East of Town Proper

He’d come in just east of the town proper, and followed the road as it looped around, shaped something like a noose. At the river, he turned left and then took another quick turn in the same direction, staying wide of the church. He drove through the empty streets until he’d come to the diner, and then he nosed his rented car against it and went inside.

The chimes over the door jangled and woke the waitress up from something. She blinked and wiped at her eyes and forced out a smile, asking if he didn’t want a cup of coffee. He said he did and sat down at the counter.

“Anything besides?,” she asked, setting the cup down.

“That’ll be plenty,” he said. “Thanks.”

The waitress set about wiping down the forks and just looking across the diner and out the window. Likely to the steeple straining up over the roofs across the way. He was watching her and thinking about all the times he’d been in before, and how nothing had changed, except the woman behind the counter. She arrived now, with the pot, and tilted it and her eyebrows, in that way they do and he pushed his cup out and she filled it and slid it back.

She started through the spoons, but soon came back and stood before him.

“Don’t I know you?”

“I wouldn’t think so.”

“You seem awful familiar. You from around here?”

“No.”

“Well,” she said, straightening her apron. “I should have guessed. If you were, you’d just as likely be out at the service.”

He said nothing to that, but dug in his pocket for a dollar and laid it out next to the saucer.

“Thanks again,” he said.

He stepped outside just in time to hear the church bells tolling.

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