It wasn’t hard to find, a coffee shop at the bottom of a ravine, but getting there took some doing. I had shopped my design for a year, and that morning stood to be my last chance to sell the plans for awhile. I was told to look for a man in a hat; in this age almost all younger men wear hats, some of the hats are backward. But, I wasn’t looking for a younger man; indeed, my prospective buyer was old enough to remember the war and the circumstances under which I had formulated the designs.
My little truck braced at the steep downhill grade; I had trusty brakes, but elected to downshift in order to avoid an unintentional lock. I bought the truck off of a hot rodder; a young jackrabbit who had pulled the engine only to replace it with a Corvette block. Too much power to corner, the kid sold it for a dime.
There were two turns to go when I saw the three white crosses mounted on the side of the road. Second gear ground down, I knew shavings were flying in the transmission. Shopping the design one more time might replace the transmission though. I considered first gear.
I finally relented and gave the gears some rest; two soft brake shoes dug into the wheels and the truck began to fight. Loose sand and gravel shot in two directions and I felt the tail come out from under me. I remembered my prayer, I had to pray, cause I had long since lost my ability to swear.
On turn eight I saw the small village, five stores, no more, hardly a place for shopping, unless dealing with clandestine vendors. I eased the truck out of gear and let it coast along the road. Although I was expected, announcing my arrival could only lead to the worst of circumstances.
I looked at my watch. It was eight o’clock. Eight bells, I could still hear my old Captain say. Somewhere in the morning mist a tower chimed. I looked around and could not find the source. Finally, I eased to the front of a modest coffee house, the type of place a person misses if they blink. I backed into a vacant space.
I waited in my truck, planning my exit as much as planning my entrance. I was to look for the man in the hat; all I knew was I would know the hat. Though it was chilly I wrestled off my jacket and tossed it on the passenger side to cover my maps and information.
My rearview mirror did little to reveal the interior of the coffee shop. A couple of bright spots in a mass of black was the only evidence of any life. I swallowed deeply and left the truck; my sunglasses, I knew, would hide my glances. I opened the door and saw him in the corner, his laptop open; there was no mistaking my customer -- he was wearing a cowboy hat. Surrounding him were a half dozen of his what I believed were his toughest men – all watching my approach.
“Bring it?” He didn’t look up from his screen.
“In my pocket.” I could feel the tiny jump drive digging into my thigh.
“I wanna look at it.” He tipped his hat back and grinned.
I knew that to surrender the jump drive would mean he would have it instantly. I decided to avoid the obvious. “You wanna see a jump drive?”
“Hey, check your email,” I watched him and his men scramble. “I sent you a corner of the design, it’s on an attachment.” I waited a minute then hedged my bet. “Cash for the balance.”
He looked at a couple of the men. “I think we will just have it now.”
I took a step backward and knocked over a chair. “Yeah, I thought as much. Don’t try to close the email without the pass-code; the worm will eat your hard drive, I’ll phone you with the code when I clear this place.”
I ran to my truck and floored the vet engine, rock and sand flew as I spun my way up the hill. Once on top, I phoned my customer. “The exit code, just hit delete.” I closed the phone and tossed it in a trash bin. Then I patted my truck on the dash. "No shopping today, we live to try again tomorrow.”
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