The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 34
It was around noon, although it still looked as if early morning. He stopped at a general store on Route 202 west of Portland. He tugged the bike upon the porch, leaned it against the building, and removed the rain gear.
Inside was a pot belly stove in the middle of the store. Rich warmed his hands and turned around to warm his backside.
Rich smiled at the woman behind the counter and nodded, “Got to get warm.”
She had a witch like face -wrinkled, thin like a hatchet and with hooked nose. She smugly looked at Rich with her lips turned down, “That’s for customers.”
“I’ll buy something,” Rich said.
She sat on a stool behind the counter by the cash register and watched Rich like prison guard. Soon he was uncomfortable. Every time he looked at her she was already staring at him.
“You can’t be standing there all day,” she said.
Rich smiled and looked around for something to buy. He gave thought to insulting her, but her husband or brother might be in the back room and take him to task. After all, he was shot at twice not that long ago, third time’s a charm. He pulled a bottle of Moxie Cola from a cooler and went to the counter. “Do you have sandwiches?”
“Yep,” she said.
“What kind?” Rich asked.
“Menu’s up there,” she said pointing to a black board above the meat case to the rear of the store.
Rich ducked and squinted. “Lobster salad,” He said. “Is that any good? Never had it before.”
“It’s good, made fresh,” she said.
“I’ll try one,” Rich said.
“You got the money to pay for it?” she said.
Rich pulled the wallet from his back pocket and gave her a five. She grabbed it and gave me change. He stood and waited. He raised his eyebrows, smiled, and motioned with his eyes toward the meat counter.
“What is it?” She said.
“The sandwich,” Rich said.
She mocked his gestures and said, “It’s back in the display case.”
Rich walked to the display case and grabbed the sandwich. He stood next to the stove and unwrapped it from the wax paper.
“This is not a restaurant,” she said.
Rich smiled and walked out on the porch and started to take a bite of the sandwich.
She came to the door and opened it, “This ain’t no dinning room either.”
Rich stepped around to the side. He leaned against the building and the eave protected him from the rain. He ate the sandwich and found it quite tasty despite the rudeness from inside. The Moxie Cola on the other hand was something he was not quite used to. He finished it and came to the conclusion that it must be an acquired taste. He went back in the store and got another Moxie Cola and brought it to the cash register. “For later,” he said and gave her a dime and a nickel.
“You owe me a penny,” she said looking at the money on the counter as if it were diseased. “It’s fourteen cents and a two cent deposit on the bottle. That comes to sixteen cents.”
Rich sat the empty bottle on the counter and said, “You owe me a penny.”
She slapped a penny on the counter. Rich picked it up and examined it. Then he nodded to let her know it was genuine.
She pushed the empty bottle toward Rich. “You can put the empty in the case next to the door on your way out.”
“Can you tell me what is the best way to get to Brunswick and Bath area?” Rich said grabbing the empty bottle.
“There’s no best way,” she said.
He slipped the full bottle of Moxie Cola in his jacket pocket. “Are there two ways?”
“At least,” she said.
“Then which one is best?”
“Can’t say, s‘pose neither,” she said. “Both about the same.”
Rich walked the empty bottle to the case beside the door and dropped it in. He opened the door and said, “Thanks for the help, have a nice day.”
She sniffed, “Same to ya.”
If there was ever a time Rich felt the urge to “moon” somebody that was it. He refrained, because she would be dialing the police in no time. She probably already was. Maybe not, she was the type to hunt a man down and shoot me herself.
He continued on Route 202.
He had heard about the cold indifference to strangers of people on the east coast, but that was beyond cold - it bordered on aggression.