Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The cool air hits me in the face. It is good to take a break from the road. There is nothing like walking into a piece of genuine Americana, a greasy spoon with a stainless steel counter, stools, and a bottomless pot of chili on the stove bubbling away.

“Sit down, darling. Be with you in a minute.” A middle age woman in a pink uniform has her back to the counter scrambling some eggs for another customer.

I sit at the only available seat; the previous customer’s paper placemat has a few coffee stains on it. I don’t need a menu. I see the apple pie in a glass enclosure. The woman turns.

“What’ll you have?”

“You make the apple pie?” I smile at her and notice that her uniform is emblazoned with her name, “Jane.” I add the word, “Jane.”

“Last night. Want a slice?”

“I might end up eating the whole pie.” I laugh.

“That’s all right by me. Want anything with it.”

“Cup of coffee.”

“Cup of joe. And a slice. Anything else?” She’s pouring my coffee into a heavy white mug.

I spin on the stool and look up and down the counter. It’s pretty full for ten thirty in the morning. “Chili smells good but I’ll start slow.”

“Suit yourself. By the way, I’m not Jane. Sue. Jane was the woman here about six before me.” She laughs. “Trucker knocked her up. Moved to Chicago. Rodney you gonna suck that empty cup all morning?”

“I skewer the pie with my fork. The crust is flakey and the apple firm. Damn, brown sugar and cinnamon. I’m in heaven.

I’m enjoying each morsel of the pie when some write on the placemat catches my eye. It’s light pencil scribbles. Doodles but I look closer. It looks like a map. I move my plate and examine the scrawls.

Dilemmas come at the damndest times and places. In war these occurrences can change the outcome of a battle. In love they can destroy a relationship. I’m no genius but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

“Sue. There a Indian Joe around here?”

“Block over is Indian Joe’s Convenience store.”

“Have a telephone?”

“Cat got whiskers?” She winks at me.

“I’d like to make a call.”


“Yep. I’ll make it quick.”

A minute later I was on the line with the 911 operator. “I’m just guessing but if you haven’t had a call about a robbery at Indian Joe’s yet, you might soon.”

It’s amazing how the right words in the right place act like an incantation. Every conversation in the greasy spoon stopped. I could hear bacon slowly cooking on the griddle. I could feel eyes watching me.

“My name? Sure. John Tyler. I’m at.. I looked at Sue who was looking at me.

“Maggie’s.” I repeated the word to the telephone.

“That’s right. I’m at Maggie’s. I saw something suspicious on my placemat.” When I say that Sue cranes her neck to look at my placemat.

“Sure. I can wait. I’ll just have another piece of pie.”

“Damn fool.” Sue looks at me as I sit back down.

“Me?” I think maybe I’ve made a moral mistake. Maybe folks in this small town don’t care for Indian Joe’s.

“No, not you. Jimmy Smith. He was sitting here before you with Roger Baxter. Everybody in town knows they’ve got drug problem. You’d think he rob someplace other than his old man’s.”

Sue puts another slice of pie in front of me. “On the house. Ready for some chili?”