Evelyn Jacobs wished she could call the her unplanned stop the result of a freak snowstorm. She couldn't because she knew full well that there was a large storm predicted for the North Carolina mountains. She also knew that she had driven through them before with only minor inconveniences. That December 18th storm proved to be more than a minor inconvenience.
For one thing a rather large chunk of mountain got to heavy with the accumulation of snow. The already weakened boulder just decided that it was past time to roll down the mountain. It would have been a typical small landslide on any other day. On that day it was a small avalanche. A rather significant bit of I40 got itself closed.
That kind of thing happened often in the mountains of North Carolina. They were after all old mountains and susceptible to just shedding boulders like a snake sheds it's skin. The thing that made that slide different from the ones before, the ones that caused the rerouting of traffic, was that there was no where to send the traffic.
The mini blizzard had dumped a foot of snow on the winding two lane roads that had once carried the same traffic that was backing up on I40 that afternoon. Evelyn watched traffic creep forward and other sparse traffic pass her going in the other direction. She knew about the closed road because her car radio, which seldom got used, blared news and country music from an Asheville North Carolina station.
The radio informed her that traffic was not being rerouted it was being turned back. At least for a while the road would be closed to all traffic in either direction. She rightly assumed the oncoming traffic was the result of cars on the return trip to someplace other than deeper into the North Carolina Mountains.
Evelyn was on a mission from Tennessee to a private school for pampered children with tiny behavioral problems. It was a private academy nestled in a valley in the North Carolina mountains. She was on a mission to rescue her son for Christmas. She absolutely refused to allow Justin to spend Christmas at that school. As a matter of fact she refused to allow him to spend Christmas with his father. The father just happened to also be her ex husband. How she had allowed him to send Justin to the school was almost impossible to remember.
Of course she knew why. Justin had tried to set fire to his father's apartment. She had never heard the whole story but knew it was more than she had been told. The District Attorney had accepted a plea bargain. Justin would be on 2 years of supervised probation in exchange for staying out of the detention center. When the judge required that she and her husband submit a plan that guaranteed his supervision, the real problems began.
Mark refused to agree to her supervising Justin. According to him, if she was capable, Justin would not have poured the quart of model airplane gas on the dining room carpet. No one could explain where he found the five wooden matches he used to start the actual fired. No one they knew had any use for kitchen matches.
Evelyn refused to allow Mark to supervise Justin. She didn't think he had the ability to put the incident behind him and allow Mark any kind of life. The school was a compromise. Justin swore it was the detention center with manners. It was locking him up alright but without the gang member to injure him or teach him more bad habits.
Evelyn had spent an hour musing about the events of her life that culminated on her stalled on an Interstate highway with the sun setting. The sun set early in December, especially in the mountains. She looked up into the blinding snow to see the flashing light of a police cruiser pulled to the side of the road. She noted with some degree of satisfaction that the highway patrolman talking to the driver ahead looked hunched over and pretty miserable.
"Why should I be the only one," she said aloud to her empty car. Finally it was her turn.
"Ma'am the road is closed ahead. There has been a landslide due to the snowfall. You can't make it around on the secondary roads because they are covered with a foot and a half of new snow. The snow plows will have them open by morning but by then we might have this stretch of the highway open. Most everyone is going back to find motels for the night."
"I don't want to go back, I have to get to Glade Valley Academy. My son is expecting me to pick him up. The School closes for Christmas tomorrow."
"Not much I can tell you. There is a truck stop up ahead. You can wait there if you don't want to go back and wait for the secondary roads to clear. I can't tell you which is more likely to happen first."
"I don't know what to do," she replied.
"It don't matter none to me Ma'am but you got to move the car. You are holding up traffic."
Evelyn drove straight head in a huff. She was angry at the cop, the situation and God. She had feared the truck stop would be a small frame diner. She was pleasantly surprised to fine it a modern large facility with a large parking lot. There were a few trucks and even a half dozen motor homes in the lot. The overwhelming number of vehicles were cars. It seemed a whole lot of people, just like her, needed to push on. Well they weren't likely to be like her, but still it seemed a heck of a lot had refused to turn tail and run from the storm.
She wasn't cold till she stepped from the large German touring car. The icy wind and wet snow assaulted her. There was no other way to put it, she felt violated by the cold. She began to shiver long before she reached the door of the truck stop. All those other intrepid souls had taken the close spaces, leaving her to park at a far corner of the lot. Her designer boots were not designed for a foot and a half of snow.
Her feet were soaked when she reached the concrete blocks building. The fancy slick paint couldn't disguise that it was made from the cheapest building materials possible. She guessed that truckers and the like weren't impressed by fancy brickwork.
Once she passed through the stainless steel and glass entrance way, her sense were again assaulted. That time it was by the noise. The restaurant like all restaurants was not really designed to ever be filled to absolute capacity. That night the I40 truck stop was overfilled.
She entered the dining room. Dinner was on her mind but an even more basic need was coffee, lots of coffee. She was searching for the ladies room when a teenager approached. Since the girl was in a kind of uniform she decided that she was harmless.
"Hi, you wanna eat?"
"First I want to find the ladies room." Evelyn said.
"Well the dining room is filling up fast but the ladies room is behind you." The teenager pointed to the wall at the end of the entrance. Evelyn didn't see how she had missed it. Evelyn was also familiar with threats by service people to convince customers to do as they wished.
"I'll take my chances," she replied as she turned for the bathroom.
Five minutes later Evelyn returned to the dining room. Instead of being the only one in line, she was been downgraded to number five.
"I'm sorry, but you folks are going to have to wait until the room clears some." The teenager said it almost sadly. Probably more because she was tired than any other reason.
