Fred slammed the door of his baby blue 1960 Coupe De Ville with a thud and crossed the street. He was a larger than life character, forty-five years of age, with a full head of Vitalis, slicked back, salt-and-pepper hair. Aroma of liberally applied Old Spice closely followed. His six-foot five-inch frame carried close to three hundred pounds. The Village Inn buzzed with morning activity. Fred’s gray fedora hat brim was pulled down to block the sun. Gray suit and dark red tie spoke volumes about his perceived status in the community. The smell of pancakes and bacon was overpowering.
Fred made a usual ceremonious entrance, hung his hat on the rack by the cigarette machine. Thirty-five cents a pack–that’s highway robbery. One of his vices, daily packs of Chesterfield kings, were suddenly more expensive. He opened his rumpled white shirt collar, loosened the red silk tie, sat on a green vinyl and chrome stool near the register. “Good Mornin’ Darlin,'” He greeted Sarah with his sickening, syrupy sweet voice. His voice grated like fingernails on a chalkboard. Sarah finished her last ticket, counted tips, adjusted bobby pins in her upswept brown hair, struggled to maintain civility. “So, you’re gonna’ be nice to me today?” “Why Sarah, I’m shocked you could think such a thing.” “I try to be nice to you every day.” “Uh huh,” Sarah answered skeptically, rolling her brown eyes. “I’m gonna’ move so I don’t get struck by lightning.” Ain’t that just like a man, always sweet when they want something. Sarah half-muttered to herself. “What can I get for ya’ Fred?” “…Just some coffee and a sweet roll.”
The boarded-up, broken right-front window of the Phillips-Stone Mortuary gave it an odd asymmetrical appearance. The gray stone facade caused it to be rechristened, “the stone cold funeral home,” by local wags. “Was there a robbery at the funeral home?” Fred’s inquiry was met with dead silence. Most of the locals intentionally ignored him. This time, a few shook their heads in disbelief. …Too many predictions and pontifications. Maybe, he’d just go away? Fred wasn’t about to be ignored. He got louder and more opinionated. “That doesn’t make any dad gum sense.” “Wouldn’t be anything in there to steal.” “Sometimes there’s dead bodies in the back.” “Good thing nobody was laid out there.” “Last one, was old man Crenshaw, three weeks ago.” “I was watching a movie on TV the other night about body snatchers.” “What if it was body snatchers?” Fred rambled. “Did you say body snatchers?” Sarah asked, dumbfounded. Fred nodded, the spring-loaded holder rattled as he pulled out more napkins. “I think you’ve been watchin’ too many late night monster movies.” Sarah refilled his coffee, made a hasty exit–adjusted her starched white apron.
Elmer Willis, a thirty-six year old respected local contractor, was dressed for work. His twill dark green slacks and khaki shirt were neatly starched and pressed. Brown work boots were cleaned and polished. He was a picture of professionalism. Above the right breast pocket was a white stitched-on patch with his business logo in black lettering–Village Painters & Contracting. His small spiral notebook lay, at the ready, on the table with his Eversharp mechanical pencil. Head cradled in his hands, ran fingers through a rapidly thinning fringe of brown hair. An important county contract was up for bids. It was move ahead or get left behind. The numbers looked right. All serious business planning came to an abrupt halt.
Fred was a runaway train that had to be stopped. The temple’s order and quietness had been defiled. Elmer put down his newspaper and cup of coffee. He no longer had an appetite. Coffee didn’t taste good. His fingers traced the wood grain on the lacquered tabletop. Why was Fred always such an obnoxious loudmouth? Didn’t he get enough attention as a child? Damn, how could one person be so annoying? Russian spies, Sputniks, cows with three teats, it was always something. He stared blankly out the window. His temper simmered, until it reached the boiling point.
“It was a car accident!” “Not body snatchers, space aliens, zombies, or any other ridiculous thing!” “You’re always sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong!” “I woulda’ thought you’d already known about it!” “Well, pardon me for expressing simple intellectual curiosity.” Fred bristled defensively. Elmer scowled in amazement. “Intellectual? That was intellectual?” “It sounded like rantings from a candidate for the state Looney Bin.” Fred left in a huff, gray seersucker jacket slung over his shoulder. “Well, maybe I’ll go where people appreciate me.” “It’s obviously not here.” Applause broke out after Fred slammed the door. Elmer made an awkward bow–embarrassed by the attention. The Village Inn, with its knotty pine interior walls, returned to what was considered a normal Tuesday morning.