“This is one great milkshake, Miss Betty. I may have to order another. It is like none I’ve ever had before.”
Betty smiled as she set down his food and then replied, “We make them fresh with real ice cream. No pre-fab machinery here. Richard, our chef, would never allow that. Enjoy your food, sir. Signal if you want anything else.”
He ate his food slowly, enjoying the flavors and seasonings. As hungry as he was, he didn’t want to eat too fast, but he was glad that it was fresh, not like the dried jerky he’d run out of last night. Perhaps he would take a roadie portion along. Halfway finished with his food, he noticed three 18-wheelers pull into the parking lot and then move to the side to not block the entrance. Minutes later four men and a lone lady walked in jovially, but not together. The men went to a 4-top at the other end of the diner and the lady sat up at the bar.
Betty took coffee to the men and rapidly took their order. By the greeting and smiles, Tony thought they must be regulars. Betty turned in the order and then focused on the lady at the bar. Tony noticed she was about 5’ 6” when she walked in. Her cinnamon-colored hair was short and curly, framing her pretty oval-shaped face, with glossy lips highlighting her very white teeth. She was trim in her jeans and navy colored t-shirt. The back of her shirt was decorated with a couple of worn peach graphics and the words, Don’t Mess with Texas.
“Hi, Rose, where you headed?”
“Hey, Betty. I have a run to Philly, then hopefully I will find a load to come back with. You know, I just needed to be on the road again. Dad has his girlfriend at the house, and she promised to look after him.”
“I can understand that. Next time you’re back for a few days, let’s go over to Limon and catch a movie. I could use some girl time.
“Now, what can I get for you?”
“Yep, we need to see a movie. That actually sounds fun. It’s been ages since we went out for girls’ night. Not bringing Dad’s girlfriend along, period. Her squeaky nasally voice gets to me.
“I’d like to have the BLT and fries with a side of mayonnaise, please. Iced tea would be nice.”
“That won’t take long at all. Will you be wanting an order to go as well?”
“Let me think about it.”
Betty smiled at Tony and arched an eyebrow as if to ask if he was ready for that second milkshake. Tony shook his head and gestured to his half-full plate he continued to work at finishing.
Betty’s pace had picked up as she served the men in the back and took orders from two more tables as they filled. He watched Rose enjoy her food. She had turned at one point as if sensing his interest and nodded toward him. No smile, just a nod. Tony finished his food and decided another shake and burger to go was in order. Betty was at the bar serving two new guests and refilling Rose’s tea, so he decided to walk over and place his order.
“Betty, may I get another one of those milkshakes and a burger to go, please?”
Betty grinned at him and replied, “Sure thing. It will be a minute, I am a little busy.”
“No problem, take your time.”
After Betty walked away to service other customers, Tony decided he had nothing to lose.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Are you driving one of those rigs out there? Do you know if those guys in the back might take a passenger along? I can pay. I am trying to get to Virginia. My car was toasted coming up the hill, and the billowing smoke told me nothing short of a new engine would do.”
Rose looked him over and sized him up rather quickly. “Do you have a pass to be off base, son?”
Tony looked a bit chagrinned; he hoped she was just guessing. With some indignation he retorted, “I’m a base contractor and don’t need permission to go anywhere. I just had a car that had 200 thousand miles on it, and it gave up the ghost. Never you mind. I’ll go ask them myself.”
Rose chuckled and replied, “The men I walked in with are two trainers along with their two rookies doing driving tests to gain certification. They can’t take you as a ride-a-long. There aren’t any dealerships around here for you to buy a car. Plus, you obviously overheard me tell Betty I have a run to Philly.
“If you aren’t a deserter, are you a felon?”
He looked her square in the eye really hoping he had not underestimated her, and said, “No, ma’am.”
“Then order a second burger to go and another milkshake, strawberry for me, and I’ll take you at least as far as the next gas stop and re-evaluate if you continue with me or find another ride there. Don’t try anything funny, because I’m ex-military, and I shoot first then ask questions. Of course, being a Texan first might have something to do with that as well.”
He grinned as he placed the order with Betty. Then he turned to his benefactor and smiled as he introduced himself. “Ma’am, my name is Tony Bough, friends call me Tony. I promise I wouldn’t hurt you unless you hurt me. Thank you for your kindness.”
Rose laughed, “Kind, hell. I just wanted to supplement the cost of my trip, and it might be nice to have someone to talk to on this long haul.”
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