gene and the rugged looking man walked out the back door. Rose turned towards Al; her face was glowing as she walked to the table. She said, “I am filled with joy every time I see Etche, the River Guide. And, when I get to introduce a traveler to him, well I’m so filled with joy, I just, I just want to shout.”
Al was silent as Rose sat on the seat across from him. Finally he said, “What is really going on here? And, who is this Etche, the River Guide?” Rose answered back, “All in good time. All in good time. I have another traveler coming in in just a couple of minutes. I have a couple of things I need to get ready.”
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Al stammered, “What do want me to do?” Close to being speechless, he continued, “I do want to be faithful to what God wants from me. There is just so much I don’t understand.” Rose responded back, “There is a lot you will never understand, at least not here. In a few minutes precious folks will begin coming in. I am going to take care of them. They are going to have the most fantastic meal in their memory. As they come in, I am going to tell you about their lives. I want you to write it all down. And, don’t just write what you see and hear. I want you to write what you sense.”
Al asked, “Can you explain a little more to me? I’m supposed to try to find out what has been going on around here. Gracie is expecting me to come back with a story or a dead end.” Rose said, “I know this is confusing. Your story will come together, but in a different way. As time goes by, you will understand the purpose of your writing. And, I am going to help you see things that have been hidden. Kind of like your camera on the ground.”
Rose got up from the table and said to Al, “I’ll get you a cup of coffee and be right back. And, by the way, in two minutes an elderly man by the name of Gene, is gonna be coming in. When he does, I will be paying attention to him and what he wants. I will come by and tell you about him. Make sure you’re ready to write down his story. You do have your nice leather portfolio from Gracie, don’t you?” Al looked at her nervously as if he didn’t know if he should smile or look worried.
Two minutes later an elderly man pushed the front door open. He hesitated a moment, looking around. His feet shuffled on the old linoleum as he made his way towards the tables. Al noticed a few things right away. He looked like the world had been hard on him for a long time. He wore a waist length brown corduroy coat. The stubble on his face and the hair on his head was the same length. As he walked past, Al noticed a skin condition on his chin and around his mouth. The way he puckered and moved his lips told Al that the elderly guy was missing most, if not all of his teeth.
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Walking towards him, Rose was carrying a cup and saucer. She set them down and said, “I told you who I am, who might you be?” Al introduced himself and told her he was reporter from Salmon Stream Crossing. Rose said, “A reporter, what in this world brings you up here?” Al said, “I’m just following up on a couple of things. Seems people say they see strange things along the river.” Rose answered, “Near as I can tell they say strange things been happenin on this river for a couple of hundred years.” “Well,” Al said, “What do you make of it?” Rose answered, “Nothin happened around here that wasn’t supposed to be happenin.”
Rose turned and went back behind the counter. Looking over at Rose he thought she looked familiar. His mind went back to Sarah and their time on the coast. “No it couldn’t be,” he said to himself. “Wasn’t the woman at the old roadside diner, wasn’t her name Rose?”
“Rose,” he said, “Could I talk with you for a couple of minutes?” “Well sure,” she said. Coming over to the table she sat right across from him. Al asked, “Have we met before? You look familiar to me?” She answered, “Well we sure could have. I’ve been all over and there and back a few times.” Her answer didn’t do anything for his confusion. So, he decided to ask her a direct question. He asked, “Have you ever been in southeast Virginia?” “I suppose I have,” she said.
Rose said, “I suppose this is all pretty confusing to you. You come in here and I haven’t given you a simple answer to any of your questions. You really don’t know why you are here, do you?” Al’s response to Rose was quick, “Well, yes, I do know exactly why I’m here. I’m here because strange things have happened along this river for a long time. And, just a few days ago a guy walked into my office, telling me an incredible story about a man, a boat, and the two times he thought he saw the boat vanish. That is why I’m here."
Rose smiled and said, “That is what brought you here. But, that is not the reason you are here. I wanted you to come here for a story that will help lots of folks.” Al’s chair ground on the old wooden planks as he tried to pull it back. She said, “Leaving won’t answer the questions still in your soul. You asked me about the south. I know more about you than you realize. I know about the diner, and Bee. I know Sarah and how she broke your heart. I know about your little baby girl. I know about Agape Station.” Al was as still as concrete, stunned, as she continued, “I know Stan, the hotel manager. And. I know Edith.”
Friday, March 1, 2019
With his foot bouncing a hundred miles an hour on the lower rung of the stool, Jimmy asked Al, “You alright? Please don’t mind me for asking. You seemed a little upset with Gracie.” “Oh, I’m alright I guess,” Al said, “I just think Gracie does too much for me. I’ll talk with her tonight.” Jimmy laughed and said, “That’s exactly what she said, that the two of you would talk tonight.”
Walking into the living room Al found Gracie sitting in Ray’s chair. A sense of sadness welled up in his heart. He thought, “She will always be drawn to that chair. The smell of Ray’s after shave and tobacco will linger for a long time.” He sat on the edge of the sofa just a few feet from her. “Gracie,” he said, “I want to apologize for what I said at the office. What I really wanted to express to you was, I think you do too much for me. You cook most of my meals, you have been doing my laundry.”
Gracie started to tear up. A moment later she looked at Al and said, “It has been hard these weeks and months, you know, losing Ray. He was such a large part of my life. We loved our work here. For years it was Ray that worked hard. He didn’t want me to work. But, when we came here it was different for both of us. Ray wanted me to work, and we were a great team. I think when I lost Ray I still needed to take care of somebody. I guess that was you.”
Getting up from the sofa, Al walked over to Gracie. Looking intensely at her he said, “I miss Ray. He will always be a very important person in my life. He allowed me to come here, and I will be forever grateful. By coming here I got to know you. You are such an important person to me right now. Please forgive me for being sharp with my words. You are the last person I would want to hurt.” By this time both friends were wiping away tears. Before getting up, Al took both of Gracie’s hands in his and kissed the back of them, “I love you,” he said.