Some Piffling Fiction by Biff
Fair Warning: This story is currently incomplete.
The town of Nettlesville was nestled in the foothills of the Mount Sable, near the Onstoff River. It was a small town of about fifteen hundred people, most of them retired or nearing retirement. The young people in the town didn’t seem to want to stay any longer than it took them to grow up, get their education, and find a job elsewhere. In spite of that, it was a quaint little town, neatly kept and picturesque, and a favorite weekend spot for people looking for quaint bed-and-breakfast inns, antique shops, curiosity stores, and rustic cuisine. It was especially popular in the fall when the leaves were ablaze with all the warm colors of the spectrum: reds, golds, and saffrons. However, it was mostly a ghost town in the winter due to the complete lack of anything to do. After all, there were only so many times a tourist could visit an antique store or a coffee shop before the thrill began to pall. Even a beautiful and heavy snow did not attract tourists, for there were no ski facilities nearby. All of the ski slopes were on the other side of Mount Sable. On the Nettlesville side of the mountain, it was far to craggy and steep and inhospitable to anyone trying to navigate its slopes on anything other than a sky lift (of which there were none).
The denizens of Nettlesville, though warm and friendly and welcoming to everyone, including outsiders, preferred it this way. They did not care for the traffic and the noise and the frenetic pace in the ski resort towns on the other side of the mountain. They much preferred the bed-and-breakfast, antique-hunting, farmer’s market crowd since they tended to be quieter, more sedate, and more appreciative of Nettlesville’s slow pace and quaint ambiance.
However, that is not to say that interesting things didn’t happen in Nettlesville. For instance, a few years back, Mr. Hafner, the owner of The Craggy Sable tavern on the edge of town, was found murdered in the stockroom in the back of the tavern. There were some slight signs of a struggle, but he was finally subdued with a bottle of Coastal Mist whiskey. He died of his wounds before he could name the murderer. Everyone suspected it was Hank Tieger, who was the boyfriend of Nancy Bowdler, the receptionist at the Nettlesville Inn, whom Mr. Hafner had had more than a passing interest in. However, nothing was ever proven. Hank moved away shortly after that to go live with his son in Florida and though Nancy stayed on in Nettlesville, she quit her job at the Inn and became a secretary at a law firm in Jandle, the next town over.
Then there was Mark Shaver, the young man that worked at the gas station filling up cars with gas, checking oil, washing windshields, and doing other odd jobs for Steven Billington, the gas station owner. A few years ago, when Mark was about 23 years old, a long, sleek Cadillac convertible pulled up to the gas pumps and a gorgeous blonde woman wearing sunglasses and a tight skirt and a silk blouse and her hair in a scarf to protect it from the wind asked him to fill up the tank with premium and check the oil. Well, while Mark was filling up the tank, he couldn’t take his eyes off of this beautiful woman, the likes of which he’d never seen. He filled up her tank and told her it would be 23 dollars for the gas and she asked him if he’d checked the oil and he’d said “No ma’am, I plumb forgot.” She then proceeded to chew him out and talk to him like he was a dog. She was so irate and made such a scene that Mr. Billington came out of the office to see what was going on and after he’d heard the story, he told that pretty blonde lady to drive on and to kindly not come back to his gas station any more. He didn’t even charge her for the gas. Turns out, that lady was Georganne Lancer, the star of that movie that came out a few years ago about a World War II flyboy who came back with only one arm and tried to keep his marriage alive even though she (the wife played by Miss Lancer) wasn’t interested in a man with only one arm, war hero or no. It was a big movie from all accounts though not many people in Nettlesville saw it. Certainly after word got around how Miss Lancer had treated Mark, no one was much interested in seeing it. The worst of it was that poor Mark, who’d always been painfully shy when it came to women, practically became a hermit after that. He asked Mr. Billington if he could stop pumping gas and just work in the back changing oil and wiper blades and headlights and such and not deal directly with the public. Mr. Billington tried to talk him out of that, but eventually gave in and let him have his way.
So people who say that nothing worth mentioning ever happens in Nettlesville, well, they just don’t know what they’re talking about. You take any town that’s got more than four or five people in it and things are bound to happen. It’s just human nature. In that regard, towns aren’t much different from people themselves. Every person that’s ever lived has a hundred different emotions welling up inside of them at any given time. Which one wins has as much to do with the weather or the angle of the sun or just some random bit of foolishness as anything. I’ve lived here all my life and though the town hasn’t seemed to change much in all those years, it can be as unpredictable and as fickle as any human being I’ve ever known. If you observe a town long enough (or a person), what seems normal and ordinary can start to look a little eccentric. Or downright loco.
I sat down at my usual table in the Rainbow Cafe near the big plate glass window that looked out onto Main Street. From here I could see the post office and the court house, the florist and Mr. Jensen’s law office and a few other little odds and ends businesses. I like to watch people. They are never boring, even when they’re doing things that on the surface seem boring.
“Your usual breakfast, Mr. Pratt?”
I looked up at Jenny, the cute waitress who started here about a year ago and was probably the youngest person in Nettlesville except during the summer when all the tourists showed up.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said, though she was considerably younger than me. All women were “ma’am” in Nettlesville. Didn’t matter if they were 3 or 30 or 93.
I put about six sugars and five creamers in my coffee when she set it down in the heavy ceramic mug and saucer. The Rainbow Cafe’s coffee was so strong it had to be blasted out of the coffee pot with dynamite, but it was good fuel to help you get through the day. Rocket fuel, that is.
(To be continued … or not)
© 2017 by BiffSockPow