A bit of a tough day today. Vivian has a bug and it gave her a fever of 104. And, of course, the only thing the doctors say, after checking the ears and throat, is that it’s just a common bug, keep the fever down with Motrin and Tylenol, and be patient. Be patient. With a child not happy to have a fever of 104. Try telling the sea not to swirl.
But things are rolling along with The Dream King’s Daughter. I’ll soon pass the 7,000 word mark, and I think I have a fair amount of stuff to write about before I have to stop and work through the details of the plot that haven’t been thought through yet. Aurora appeals to me as a character, though I am a little worried that she is too passive. Later chapters should fix this, I hope.
And, of course, I don’t know a thing about running a diner except how to eat the food (which probably is a disadvantage if you actually own the diner), so any mistakes or glaring inaccuracies should be excused. This is basically a first draft.
The scene below takes place immediately following this one (the story opens here). Polk and Aurora are still having their conversation out behind the diner, even though Aurora has shocked herself by beaning two crows with one stone. They play a game where Polk has to guess the type of big rig that passes on the road without stopping, and another one appears on the horizon. Disturbingly, Polk gets this one dead wrong.
Movement caught her eye and she looked down the road. Another dust cloud on wheels was approaching. She pushed her strange worry down and nudged Polk. “Truck,” she said.
He leaned back and closed his eyes. “Hmm…” He frowned. “Tough one, this… uh…”
She blinked. She’d never seen him uncertain before. She stared at him, riveted by the strange new picture.
“Uh…” He drew himself up. “Double rig, fourteen wheels. Red cab, white body, no logo. And it won’t stop.”
“No points if it doesn’t stop,” she said automatically. She strode out to the wheat field, keeping her eye on the road as the dust cloud shaped itself into multiple points of light. She frowned. The cab was black, not red, as was the container, single not double. Ten wheels. He’d got this one way wrong.
And it was stopping.
Her mouth dropped open, but there was no mistaking it. The whine of the engine rolled lower. The brakes rumbled. As she stared agape, the truck moved behind one side of the diner, and didn’t emerge from the other. By the wall, Polk had opened his eyes and was blinking.
Aurora ran to him. “It stopped!”
He turned to the back door. “I know.”
“Customers!” they shouted in unison.
Aurora yanked open the back door and both bolted through at the same time. Or tried to. There was a brief struggle as they squeezed past each other and burst into the kitchen with an audible pop.
“Ah, there you are,” said Matron, as she scraped grease off the grill and into the trough. “No rush. I served the Hobsons while you were out.”
“Thanks, but—” Aurora began.
The bell above the door jangled. Matron looked out through the cook’s window. “We’ve got customers.”
“I know,” Aurora pulled on her apron.
Matron frowned. “Never saw him before.”
“Where’s my note pad?” Aurora tapped the pockets of her apron frantically.
“You never needed one before,” said Matron, wiping down her cooking utensils.
“He’s not a regular, I’ve never heard his order before,” said Aurora. “He doesn’t have a ‘usual’.”
She jumped as Polk held out a note pad and gnawed pencil in front of her. He’d taken it down from the top of a metal cupboard. He gave her a teasing smile. “Break a leg,” he said.
“Break one yourself,” she snapped. But she took the note pad and pencil gratefully, shoved them in the pocket of her apron, and strode out the kitchen door and into the diner.
The new customer was easy to spot, just by looking at the other customers. He’d reoriented them like another gravity. The Hobsons were eating quietly but casting curious glances over their shoulder. As the Hendersons gathered Britney’s entrourage of toys and eased her out the door, both parents looked back occasionally, to where a man like a black hole sat at on one of the stools by the counter, reading a menu.
Aurora grabbed a mug and pulled the carafe from the coffee maker. It made a sound like a sword sliding from its sheath. She shook the strangeness of this sudden metaphor from her head and gathered herself. Walking along the counterspace, she eyed the new customer.
He was a big man, like all truckers should be, dressed in black denim jeans and a black polo shirt with a collar. His muscled arms were matted with black hair, and he had thick black hair and a black beard. His cowboy boots were all black leather and rubber.
In this weather, half of his fuel costs were probably spent on air conditioning, Aurora thought. Stand by the side of the road and he could get a tan without taking his clothes off. The exposed parts of his skin would be the places that wouldn’t be tanned.
And he probably likes his coffee black, she added to herself. And without asking, she filled the mug and set it in front of him. Then she set down the carafe, took out her note pad and pencil, and stood ready. “See anything you like?” she prompted.
The man looked up at her. A feather stuck out behind his ear. The whites of his eyes were black.
“Found you,” he said.
Aurora staggered back into the cash register, which rang out as her arm smacked the buttons. She tried to regain control of her knees, but they didn’t belong to her body now.
There was a crash in the kitchen. Matron burst out of the door, waving her spatula like a club. “Aurora!” she yelled. “Look out!” Polk was close behind.
Aurora fell against the counter. The coffee sloshed over the carafe and scalded her fingers, but she didn’t notice. She was out before she hit the floor.
She dreamed of Lake Winnipeg.