* 26 … A COUPLE IN A LTD (02/14/2012)
“Who on earth could THAT be at THIS hour!?” exclaimed the youngest the split second the car’s headlights illuminated the dark green 1978 Ford LTD wagon parked in the driveway.
Finding an old car parked in his driveway didn’t phase the eldest. He had seen plenty of old cars parked in his driveway upon returning home, mostly locals wanting to chat with him about something Route 66 or town-related. But, as he carefully examined the LTD parked in his driveway as he steered his 1976 Caprice Classic around the Ford, he realized this wasn’t a local person. The Illinois license plate on the rear was his first clue. He mentally searched his memory bank, but didn’t remember their relatives living in Dwight IL having a Ford wagon. Not that that meant they couldn’t have recently purchased one.
“So, who IS that?”, the younger brother queried again.
“I’m not sure,” replied the eldest, “but did you see the Illinois plates?”
“No, I hadn’t noticed that, but I see them now. Is this…”
“I don’t think so,” the elder brother interrupted, knowing the question coming from his younger sibling. “I don’t believe it is our relatives from Dwight. It may be their friends from Franklin Grove, though.”
As the elder brother pulled the Caprice next to the LTD, an older couple emerged … a distinguished gentleman with nearly white hair got out of the driver’s side, and a grandmotherly type woman rolled down the passenger door window. The gentleman walked around the front of the LTD and up to the driver’s door of the Caprice, of which the eldest had already rolled down the window.
“Evenin’,” the gentleman began, “I know you don’t know us, but we know you.”
* 27 … A RUDE AWAKENING (02/19/2012)
The eldest brother was startled out of a deep sleep by his alarm. The second he realized the alarm was going off, he grumbled. He was slightly irritated at himself for not turning the alarm off the night before. He knew volunteers from the local Route 66 Association were going to watch the business that morning, so he didn’t have to be up so early. He tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t.
Instead, he slowly got out of bed, dressed, and went downstairs. He was relieved his younger brother hadn’t heard the alarm clock. This would allow him at least an hour, if not a few hours, for some time to relax and think. He walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bowl, milk and some cereal. He wasn’t hungry, really, but figured he might as well eat.
He sat down at the table with the bowl of cereal and started eating. As he chew, he reflected on the events of the previous day, particularly last night’s meeting and the visit from the couple from Illinois. His thoughts turned to what he should do about the news the couple brought to them, but he didn’t get very far before he heard a car rolling into the driveway. He glanced at the clock on the wall. 7:47a. He knew he had to act on what the couple told them, but he also knew he and his younger brother weren’t ready for their trip just yet. So, he had no clue what he was going to tell the couple.
* 28 … TALE OF TWO CONVERSATIONS (02/21/2012)
“I figured you boys would be at the business this morning,” the gentleman said, sitting down at the kitchen table.
“No,” replied the eldest. “A couple volunteers from the Route 66 association are opening the business this morning. I’m only up because I forgot to tell my alarm clock I didn’t have to be up early.”
The gentleman chuckled.
“Can I get either of you anything?” the eldest asked.
“No, not me,” the grandmotherly woman replied, “but thank you.”
“Same here,” the gentleman added. “We had breakfast at the hotel this morning.”
A slight pause was broken by the eldest: “Look, I don’t know what to tell you yet.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it,” the gentleman said, waving off the eldest sibling. “We’re not expecting an answer yet. We know we sprung the news on you a bit late in the evening, and we’re sorry. Today, we just wanted to spend time with you at your business.”
“OK, well, that’s cool,” replied the eldest, “but we’re not going to be there until sometime this afternoon. I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have some things I need to do this morning. My brother and I are planning a road trip along Route 66, and I need to make some contacts and arrangements for that.”
“Oh,” muttered the gentleman. “I see.”
“I don’t know yet when we will be in Dwight, so I don’t know what to tell you right now,” continued the eldest.
“That’s fine, dear,” said the grandmotherly woman. “Take your time.”
She then turned to her husband, “Why don’t we take a drive around town and stop at their business this afternoon? The last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable.”
“Sounds good to me,” said the gentleman, clearly not completely happy.
The couple left, and the eldest watched their LTD pull out of the driveway. The phone then rang, and the eldest glanced at the clock: 8:28a. On the other end of the line was the shopkeeper.
“I thought you and yer brother was making arrangements for yer trip this mornin’?” the shopkeeper barked.
“We are,” the eldest said.
“So who’re them folks botherin’ ya? I’ve seen that car in this area for about a week now.”
“What?” The eldest was intrigued.
“Yeah, I saw that foreign wagon at least a week ago drivin’ through town,” the shopkeeper continued. His use of the word “foreign” to describe the wagon was his way of saying that it wasn’t a “local” vehicle.
“You couldn’t have seen it,” said the eldest. “The couple just arrived late last night. They met us here at the house after the meeting.”
“Nope,” declared the shopkeeper. “I seen that car that morning I met you out at the train tracks. You can’t tell me I seen a differnt car. Not too many Illinoise plates on older cars in this area.”
The eldest knew the shopkeeper was telling the truth. But, this revelation put a slightly different spin on the couple’s visit, not necessarily the news they had shared. The shopkeeper’s voice broke the silence.
“Hey, you still there? We’re going to bring those pictures to ya this afternoon, if you and your brother and sister are going to be at the business.”
“We are, and that sounds great….” The eldest’s voice trailed off because he was still pondering about the couple.
“You OK? Is something wrong?” queried the shopkeeper. With no immediate reply from the eldest sibling, the shopkeeper continued, “Just what did that couple want with you boys anyway?”