8-10) Stranded

Ewan felt physically and emotionally exhausted. His impromptu trip had been off to a rough start, when at first people recognized him everywhere he went. Not exactly the effect he had been looking for, the idea being to get away from everything that was his normal life and just rethink everything.

As a result he went low profile, rented a car and stayed away from the bigger cities and usual nicer hotels, drove from one tiny town which barely made it onto any maps to the next – never with even as much as a plan, stopping at fast food places and diners, instead the usual fine cuisine spots he was used to and staying overnight at the proverbial no-tell motels paying cash.

“Coffee? And my face is up here. Around here boys are raised to not stare at a girl’s tits.” the waitress had finally showed up and sounded instantly annoyed when Ewan’s eyes accidentally rested a little too long on her chest area, which was eye-level for him.

“If you ask this nicely, sure I’ll take coffee and anything you are willing to bring me, if only because I am so happy to FINALLY get any service before I keeled over starved to death. And what tits anyway? Need to hand out magnifying glasses if you want to play the #MeToo card with what you got, darling.” he replied sarcastically while looking back up at her face. Best to repel them early on, he had learned on his trip so far.

“I’ll make a note. What else can I get you, you off-brand Don Juan?”

“Well, what’s good here?”

“Nothing, this is a roadside diner in the middle of nowhere.”

“What do you recommend?”

“Recommend? Are you for real? Again, this is a roadside diner out in the boonies. The only thing I can recommend is Pepto-Bismol or that you go somewhere else.”

“Fine, what is the least bad thing here?”

“Fries and cheeseburger haven’t killed anyone yet, far as I know.”

“I’ll take that. Hey, are you always this rude?”

“For the third time, this is a roadside diner at the end of the world. If you want your ass kissed, you need to keep driving.”

“I’d like nothing better, but my damn car broke down. Worked fine when I arrived last night, but this morning the damn thing wouldn’t start. I managed to find the auto shop in this dunghole of a town but nobody was there.”

“Nobody’s gonna be there either. That’s Phil’s garage. He’s gone.”

“F-ing fantastic, so when will this Phil be back?”

“Hopefully never. He died last month.”

“Oh shit! So who repairs cars in this dump now?”

“Nobody. We all fix our own shit. And this may shock ya, but we’re not really a tourist hot spot.”

“Goddamn, I hit the shithole lottery to break down here. Okay, can you hook me up with someone who could take a look at my car then?”

“Do I look like your secretary? I’ll get your order in. Holler if you need more coffee or anything food related.”

She walked off, and Ewan mumbled unflattering things under his beard.

After a while she returned and tossed a plate with food before him, then topped off his coffee, while Ewan stared at the greasy mess before him.

“Promise ya, it’s dead, city boy.”

“Why do you think I am a city boy, huh?”

“Oh please! One look at ya.”

“Well, you’d be wrong. I am from a small town too.”

“Ah, yeah? The small town where the money trees grow?”

“Why would you think I have money?”

“I have worked in service since I was 14. You learn to read people.”

“Fair enough. So, since I am oh so rich and you have all the answers, could you at least give me a hint who I could talk to about my car? I’ll make it rain money all over you if you can get me help.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“I told you, it died.”

“Condolences, city boy. The mortician is near the cemetery. And once more, eyes up here, you arrogant son of something!”

“Hilarious, don’t flatter yourself. Why are you such a bitch?”

“Why are you such a dumbass?”

“What?! Is that how you treat customers in this hellhole?!”

“Eat your burger and fries. They ain’t much now, but they don’t get any better cold.”

“Doubt they are still warm, since I had to wait a year to get any service in this place to begin with, guess you’re really busy!” the insult was implied since the place had been empty the entire time.

“Launch a complaint then!”

“To whom, your itty bitty titty committee?!”

“If I weren’t at work, I’d punch you out, city boy!”

“You and what army, Daisy Duke?!” Ewan mocked.

“Oh, I can take you all by myself. You’d probably break a nail and curl up in a ball sucking your thumb before I even can as much as look at your sternly!”

Ewan realized that people started to look over at them, attention was the last thing he wanted, so he just started eating.

With a defiant look the waitress walked off.

After he had enough food, Ewan tossed a few bills on the table, well enough to cover the price of his dinner two times over, then just walked out.

He had no idea where to go, while trying to decide on a direction, the waitress came running after him.

“Hey! You! Wait up!”

“What now? What else you want from me?”

“Here it is customary to ask for the check and pay the amount on it, plus a fair tip.”

“I did pay.”

“Yeah, almost three times what you owe.”

“Consider it a tip.”

“No thanks, not from you, city boy. Here is your change! I don’t want ANY tip from you!”

“Well, you didn’t do much to earn one anyway.”

Ewan turned and walked off, the girl following.

“What now? Stalk much?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I live that direction and my shift is over.”

“Thanks for the warning, I’ll go that way then.” Ewan turned around and walked past her in the opposite direction.

“You are such a baby!”

“Takes one to know one.” Ewan said without stopping.

He heard footsteps, then she was next to him.

“So what are you going to do about your car?”

“I’ll figure it out.”

“Okay, stop walking. That is the way straight into the desert. There really is nothing there, just an abandoned lab, desolation and rattlesnakes.” she cut him off by standing in his way.

“Sounds like a vacation after meeting you.”

“Definitely an only child. Your mommy really didn’t do you any favors by spoiling you so much.”

Ewan grimaced.

“I grew up with three siblings, plus two I don’t really know, for your info and my mother was no mother at all! My big sister and my dad raised me, with lots of help by my uncle and aunt who just died two weeks ago, but I didn’t know and missed that goddamn funeral.” Ewan yelled at her, fighting his emotions. There was the guilt again. He had barely checked his phone since leaving Del Sol Valley on a whim and when he finally did, he was too late. It had been eating on him ever since.

