Jesse Lee pulled the truck into the tiny parking lot beside Della’s Cafe and before she could turn it off, Dee rolled into the spot beside her. Jesse could see a big grin on Dee’s face as she waved her over.
She slid into the passenger seat of Dee’s little Mustang and was slightly annoyed by her overly excited friend. This was serious to Jesse Lee and Dee was acting like they were on some kind of fun adventure. “Ok, Ok, I have a plan,” Dee started. “Hey, what’s up? You look sad Jesse.” she continued. “Dee, this is serious. I hardly slept last night, my brain is tired from running all the possibilities thru it. And – I am kinda nervous about going in here.” Jesse answered.
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Both of them sat quiet for a few moments. Dee was twisting a handful of her blond hair again and Jesse knew she was nervous as well. Maybe more excited than nervous. “I know it’s serious Jesse. I have also been thinking about possible answers, but we are not going to find out sitting out here.”
Jesse took the initiative next with suggesting they sit near Clive and Rita. They were good people who ranched in the nearby valley. Both of them were quite the busy bodies and Rita as nosy as they come. “Yeah,” Dee replied. “Rita is the best gossip I know.” she laughed. “Good idea Jesse. And if we don’t hear anything, we can probably catch ol’ Joe out back when he goes for a smoke.”
Trotting was a small town and Della’s café had been around as long as the girls could remember. It was the go to place for many of the locals, for good reason. The food was the best and the service was always friendly. Della had passed away about 5 years back and her daughter and son in law took the place over. They didn’t change a thing and most folks were thankful for that.
The girls made a quick survey as they went in. It wasn’t busy. Most had been in earlier for breakfast. It was the perfect time thou, to catch those who stayed around to visit with each other. Dee called it the gossip hour. A couple of old timers were seated at the counter. Jesse Lee noticed Peter at the far end. He was always there alone and quiet. He puzzled Jesse because everyone seemed to like Peter but he didn’t make friends. Oh, he was friendly enough when you talked to him but he preferred his own company she guessed. Some said he was a tad off.
Dee tugged on Jesse’s sleeve. “Come on.” they grabbed the booth next to Clive and Rita and Dee said a “good morning” to them. “Good morning girls. Haven’t seen you two for awhile. I bet your glad that school is out” Rita started. “For sure and you will probably see more of us now.” Dee replied. “Hey Jesse, did your dad get the cows up to summer pasture yet?” asked Clive. “Yes, they got them moved up Saturday.” Jesse answered.
Maryann arrived to get their order. Dee ordered a huge breakfast. “I did not eat at home this morning.” she said “I’m starved.” “I didn’t either.” Jesse replied. “but I am not very hungry.” “Wheat toast with jelly.” she told Maryann.
They sat quiet for a minute and then Jesse got up to go to the restroom as they planned. Dee sat with her back to Clive and Rita in the next booth. She knew she would be able to hear anything they said while Jesse was gone. They pratted on and on about things but nothing of interest. Jesse returned about the same time as Maryann brought their breakfast. She shot a look at Dee. She shook her blond head in disappointment. “Nothing.” Jesse thought and they would not get anything either as Clive and Rita were getting up to leave. “You gals take care.” Rita smiled as they moved towards the door. “Thanks.” Dee answered.
“That was a bust,” Jesse said as she fiddled with her toast. “That’s Ok. We will catch ol’ Joe out back when we leave.” Dee answered. “Joe knows everything that goes on around this whole county.” she continued. “Problem is he stays pretty tight lipped. It’s hard to get much out of him and I am trying to think of a way we might get him to let something loose without letting him know what we are looking for.” Jesse knew she was right about Joe.
Just then the door opened and a young man came in. Jesse could not take her eyes off him as he made his way to the counter and sat down. Dee noticed Jesse’s fixed stare and turned to see what she was looking at. “Dang.” She said turning back to Jesse. “Now that is one good looking cowboy.” “Hey.” Dee snapped her fingers. Jesse smiled as she tore her gaze away from the cowboy and back to her friend. “My, my.” Dee went on with a giggle. “You seem to have stared a hole in his back.” “Shusss. He will hear you.” Jesse replied finishing her last bite of toast.
She had been startled by his good looks. Dee was right “Dang.” She noticed how well her wore his wranglers and who would not notice his deep tan features and coal black hair. He reminded her of a young Adam Beach in one of the movies she had saw him in. Squanto or Skin Walkers maybe. Of course, without the buckskins and feather, and his hair was not that long. “Do you think he is from the rez?” Dee broke in. But Jesse didn’t hear her. She glanced his way again and met his eyes looking back at her. She quickly looked back at her plate. She was flustered, but why? Sure, he was a good looking guy but she had seen good looking guys before. Why did she feel so un-nerved?
