The sign read "Harpersville – 1 mile" and just beyond it another sign listed the restaurants and other services available at the exit. I needed gas and there was a Conoco station at the exit and I had a Conoco card so I pulled into the right lane and slowed for the exit.
As I filled the tank I looked around and saw that there was a restaurant across the street. It was a little early for supper, but what the hell, I was already stopped. After I topped off I drove over to the restaurant and went inside. It had a nice 'homey' atmosphere and there were some nice aromas wafting through the place.
I took a seat in a booth and had no sooner sat down when an extremely attractive waitress came up, handed me a menu and asked:
"What would you like to drink hon?"
I smiled at the "hon" and thought "Don't I just wish I could be her honey." I told her coffee with cream and when she went to get it I looked over the menu and settled on the liver and onions with mashed potatoes and green beans. The waitress, Joyce was the name on her tag, took my order and I watched her ass move in her jeans as she walked toward the kitchen to turn in my order.
It was a little early for supper so the place wasn't really busy, at least not busy enough to keep the two waitresses fully occupied. Joyce, apparently with nothing better to do, came over and said:
"I've not seen you in here before."
"Never been in here before. Just passing through."
"That seems to be the way it always is. The good looking guys are always just passing through."
"Pickings that slim around here?"
"Worse than slim. There are some nice looking guys, but almost all of them are losers. Only interested in hunting, fishing, car racing and drinking."
"Then why stay here?"
"Where would I go? I never finished high school so I doubt I could get a good enough job to be on my own. At least here I can still live at home."
"Good enough job? A good waitress can get a job anywhere. Most of the waitresses I knew back home did real well."
"I do okay here."
"Then you could do okay anywhere."
A bell rang and a voice called out "order up." And Joyce said, "That'll be you hon" and she headed for the kitchen. She was back in a minute with my meal. She left and came back a minute later and topped off my coffee cup. She walked through the place and topped off everyone else's coffee and then went back behind the counter where the cash register was.
I noticed as I ate that she was watching me. I wondered if maybe it might be to my advantage to linger a few days in Harpersville. I could make Rancho Mirage in two days and I didn't need to be there for another nine days. Joyce saw me finish my meal and she came over and asked me if I would like dessert and I took a pass on it. She started to leave and then she hesitated.
"You said that you were just passing through. Where are you headed?"
"Rancho Mirage in California. I have a job waiting for me there."
"California? I'd like to see California some day. I'm twenty-two years old and I've never been more than a hundred miles from this place."
"So go. Just pack your bags and go."
She had a wistful look on her face and I have no idea why I said it, but I looked into her eyes and said:
"Pack your bags, throw them in my truck and you can keep me company on the ride."
"I couldn't do that. What would I do when I got there? Where would I go? Where would I stay?"
"As for what you would do I've already told you that a good waitress can get a job anywhere. As for where you would stay you can stay with me until you find a place of your own. I'll be staying with my brother and his wife and they have plenty of room."
"You make it sound so easy."
"I don't know about easy, but I do know that you can sit around and wish for this or that, but you aren't likely to get it if you don't get off your butt and go for it."
She laughed and said, "That's true, but I don't know you. I don't know anything about you. For all I know you might be an axe murderer."
"I know just as little about you. For all I know there is a jealous husband watching us talk and he might be out in the parking lot waiting to kick my ass when I leave."
"No fear of that. There isn't a man living in this county I'd let myself be caught dead with."
"Tell you what. I don't need to be there for another nine days. I can stay over here for a day or two and you can get to know me better. Where is a good motel?"
"Take a left out of the parking lot and three blocks down on the left."
"What time do you get off work?"
"I'll pick you up at nine and we can go somewhere for a drink and get to know each other."
"You are serious?"
I paid my check and drove over to the Bide-A-Wee motel and took a room for a night. Then I drove around the town looking the place over to give me something to do until nine. At nine when I got to the restaurant Joyce was already standing outside waiting. She got in the car and I asked:
"There is a bar on the south end of town called Baxter's. It is a lot quieter than the Texas Roadhouse on the other end of town."
As we drove to the bar she said, "I can't believe I'm doing this."
"Thinking of taking you up on your offer."
"Oh come on Joyce; you have had to want to leave this place at one time or another. You must have wanted to see other places."
"Oh I have; I've just never had a chance. First pa had a stroke and mom needed help taking care of him. Then he died and mom had a stroke and I had to quit school to take care of her. Six months ago she passed and I just haven't seemed to come up with any ambition."
By then we were at Baxter's and we went inside and found a table. Joyce said:
"I've wanted to leave here, but I never had any idea of where to go. I don't have any family left here and I don't have any family any place else. I guess I'm just afraid to go off on my own."
"So you have no preference? North, south, east or west; it doesn't matter?"
"No. I'd just like to leave here."
Some one fired up the juke box while we were talking and a guy walked up to the table and said:
"Come on Joyce baby; dance with me."
"I'm with some one Clint."
"So what? He won't mind will you buddy."
He said it as a statement and not as a question. I didn't know the lay of the land so I took the safe way out and said:
"It's up to the lady."
"See Joyce? Come on babe."
He reached for her arm and she jerked it away from him. "I don't want to dance with you. Go away." She turned to me and said, "It was a mistake to come here. We can go back to the restaurant and talk there."
She got up and I followed as she headed for the door. The guy grabbed her arm and said:
"Don't you walk away from me slut!"
She jerked her arm away from him and he reached for her again and I grabbed his arm and said:
"Keep your hands to yourself bud."
He pulled his arm away from me and said, "Butt out asshole; this is between me and the slut."
"The lady doesn't appear to want your attentions."
"Look asswipe" he said as he poked me in the chest and I hit him in the face with my right and I put my full two hundred pounds into the punch. He went down like a pole-axed steer. Blood was spurting out his nose as he struggled to get up, but I moved over and put my foot down on his throat and pushed down. He grabbed my ankle and tried to push me off, but I put my weight on it and said:
"Best you stay down buddy. If you stand up and try to carry on I'll put you in the hospital and you can take that to the bank."
He let go of my ankle and said, "Fuck it! The slut isn't worth it."
Joyce tugged my arm and said, "Come on. We'd better get out of here."
As we pulled out of the parking lot Joyce said, "I guess you won't want me travelling with you now."
"Why? Why would what just happened with that loud mouth matter?"
"Because what he said is true. I have been a slut. I stopped a year ago, but before I stopped I was pretty much a round heeled tramp."
"So? That is in the past right? So what does that have to do with today or tomorrow?"
She shrugged and said, "Nothing I guess. God, but I do hate this place."
"So when you get home start packing."
She was silent for a bit and then she said, "You need to leave. I know Clint. He isn't going to take what you did to him lying down. He's probably on the phone to his brothers and a couple of cousins right now and they will be looking for you."
"No problem. I can leave right now. How fast can you pack?"
"You mean it? You really mean it? You would take me with you?"
"Of course I meant it. I wouldn't have brought it up if I wasn't going to follow through on it."
"Turn here" she said and then she pointed. Third house on the left."
I pulled into the drive and parked. "Come on" she said, "I'll make a pot of coffee and then pack. How much can I take?"
"I've got plenty of room as long as you don't want to take any furniture."
Four suitcases and three garbage bags later we were on our way to my motel.
"Do we need to stick around until tomorrow so you can do things like see to the house?"
"The house belongs to the bank. They took it when mom died and I couldn't make the payments. They have been letting me stay there and pay rent."
"Need to stop by the bank or anything?"
.... There is more of this story ...