Chuck Walker, aka Charles Harris Walker, emailed me on Sunday past and in passing mentioned his book is in print. Well for Pete's sake, I didn't know it was actually out! He mentioned earlier in the summer it had been accepted for publication, but it's actually out there now. Congratulations, Chuck!
And now, for the next installment from the book...
It was the day after Christmas when Charley learned of Marguerite's drive to Emerson with the tall machinery salesman. Jim White, the proprietor of the hotel at Huron City entered Charley's saloon shortly after the noon hour.
He greeted Charley loquaciously as he removed his heavy coat. "Must be thirty below outside; the wind tears right through a man. I'm going to thaw out and have a shot before going over to Myrick's store to stock up."
Charley had never warmed to White, considering him bluff and overbearing, prone to run roughshod over any dissenting voice or person. The fact that he pimped for prostitutes at his hotel also gritted Charley. He could see a woman running that sort of business, but not a man. "How come you're shopping in Pembina? Thought you bought all of your supplies in West Lynne or Emerson."
White tossed his coat over a nearby chair before answering. "Business has been slow and I was getting cabin fever. Just had to get out for a change, besides, I have to see Booker over at the bank." He grinned maliciously, "See you've lost your girl friend."
"What girl friend?"
"Don't you and that Grant girl go out together?"
"Occasionally. Just what are you driving at?"
White was still smiling. "Driving is what they were doing Christmas afternoon. They went by my place on the way to Emerson. Didn’t see them come back either."
Charley was bemused. "Who are they?"
“Your girl friend and that machinery salesman who’s been hanging around town. That's who!"
This news failed to surprise Charley. He looked defensively at White. "I guess she's got a right to go with any man she chooses. She's not married."
White snapped his fingers as he turned to John who was puttering behind the bar, "Gimme a shot of rye, Johnny. Better yet, bring the bottle and an extra glass for Charley."
Charley held up his hand. "Hold the extra glass." Lifting his eyes to White, he said, "I never drink when I'm working. A bartender who drinks doesn't last long."
White had hoped his news of Marguerite's outing with Paul Evans would pique Charley, wounding his pride. Charley's apparent lack of concern nettled him. "Figured you and that Grant girl would get married some day. She's a good looker."
"You figured wrong, furthermore it's none of your business."
"Oh hell!" White tossed off his drink and arose to his feet. "Thought you might want to know about it."
"Well, I don't. People should mind their own business and stay out of mine."
White angrily reached for his coat, then he approached the bar to drop a coin. Stopping at the door he turned to face Charley, "I'll come back when you're in a better mood." Chortling to himself he closed the door, knowing he had accomplished his purpose; he had stuck it to Charley.
"Don't let that joker bother you." John spoke from behind the bar.
"I've given it a lot of thought, John. Marguerite is a fine girl, but I'm not cut out for marriage. I'm too old, and it's too much of a change to hitch up. She wants marriage and kids; it's best she has a chance at it. That Evans seems like a good sort and he's got a promising job. I spoke with Webb, he handles the McCormick line of machinery. He said Evans seemed a square shooter -- said he kind of took to the chap."
"Cripes Charley, to me marriage is a piece of cake. Some men think nothing of dipping their tally in a honey pot when they're young, but 'taint until he becomes older that he appreciates a real woman. Lots of men wait until they are thirty before getting hitched. Puppy love is fine when you're a kid, but as the years go by you realize and appreciate your commitment to a real woman. Why, I can hardly remember being single, and that old saying: When I was single my pockets did jingle, is all crap. I was always broke before I met Hannah."
Charley reached up to press his temple. "I'm going to try and forget her -- give her a chance to meet others. She wants children, she's told me so; she'll marry one of these days."