(So – this is one of the story elements in Book 8. And – the rest will be revealed at a later date. Yes – I live to tantalize.)

Tip Top Ice House Gas & Grocery

Tip Top Ice House Gas & Grocery

Custody Dispute

 

Another day of rewarding work at the Café – Richard set his bike homeward, towards the Age, and what he had begun to think of as home, the little polished-aluminum caravan parked there. It was mid-afternoon on a Thursday. His Kate, his Dear Lady Tongue, had reported by a cellphone conversation earlier in the day. Her research on a story would take her from Beeville to Karnesville in the late afternoon – might she come by the Age for a supper, and possibly a cuddle?

Even though the cuddle would most likely be with Ozzie, King of Kings and Captain Kitten in his internet guise, rather than himself, Richard assented with happy anticipation. Yes – another splendid supper and sparkling conversation with Kate, his Kate of Kate Hall, his comfortable and affectionate friend, the woman who knew him for all his many faults and appeared to love him anyway. He headed away from the Café, leaving preparations for the next day in the mostly-capable hands of Luc, sometime drummer for a local band most famed for a name which gravitated in many directions from their initials – OPM – and his trained and trusty apprentices… planning in his mind a private, haute-cuisine classical French menu for his Kate, from what he knew to be on hand in the miniscule refrigerator in the Airstream, combined with snippings of herbs and salad greens from the bounty of the raised beds so lovingly-cultivated out in back of the Café. As he pedaled through the tree-shaded outskirts of Luna City towards Route 123, Richard realized that there was no cream in the little caravan refrigerator – bugger! So much for a simple dessert, and for a touch of crème fraiche … hang on, perhaps the Tip Top might have … yes, indeed. Under the management of Chris Mayall, the crowded and battered old shelves of the Tip Top Ice House, Gas and Grocery contained an unexpectedly broad variety of grocery items: mostly canned and refrigerated, bottled water and sodas, candy bars and dried beef jerky, crackers … indeed, everything but fresh green vegetables and fruits. A half-pint of cream – Richard veered into the crumbling apron of broken macadam paving which merged almost imperceptibly with the shoulder of Route 123, just before it narrowed again to cross the river on a newly-renovated four-lane bridge.

There was a single car parked in front of the Tip Top’s sagging verandah; not that there was ever much of a crowd in the Tip Top on weekdays, and certainly not in the parking lot, unless there was a big do at the VFW post – that pink former classroom, in the grove of trees behind the Tip Top.

“Behave yourself, Ozzie,” Richard ordered his feline familiar, who was quite accustomed to the familiar routine: a day of hunting small vermin along the backside of the block of buildings which formed the northern side of Town Square, and a short ride in the plastic crate (which had originally been used for gallon jugs of milk) strapped to the rear of Richard’s bicycle. A return to the small caravan at the Age, home-sweet-home, a home of comfy soft surfaces, shelter from the dark and cold, and hungry predators who might make a nocturnal meal of a small, brindle one-eyed cat. “Back in a tick – your favorite of the female of our species is coming for a brief visit…”

“Mrrow!” Ozzie replied, butting the top of his brindle head against Richard’s careless caress. Richard went in through the swinging door of the Tip Top, utterly confident that Ozzie would be still in the basket strapped to the back of his mountain bike – like Richard himself, Ozzie was a creature of rigid habit. More »