“Shit – I am sorry.” she said.

“Yeah, thanks. Bye!”

Ewan walked off again.

“Hey, I wasn’t kidding. That road literally goes nowhere.”

“Perfect, matches the rest of my life.”

“That bad, huh? I get it, I thought I detected a gone-off-the-grid vibe from you.” once more she stepped in front of him and stood tall.

“Leave me alone, okay?” Ewan told her.

“Nope. You die out there, it’d be on my conscience. So, I’ll have to stay with you to protect you, city boy. And I am not loving that idea at all.”

“No, thanks! I don’t need protection. Death actually sounds merciful after meeting you.”

“Wasn’t an offer. And straight back at ya. You’re not prize either, but out here, we look out for each other.”

“GO AWAY! I am not part of your flock, so worry about your own shit and keep your nose out of mine.”

“Nope!”

“Oh my God! This town has about 20 people and I find the one crazy stalker!”

“If you live here long enough, you automatically become crazy. We’re all crazy here. And stalkers. Nothing ever really happens here.”

“Other crazy people live vicariously through TV and internet then. Go do that.”

“I would, but we have none of that at the trailer.”

“No shit?” now it dawned on Ewan why she didn’t seem to react like pretty much every other female between 13 and 99 did. Sooner or later, every one of them had recognized him and gone gooey-eyed. The only honorable mentions would be Hannah and Charlotte, but Charlotte had her own baggage, and even he paled compared to the royalty she used to run with. She was basically a female version of Eric. He noticed quickly that in the small hick towns, most people either had no clue who he was or didn’t give a hoot, especially if he was careful not to socialize any more than necessary. This had already been the longest conversation he had with the same person since he left home weeks ago.

“Nah. Overrated anyway. Dulls the mind and gives you unrealistic expectations. I can entertain myself.” she informed him.

“By torturing your customers?”

“Not a customer now …”

“Stop following me!”

“Stop walking that way! I’ll take you to our motel, since it’s the only place to stay for outsiders in a 100 mile radius I assume that’s where you spent the night. There you are safe. Well, safe-ish. There has been the occasional murder, but on the bright side, not by rattle snakes.”

“If I go there with you, promise you will leave me alone?”

“You got it!”

“Lead the way.”

He followed her to said motel, evading every single one of her questions. What a nutjob that waitress from hell was. Annoying too.

At the motel she was suddenly gone, walked off without a greeting or another word, which made Ewan feel odd too. He wanted to say something, thank her, as deep inside he was more glad than he would ever admit that she walked him home, no telling how long it would have taken him to find the motel on his own. He was dead tired and so glad he was somewhere he could get a good night’s rest. Still, he didn’t feel like chasing her down.

Ewan walked to his room, dropped on the bed and fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.

First thing the next morning he went to see the manager.

“Hey, know anyone who could take a look at my car? I heard your village car repairman died. Anyone else who can fix it?”

“I can call Cooper for ya. If it has an engine, Cooper can fix it.” was the short bellowed response.

“Please do! Car’s in your lot, the silver one. Here are the keys. Just let me know when it’s done, ok? I can’t wait to get back on the road.” Ewan dropped the keys to his rental on the counter.

“Yeah, you bet.” Ewan missed the facial expression of the hotel manager as he took the keys while shaking his head, realizing that Ewan was not used to small town life at all.

About two hours later there was a knock on Ewan’s door, when he answered he found the waitress from last night.

“What do YOU want again?!” he barked. Not her again!

“It’s fixed.” she handed him the keys.

“What? The car? That was fast.” shocked and surprised he took them looking at them as if he had never seen car keys before.

“Yup, I can be fast sometimes. Gotta get to work. Have a good trip.”

Ewan snapped out of his paralysis.

“Oh hell no! Come on! YOU are Cooper? YOU fixed my car? Gimme ten thousand breaks!”

“Yup.” she shrugged.

Ewan cursed.

“So, Cooper, huh? I thought you’d be a dude.”

“Sorry to disappoint. If it makes you feel any better, Cooper’s my last name.”

“You helped me a lot. How much do I owe you? For the car.” Ewan offered, the relief sinking in.

“Forget it.”

“Please, how much?”

“Nothing. Easy fix. If I were to take any money from you for this, it’d be like taking candy from a toddler.”

“What was broken? Just so next time I can fix it myself unless something essential needs to be replaced.” Ewan said that to sound manly. He neither had a clue nor any interest in anything technical regarding cars and wouldn’t know what to do even if she told him.

“Yeah, the driver. The current one is a regular Einstein, left the lights on overnight, battery was dead. I jumped ya, purrs like a charm.”

“Oh – crap.” Ewan felt instant humiliation. His own cars had automatic lights.

“Yup.” she confirmed.

“Okay, come on now … there must be something I can do for you, to thank you.”

“Nah, that’s okay. You really have nothing that I’d want. I don’t need your money.”

“So you work at the shitty diner in a crappy town for fun, while you live off air and love?” Ewan mocked.

“No, you sarcastic prick. I do what I have to. But that’s none of your business. Take your money and shove it till it won’t go any further. Over and out! BYE!” she turned and just walked off.

“Ok, ok, bye, you rude psycho bitch!”

Ewan watched her walk off, feeling bad about it all.

At least she fixed his car. He got packed, paid and was on the road again before noon.

He snorted a laugh when driving by the exit sign on his way out of town, it felt like mockery when he read “Come back soon!”

“Ha, yeah, right, soon as pigs fly! Farewell hellhole!” he smirked.

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