"I'm alone young lady, isn't there a table for one somewhere?" Evelyn asked it and was immediately sorry that she had. The father of the family ahead of her glared at her.
"If you don't sharing a table there are a couple of people alone. I can probably get one to them to share."
"That would be fine." It took a couple of minutes but the teenager returned to lead her to a table. The table was a postage stamp but it had an empty plate sitting on the side opposite a large man.
The man was close to three hundred pounds at least. He was also close to twenty years older than Evelyn's 42 years. He was no doubt an old biker gone to seed. The long white hair and the beer belly betrayed him. Of course the grease stained jeans didn't hide his identity either.
"I'm sorry, it's the best I could do," the hostess said to her as she fled.
Evelyn knew how to handle herself. After all she was used to tough guys. "Hi, I'm Evelyn." she said it to defuse any possible problems later. Hard to get down on someone who is being nice to you.
"Deacon," he replied shortly.
"Is that your name or a title?" she was smiling broadly. She was determined to be nice to the old man. No since antagonizing your dinner 'date', she thought.
"It's what they call me, but it ain't my Christian name." He went back to his coffee cup. It was the strangest cup she had ever seen. It couldn't belong to the restaurant, she decided. The cup had to hold three times as much coffee as a regular coffee cup.
Evelyn was tempted to just ignore him, since he seemed to be ignoring her. There was something perverse in her nature and she knew it. Just because he wanted to be left in peace, she just couldn't do it.
"So Deacon, what brings you out on a night like this?" She was saved by his instant remark by the arrival of the waitress. He looked out the window as she placed her order."
"I'm sorry Ma'am we are all out of fish."
"Then I'll have the baked chicken," she offered.
"Ma'am all we got left is hamburger." The teenager smiled showing bad teeth.
"Well bring me whatever you have and coffee, lots of coffee." She paused then went on, "In a cup like his." She pointed to her companion's spaceship shaped coffee cup.
"We don't have none of them."
"Okay, just lots of coffee." The waitress left before she returned to the Deacon. "So where did you get the coffee cup."
"Goodwill store in some town down on the coast I think."
"You never did tell me what you are doing out in this storm."
"Headed home," he replied.
"So you a truck driver?"
"No Ma'am, just a traveler, headed home for Christmas."
"Deacon, you are old enough to be my father. Why don't you call me Evelyn instead of the southern Ma'am."
"Fair enough Evelyn. So what the hell are you doing out in this mess alone."
"You ever hear of Glade Valley Academy?"
"Sure, I'm from North Carolina."
"I have a son there. I'm gonna take him home for Christmas."
"That's a good idea. Kids don't need to be in a place like that over Christmas."
"A lot are, I am told," Evelyn confirmed.
"Well it ain't right but it also ain't none of my business."
"Okay if you don't drive a truck what does an old biker do?" She obviously thought she would score some points and move the conversation along with the remark.
"Old biker," he said it with a laugh. One that caused people around to turn. "I guess with the long hair and fat ass, I do look like that."
Evelyn was embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to insult you."
"Hell lady, that weren't no insult." He said it in a good old boy drawl. One she hadn't heard before. "That was a compliment for a wimp like me."
"Excuse me Deacon, you just don't look like a wimp to me. You look a little dangerous."
"Don't let the long hair and beard fool you." He made the declaration with a grin.
Evelyn's burger arrived. She looked a little disgusted but dived into it. She had forgotten how good red meat with mayonnaise was. The lettuce and tomato were the only healthy things on it. Still since she had no choice she felt no guilt in eating it. She was almost finished when she heard the female voice.
"Damn it Deacon, how come the heroes in your books never get the girls?"
"Are you kidding most of those women would eat my heroes up." He smiled up at the coarse looking woman. "It's good to see you again Lucille."
"I see you still driving around talking to truckers."
"Not many other folks want to talk to someone who looks like me." He looked right into Evelyn's eyes.
"Where you sleepin tonight?"
"In the camper, why? You planing to make me a better offer."
"Not a chance, Harry is along this trip. You know he hates you."
"Yeah I know. He don't have no reason to be jealous."
"Sure he does," the rough looking blonde said as she kissed him. It was a kiss just a little too long, and most likely with tongue, Evelyn thought. The blonde moved away before Evelyn spoke again.
"What did she mean, your heroes never get the girl."
"She didn't mean anything at all, just talk." He smiled but she didn't believe it.
"You got enough coffee Deacon?" the teenaged waitress with the bad teeth asked.
"No, I never get enough coffee."
"Good," The waitress said that as she filled his cup. "They tell me I'm supposed to give you decaf and not tell you."
"Sherry, you know better and they do to." He smiled at her.
"Well they did say to do it only if I had good insurance."
"I'm not that bad. I'm a pussy cat."
"More like a dog," the waitress replied with a grin that showed a hole where a tooth should have been.
"Not me," he replied smiling wickedly.
"Does everyone here know you?" Evelyn asked after the child had gone.
"God no, just a few who hang around here. I stop in now and then."
Before Evelyn could go on a skinny man in greasy jeans approached the table. He seemed a little shy. "Sherry said you wouldn't mind." He said it as he laid a small white box on the table. "It's for my wife."
"What's her name?" Deacon asked.
"Selma," the wiry man replied.
Evelyn watches as Deacon scribbled something on the box. He handed the box to the younger man who said, "Thanks Deacon, we are both big fans."
"So you're the two? I wondered who you were." It took a moment but the man finally got it. He laughed as he walked away.
"Okay that's it who the hell are you?"
"Just a stranded traveler just like you."
"You're some kind of musician? That was a CD he had you sign."