by renee k. nicholson
2003 Storycove Flash Fiction Award
Marty has an elfin face, full of mischief, hair clipped short, turtleneck
peeking from beneath a rugby, over his shoulders, baggy barn coat,
worn collar. Sam is Marty’s friend, baseball cap tight to
his face, layered shirts.
I’ve happened into Marty’s pub with Jenn, Eileen, waiting
for “the storm of the new century” to begin. The locals
anticipate inclement weather with the excitement of a minor holiday-
like Columbus Day- where they don’t necessarily celebrate
but stay home from work.
Sam and I are insta-friends, the way West Virginians are when they
meet each other outside of God’s Country. Ohioans say the
best West Virginians always move across the river. We’re hill
people, this horizontal terrain numbing us like a long, dull headache.
Sam is chain-smoking Marlboros.
“I’m trying to be healthier,” he says. “I
switched to Ultra-Lights.”
A TV set hung over the bar charts clouds crossing a map –
Illinois, Indiana, and then almost to Dayton- with the precision
of Magellan. Two hours and the sleet, followed by snow, will descend.
Driving will be reduced to inching along ice-packed roadways. While
we sit around a table in the bar, people stock up on staples at
I saw them as I drove over.
We aren’t the only people here. A drunken lady nestled on
a barstool slides off, inebriated, ambles to the restroom. On the
return trip she stops, says, “Your hair is magenta”
to Jenn, who betrays annoyance with an amused smirk.
“Eggs and kegs,” announces Marty, garnering an enthusiastic
grin from Sam. “Come along on Saturday.” The invitation
reminds me of Morgantown, game day, hills filled with RVs and beer
at six in the morning.
Eileen shifts on her stool, rakes her hand through short stalks
of hair, taking it all in.
“Eggs are best from diners,” I say, remembering Ruby’s
and Ketchy’s, a family owned, ten-tabled greasy-spoon serving
the best fried egg sandwiches, heavy on Tabasco.
“Where are all the diners?” asks Sam, and we filter
into an imaginary booth at a restaurant with no signage but a giant
“I love diners,” says Eileen, picking the cheese on
her personal pizza.
“I love diner coffee,” says Jenn, who then takes a swig
of her beer, a draft Harp, golden and potent.
“Eggs as greasy as chips.” Marty winks. He dislikes
anything corporate. “We travel around, eat only at diners-
no chains.” Marty is ring leader. “We rate them like
Jenn chimes, “Chef-O-Nette,” lips cracking apart with
speech and smile, a favorable nod from Eileen. “It’s
a five-star joint.”
“That place on High,” says Sam. “Waitresses in
polyester get extra points.”
“There’s a place outside Kokomo called Eat Here And
Get Gas.” New initiates, our minds travel vast expanses of
flat in search of 24-hour truck stops.
Marty smiles, leaves us dreaming of an Airstream trailer’s
romp, cross-country, searching out fried eggs, fried chicken, homemade
pies, skirting a storm that must come through.