the main door of the family restaurant on the southwest corner where two busy streets meet. First time visit, so Marcus surveyed the place carefully before choosing a table as the sign posted at this hour read, "Please Seat Yourself." To his left and toward the west end of the building was a large dining area, six booths along the south wall and many tables throughout the room, most arranged to seat four, a few small ones for two, and three round tables with six chairs.
Straight ahead past the buffet he saw another dining area, brightly lit, full windows on the east and north walls. Just before entering this area, though, there is a diner-type horseshoe shaped counter with eight stools-- the perfect place for the single diners to sit unmolested or to swap lies with other men of like station in life. There was but one occupant at this bar. Tall guy, old. Marcus would decline to guess an age, but the white hair, the cords down the back of the neck, the mottled hands, one holding a fork, the other a biscuit, all suggested the many years it had taken to develop to this stage.
As Marcus walked slowly past the counter he noted further that the blue jeans were Wranglers® well-worn to a dusty blue shade, not quite threadbare at the knees, but sharply creased and with no holes. The shirt was western-cut, snap front and long sleeves, each with three snaps tightly fastened around the wrists. Vertical narrow stripes, alternating brown, beige and black. The boots, too, were western, brown, highly polished, roach-kicker toes.
On the stool next to this diner, this relic from an earlier day, was a black Stetson, brim up, the famous Stetson picture clearly visible inside the crown of the hat. Marcus noted the "X X X X X X" inside the leather hatband. Good quality, not the most expensive hat Stetson ever made.
Marcus, alone again after decades of togetherness with his beloved, took a seat at the other end of the horseshoe. The old timer never so much as glanced toward the newcomer. Marcus, though, continued to study the subject, the familiar mien, the craggy brow, the long, slightly hooked nose, the moderately upturned handlebar moustache all spoke to Marcus. They said, "You know me, don't you, fella?" Marcus turned his eyes to the waitress as she asked what he'd have to drink. As he replied, "Water with lemon, please," a strange and uneasy feeling crept up his spine, the hairs on the back of his neck tingled, and as he turned to look once again at the man opposite him it felt as though a monstrous fist grasped his heart and squeezed it. Marcus realized that he was looking at himself seated on the opposite turn of the horseshoe.
In a moment Marcus recovered, forced his left hand to reach for his billfold. He took two singles from the wallet, placed them on the counter, rose from his seat. and walked quickly from the restaurant. The old man never lifted his eyes, continued to concentrate on shoveling his food into his mouth.
Marcus very nearly ran across the parking lot to his car and very soon the entire town disappeared in the rear view mirror. The memory would haunt Marcus until his eighty-fifth birthday, the day he drove through this village again, pulled into the parking lot of the family restaurant on the southwest corner . . .
©David W. Lacy 2017