Maryann came by and asked if the girls needed anything else. “Yeah,” Dee whispered to her. “Who is that guy at the counter? Don’t remember ever seeing him before.” Jesse shot Dee a look that meant – please stop. Maryann grinned, bent over to whisper in Dee’s ear and then shuffled her plump little self back behind the counter. Jesse watched her pour him a 2nd cup of coffee and she could see they were chatting. How she wished she could hear what they were saying.
“His name is Avon and he is the new hired guy out at Star Fire.” Dee whispered across the table. Jesse seen that big grin on Dee’s face. “Stop it Dee.” “Ok then. Now we need to get back to what we came here for.” Dee said, with seriousness. Right Jesse thought. Ol’ Joe was probably ducking out back about now since the place had slowed down.
“If we are going to think about getting anything out of Joe, I might just have to be honest with him.” Jesse mumbled. “I don’t think he would tell anyone, do you?” She looked seriously at Dee. “If you ask him not to, he won’t” Dee replied. “But… are you sure you want to?” Jesse thought for a moment. “Yes, I have to find out!”
The girls had ponied up their money for breakfast and Dee grabbed it up. “Maryann will pick it up like always.” Jesse said with a questioning look on her face. “Oh, I know, but I am going to go pay at the counter.” and before Jesse could say another word, Dee was up and moving. Now Jesse was afraid Dee might do something embarrassing and she hustled out the door and back to the parking lot.
She stood there flustered. Avon huh? New man out at the Star Fire place. She wanted to know more. The Star Fire was a combination cattle and horse ranch. They ran a pretty good sized spread and besides their impressive herd of red angus cattle, they raised some outstanding horses. She had heard her Dad talk about them with a lot of respect. His horse, Skeeter, had come from Star Fire and was as good a cow horse as you could find. Her train of thought was broken as Dee came around the corner in a flurry. “I gotta run down to the Pharmacy for my Mom.” she huffed. “Got stuff to tell you thou. Go see Joe and I will meet you down at the park in about an hour.” And with that Dee was firing up her Mustang.
Joe was kind of like an Uncle to Jesse Lee. She remembered when she was just a youngster, sneaking out of the café while the folks were having breakfast to go around back and visit with ol’ Joe while he had a smoke. He had worked with horses his whole life until he got busted up pretty good about 10 years back. Since that he seemed happy cooking at the café. Most folks were happy about it too as he was good at it. Jesse liked talking horses and she learned a lot from him. Even as she grew up she always continued to make a little trip around back before leaving. Joe always had a good horse story to tell.
Jesse Lee hustled around the back of the building and sure enough, there was Joe, just lighting up a smoke. “Hey Jesse.” “Hi Joe, thought I might catch you back here.” She started. “What ya up to Jesse?” he asked quizzically. “Well.” Jesse halted for a moment trying to gather her thoughts and put them into words. “What’s on your mind?” Joe said as he took a long draw from his Marlboro. She hesitated for a moment. “Joe, I want to ask you something but you have to promise to keep it between you and me. I mean you can’t tell anyone. Especially not my folks.” She took a breath and waited.
“Let’s see now.” he started. “You in trouble Jesse? Cuz if your in trouble then it’s not something I would keep from your folks.” “No, no. Not in any trouble. It’s….. it’s kind of a family thing from the past that I need to know about. I don’t want to ask my folks as it could be embarrassing.” she finished. She seen a guarded look in his eye and he nervously took another drag from his cigarette.
“Well, your a grown woman now Jesse, so if your not in trouble I reckon I can keep your question to myself. Not sure I would have any answers for ya thou.” Then she just spit it out there. “I need to know if my Mama had an affair or if I am adopted. I heard a rumor…………..” she trailed off.
She clearly saw the look in Joe’s eyes. He was taken by surprise. But more so, she could tell he knew something. He stamped out his cigarette butt and his words came slow and careful. “Jesse girl, these are questions for your Mama, not ol’ Joe. I gotta get back in to work now.” And with that he was gone thru the back door leaving Jesse standing there as confused as ever. Maybe he was just shocked by her question but the way he hurried off make her think he DID know something.
She walked back around the side of the café to the truck. She would tell Dee and get her take on it. She jumped in and turned the key… nothing. Dead. “Dang this old truck.” she said, as she slammed the door and went around to lift the hood.
“Got a problem?”……. Jesse never heard that voice before, yet, without looking up she knew who it was……. Her heart beat picked up.
Author Linda Carlson – copywrite 2019
Now we need to know “who is Avon?”
What did Dee overhear at the counter?
What does Jesse Lee think ol’ Joe is hiding?
Leave your guess in the comments