Whiskey

              Walking towards Bill's home, John was able to spy Lissie walking along the sidewalk.  She appeared wrapped in her thoughts and he was wary to call to her.  Once she reached the restaurant, she pulled open the door and went in.  John remained outside and considered entering.  He decided to continue onward. 

               Several minutes later, John stood outside the Hodges' home.  He waited on the sidewalk until he could see a light appear in the window.  He went to the front door and knocked.  Bill opened the door and appeared somewhat startled by John's presence.

               "John!" he exclaimed, "I wasn't expecting you.  Come on in.  Mrs. Hodge is brewing some tea."

               John followed him into the dining room and sat near Bill.  Refusing Martha's offer of tea, John began to pry Bill for information.

               "So, Bill, I've noticed that there's something eating at Lissie."

               "I've noticed it too.  I can't say for sure what it is though."

               "Sure?  You've known her longer than I have."

               "That's true, but she hasn't warmed up to me like she has with you."

               Bill began to leave the room.  At the threshold, he stopped and spoke to John.

               "If you really want to know, you should talk to her yourself.  She's not so reticent around you.  I'm sure she'll tell you."

               Martha walked into the room. 

               "Bill's right.  Don't go looking to us for information.  You're the only person she'd ever talk about things like that with."

               John thanked Bill and Martha Hodge and left the house.  He began walking towards Lissie's restaurant.  Once there, he was unable to see any activity inside. 

               "She must have returned to the house," thought John.

               He retraced his steps to her home and opened the front door.  Inside, he could hear Lissie fumbling with dishes and glasses.  The clink of glass stopped.  Lissie listened carefully for John's footsteps, and, upon hearing them, called to him.

               "John, I've been waiting for you."

               She pulled two glasses from the kitchen cabinet and handed one to John.  She returned to the kitchen and brought a bottle of whiskey back out. 

               "Whiskey?" John asked.

               Holding up the bottle, Lissie said to John, "I did win the chili cook-off; we might as well celebrate!"

               She poured him a glass and proceeded to fill hers.  The two sipped their drinks in quiet for some time.  He looked at her glass and saw that only a small amount of scotch remained at its bottom.  She filled it up once again. Without taking another sip, she spoke to John.

               "You know, John, I'm just tired of this place.  It's so small.  Nothing ever happens in Salton.  Oh, sure, they have a chili contest each year.  Big deal.  Back in New York, there were those things where the things go down the street.  You know what I'm talkin' about, right?"

               "Parades?"

               "Yeah, parades.  It also had plays, concerts, riots.  Riots!  New York had huge department stores full of stuff.  Skyscrapers, too.  There was snow.  It's always hotter than hell out here.  And here there's nothin'.  Nothin'.  It's just boring me to death.  I swear to God if I don't get out…"

               Lissie stood up from the couch.  She walked over to the stacks of sheet music and began to look through them.  Once she walked back to the couch, John could see that the sheets were scattered about.  Lissie fell back on the couch and continued to talk to him.

               "John, I've been wondering if me being here isn't just a waste of time.  I came here to get away from it all but I realized all I wanted to do was get away from my mom.  She was a horror."

               Even through Lissie's now slurred speech, John was able to make out these statements.

               "You know, I really need to get back to the city.  This place is so small but I don't know what to do."

               After Lissie remained silent for a few minutes, John realized that she had fallen asleep.  The bottle had slipped out from under her jacket and sat in her lap.  He took it and placed it on the table.  He managed to carry her to her bed and let her lie there for the rest of the night.  Once she was asleep on her bed, he moved to clean the clutter she had made in the living room. 

               Looking through the papers, John was unable to find any sort of pattern in her organization.  He attempted to order them into alphabetical order but the vast majority of the compositions lacked titles.  After much thought, he simply placed them in a neat stack and returned to the couch.  John sat there for some time, glass in hand, until his eyes closed and sleep overtook him.

              

               John awoke to the sound of Lissie walking about the living room.  She was wrapped in the same quilt she had placed on him nights ago.  She noticed John had woken up and began to speak.

`              "Good morning, John.  Sorry if I drank a little a much last night.  Did I talk your ear off?"

               "No, Lissie, you fell asleep after just a little while."

               She replied "Oh, that's good," and headed towards the kitchen.

               "I did talk your ear off, didn't I?" she asked.

               John answered with a curt "yes," and she continued into the kitchen.

               From within the room, she beckoned to John.  He complied and found her searching the pantry.

               "What are you looking for, Lissie?" asked John.

               "Anything really.  I'm pretty hungry."

