Monday, December 01, 2014

An excerpt from Pilot Point – The Old South Café

Last month, I noted that most of my novel Pilot Point is set around 1990 when I was writing the first draft, and that much has changed since then, particularly the closing of the cattle sale barn just west of the town of Pilot Point.

Another setting that has changed is the Old South Café on south side of the town square.  I enjoyed their excellent burgers when I moved to the Pilot Point area in 1988, but the place closed well before I even finished the first draft of my novel. 

Even though I frequented the Café for two or three years at the most, I found it quite memorable.  The excellent burgers, the leaky ceiling, and, yes, being stared at the first time I ate there as the new guy in town all found their way into my novel.  Moreover, the Old South Café is where the key characters Clayton Hays and Bowie Smith meet.  Clayton had just moved to a rise outside the town of Pilot Point when . . .


Three mornings later, the rest of his possessions and what little furniture he had came in on the moving van. Much of the load really wasn’t his; it was his family’s, kept in storage for years out in Monahans. Being the last surviving member of his family, the responsibility fell to him.

         Once the van was gone, he drove into town to check his P.O. box and get some lunch. He decided to try the Old South Cafe on the square. He walked into the diner on the long, weathered storefront and found a seat on the side of the room.

         He felt strange. He looked up and noticed that about half the room was staring at him. He looked aside then ran his hand across his face to make sure there wasn’t any shaving cream or anything on him. There wasn’t. Then he figured they were staring because he was new in town.

         The eyes went back to their lunches, and the woman who was running the place brought him a menu. She was pleasant, blond, and pretty in an earthy way, with light character lines from hard work. She went back into the kitchen to supervise the cooking then brought some food out and came back over to take his order.

         “What you want, hun?”

         While he was waiting for his lunch, he heard the distant rumble of thunder. He looked out the front and noticed it was getting darker. He looked around the plain modest room. There were twenty people in there at most, but that was just about all the room could handle. Most of them were men in their gimme caps and cowboy hats. A table in the middle of the room was making most of the noise. Wearing dusty cowboy hats and wearing dust and grime in general, the three men appeared to him to be cowhands.

         He watched them get their burger plates with beans and cut fries, and then he got his. He was judging his burger to be excellent when a sharp lightning strike hit to the north of the Square. He took a bite of his burger and a fork full of beans as he kept looking out front. It started pouring down outside.

         “Oh, oh,” a couple of the cowhands commented warily.

         Clayton wondered why the fall shower concerned them—they surely see much harsher weather than this.

         After about a minute, he found out.

         Water suddenly began dripping down from the ceiling—and it was raining in the middle of the room. Laughing, the three cowhands took their plates and moved out of the indoor rain.

         The oldest of them yelled toward the kitchen, “Linda, if we wanted to eat in the elements, we would have eaten on the job.”

         Linda, the woman in charge, came out. “Oh, hush up. If you weren’t complaining about the roof, you’d find something else to complain about.” She looked at the heavily raining ceiling then looked outside. “Why does it always rain at lunch?”

         “Quit yer bitchin’, woman,” with deadpan glee, he kept baiting her. “It hadn’t rained any time in weeks.”

         “You know, I do retain the right to refuse service.”

         “Yeah, yeah. Then who else would you mistreat?” He looked around for an empty, dry table. Seeing none, he turned to Clayton, who was watching the indoor downpour slack-jawed. “They’re kind of short on dry tables. Mind if we join you?”

         “Oh, no, not at all.”

         “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Bowie Smith. And this is Kim Grayson.”

         “Hi there.” With a friendly, but thin smile, Kim extended his hand, and Clayton nodded and shook it. Kim was compact, but broadly built, with a full face that was expressive, yet always seemed to be holding back something.

         “And Mex Wilson.” He was called “Mex” because with his dark complexion, black mustache, and thin build, his friends swore he must have some Mexican blood. But he always good-naturedly denied it.


         “I’m Clayton Hays.”

         “Nice to meet you.”

         They all then got back to eating. Clayton kept looking over at the indoor rain as he ate, but the hands were oblivious to it; it was nothing new.

         Clayton wasn’t the most talkative, approachable guy they had ever met; so the three hands went back to talking among themselves. “So, Mex,” Bowie interrogated, “are you going to be our third guy for poker? Kim and me are getting tired of staring at each other on Thursday nights.”

         “I wish I could, but between workin’, huntin’, fishin’, and everthang else, I’m already not around the house enough to please the wife. So I’d better pass on adding a poker night.”

         “The way she nags you when you’re home, she must be real pleased to have you there.” Bowie’s eyes had a light to them as he heckled Mex.

         “Well, you know how it goes.”

         “Yeah, I know how it goes. That’s why I’m a formerly married man.”

         “Now, Bowie, what would Jane do without Mex,” Kim contributed. “She wouldn’t have anyone to nag.”

         “That’s right,” Mex agreed.

         Bowie turned to Clayton, “Say, stranger, you wouldn’t happen to play some poker, would you?”

         He shrugged. “Every once in a while.”

         “Would your woman let you play poker on Thursday nights?”

         “I don’t have a woman.”

         “Hey, that’s perfect.” Bowie slapped the table. “You won’t have no woman bitchin’ at you when we take all your money. Would you join us, then?”

         Clayton smiled and thought a moment. “Sure.”


         I hope you enjoyed that excerpt.  If you would like to read more, there are about 80 hours left in the 100 Hour Kindle Countdown deal for Pilot Point.  You can get the Kindle version of my novel for only $1.99! But the price goes back up after the countdown goes to 0.

         If you prefer a print copy (as I do), Amazon has extended their 30% off offer for another day. Use the promo code “HOLIDAY30” when you check out.  (Remember you can use this offer on only one book.)

         And please do "like" the Facebook page for Pilot Point if you haven’t yet done so.  Thanks.

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