Never Judge a Book (short story set during a blizzard on Ground Hog Day) Part Three

Never Judge a Book – Part Three

An hour later I was relaxed, dressed in clean clothes and sitting at one of the small tables in the coffee shop. Damon Franklin’s latest book, Killing Time, was propped up for reading while I spooned Charlie’s wonderful stew into my empty gullet. I’d made a call to Pop to tell him I was okay and got my usual list of Pop-isms. “Don’t you dare leave that place until the roads are clear and the paper better pay for everything” was the last one before he told me to stay safe.
No wonder I wanted to escape into Franklin’s book. I was so immersed in the story and the stew that I didn’t notice Dave standing by the table until I heard him say, “Murder mystery?”
I looked up and he nodded to the book as he sat down across from me. I wasn’t sure that I wanted his company but I said, “No, Damon Franklin’s new one.”
He got a who-the-hell-is-that look on his face.
This guy has saddlebags full of books and he doesn’t know Franklin?
“Damon Franklin’s become famous over the last five years—millions of books sold.”
“Really?” Dave said.
I nodded.
“What does he write?”
Well, that was a good question. Was it commercial fiction because he wrote best sellers or was it literary fiction? Was he making his own genre?
“I guess you could call it literary…”
Dave made a face. “Pretentious. He probably went to Harvard and writes about us ‘little people’.”
“Well, actually he did go to Harvard.” I wanted to get back to my supper. The stew was getting cold. But by then Charlie had brought a bowl for Dave along with a fresh basket of rolls.
I had a dinner companion I didn’t want. I’d wanted to finish Franklin’s book so I could write down some questions about it—just in case I ever met the man. Before I could say anything more to Dave who was digging into the strew like he hadn’t eaten for weeks, I heard the wind howl outside and hard specks of icy snow batter the large window next to the fireplace. Meeting Damon Franklin and getting that interview was looking less and less likely. It might be days before I could even get a tow truck.
I was missing the damn story on the damn groundhog.
I probably wouldn’t be able to get to the traffic back-up on 80. So I’d be missing that story.
And I would never, ever, ever meet Damon Franklin.
Disappointment must have shown on my face because Dave looked up from his bowl of stew and said, “What? Do you have a thing for Haaaa-vaaad guys?”
I smiled in spite of myself. He was cute, a bit burly-looking with that full beard, unruly curls and dark brown eyes. But he was a truck driver. Not my type.
I closed the book and Franklin’s picture stared up at me. A clean-shaven face, short dark hair, dressed in a shirt and sports coat, the opposite of the man in front of me.
“I just think he’s a great writer…”
“I like Louis L’Amour…”
I searched my brain. “Westerns.” I finally was able to get out.
“Yeah. He wrote a lot of books. And James Rollins and Clive Cussler.”
Dave was naming writers of action-thrillers. Okay, at least he was reading.
“And sometimes I even read a bit of Shakespeare…”
“Really?”
“Well, don’t look so surprised. Just ‘cause I drive a truck…”
“I’m sorry.” I think I must have blushed. I could feel the heat across my face. “You just don’t hear Clive Cussler and Shakespeare mentioned in the same conversation.”
Dave smiled. “I can understand that. Have you read Titus Andronicus?”
I had to admit I hadn’t.
“Probably Will’s first tragedy and his bloodiest,” he said.
“I don’t remember hearing much about it. I know we didn’t read it in school. Is it bloodier than Hamlet?”
Dave laughed. “Much. It’s so bloody that it was almost banned from being produced in the 1800s. Can you imagine–Shakespeare being banned?” He took a big spoonful of stew and waved it around. “And it has a bit of cannibalism in it.”
There was another howl of wind and I shivered.
Dave stopped twirling the spoon around long enough to look out the window.
“I doubt if we’re going anywhere for a couple of days. If our internet connection holds up, I’ll see if I can download the Anthony Hopkins movie. He played Titus and Jessica Lange was his nemesis.”
Did the truck driver just use the word “nemesis”?
“Sure. I may as well get some education if I’m stuck here.” I was proud of myself for not adding with a truck driver. For a brief moment I wondered if I was a snob.
Dave reached for my book and looked at the author’s picture on the back. “Wussy-looking dude,” he said plopping the book back down.
I straightened my posture a bit. I could feel my dander rising but I settled it back down and made my voice even. “Actually he worked on a construction crew for six months to do research…”
“Really? Research?” Dave looked surprised.
I picked up the book. “The main character is a construction foreman who loses his job during the economic downturn.” I started to warm to my subject matter. “He has to move in with his father who hasn’t told his son he has terminal cancer.”
“Sounds like a real upbeat story,” Dave said with a smirk.
Okay, my dander was back up. “Actually it is upbeat…”
Dave grinned. “Do you know you say ‘actually’ a lot?”
“Forget it,” I said. I had to realize I was talking to a truck driver. Okay, he was a truck driver who’d read Shakespeare and knew a lot about Titus Andronicus, but…
He must have seen the look on my face. “Mandy, I’m sorry. My sisters accuse me of teasing too much—not knowing when to stop. Forgive me?”
I nodded and picked up the book. “I want to finish this—just in case I get a chance to ever interview the author.”
“Where does the guy live?” Dave asked.
I stood up, Franklin’s book clutched to me like a talisman. “In Punxsutawney,” I said.
“Really? Is that why you took this God-awful trip in this God-awful weather?” He was staring at me.
“I really did have an assignment.”
“The groundhog?”
“The groundhog,” I answered as I turned to leave, trying to ignore Dave’s smirk.
But like Pop’s good girl I finally remembered my manners. “Have a good night,” I said to Dave and then repeated it to Charlie and Em.
I wanted to be alone in my room with Damon Franklin, not in the lobby with Dave the Truck Driver.


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