               "Why I don't cook us something?"

               John quickly found a box of pancake mix from the pantry and a pan hidden in one of the drawers.  He had scarcely placed the batter in the pan before Lissie asked him, "Sure you know what you're doing?"

               "I was a chef in Kansas City, remember?"

               "Yeah, that's right.  I thought you just cleaned up food.  I didn't know you cooked it too."

               John turned his focus back to his cooking.  The pancake batter was turning a nice golden-brown and was almost ready.  Lissie stood behind him and looked at his work. 

               "Looks good enough to eat," she commented.

               John smiled and spoke.

               "Hold your horses, Lissie.  You'll get to eat soon enough."

               After only a few minutes more, John took two plates from the cupboard and placed them by the stove.  Using a spatula handed to him by Lissie, he placed an even number of pancakes on each dish.  Lissie grimaced at each plates portions and slid several cakes from one dish to the other.

               "Hungry, are we?" John quipped.

               "The bigger stack is for you.  I know your gonna have a big day ahead of you, fixing the truck and all."

               "Wait, is the truck here?"

               "It's sitting in Dave's garage.  He towed it early this morning."

               John returned to the stove and carried his plate over to the kitchen table. 

               "I really hope I can help Dave fix up my truck."

               "What do you mean?  I thought you were good with cars." asked Lissie.

               "Well, I know how to put gas in them, but pumping gas doesn't really teach you how to fix a car."

               Once Lissie had finished off the stack of flapjacks in front of her, she spoke to John.

               "Would it be okay if I came and helped?"

               "Sure."

               Lissie retreated to her bedroom and returned dressed in an white t-shirt and old jeans.

               "You sure look ready," commented John.

               Lissie grinned and walked to the front door.  John soon followed and the pair began walking to Dave's garage.  Near the center of town, Lissie stopped.  She began to look around which worried John.

               "You do know where you're going right?"

               "Of course," she replied.  "We just need to go a little further and take a right."

               John followed Lissie several hundred yards until they reached an intersection.  To their right, sat a large motel.  Its walls  displayed the effects of years of neglect.  The paint of its signs was cracked, the wooden frame of the walkway was rotting away, and each door and window was covered with large sheets of plywood.  A dry swimming pool outside the motel contained a pile of sand and rubble in one corner.  In another corner, John was able to spy furniture, now rotting, that used to furnish many of the motel rooms.

John looked at the building and thought about the possible events leading to its abandonment.         

               Lissie looked at the street sign on the corner and told John that the garage was "a short distance away."  Several minutes later, John was able to spy a lone building along the road.  He squinted and could barely make out a sign along its side that read, in large crimson letters, "Garage."  Lissie directed John towards this building and the set off in its direction.  They reached the garage and were greeted outside by Dave Bruner.  The two men, who had yet to meet, were introduced to each other by Lissie.  Dave shook John's hand and immediately began to discuss their reason for coming.

               "You're truck," he said, "will take a long time to fix.  Follow  me inside. 

               John and Lissie followed Bruner into the garage.  Once inside, they were able to see John's truck in the middle of the room.  The hood was propped open, revealing an engine almost entirely disassembled.

               "The engine overheated.  You saw steam when you pulled it over, right?"

               John nodded.

               "That's bad.  The hot weather couldn't have help."

               "How long could it take to fix?" asked John.

               Bruner rubbed his stubbly jaw with his hand and spoke.  "It'll take about a month to get all the parts in."

               "And the price?"

               "It could get pricey.  Fortunately for you, Bill told me he would pay for all of it."

               "He did?" asked Lissie.

               "Sure did.  Now, if you want a new paintjob, I can do that for you.  Bill did say he'd pay for 'everything'."

               John and Lissie replied together, "I think we'll just stick with the engine."

 

               "Suit yourselves."

               John and Lissie left the garage.  On the way back to the center of Salton, they talked about John's leaving.  Lissie understood that John planned to travel east.  As he discussed his plans, she gave up any hope of traveling to Los Angeles.  She accepted this and did not discuss it with John.  She feared that he would think her a naïve dreamer.  As John continued discussing his plans, Lissie turned to face him.

               "John, why do you travel around the country?" she asked.       

               "I guess I've never been able to find someplace.  When I first started this odyssey, I was simply trying to find some sort of truth about the world.  My father's actions had impressed upon me the idea that we could never escape our past.  I managed to dissuade this idea once I started to make my own money.  I felt free, liberated.  Now I all want is to settle down.  I've longed for someplace where I can rest my head each night.

The End

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