The year past was a busy one for the Counter Dwellers over at the Double Axle Diner, West Burville, Vermont, what with being involved in a murder mystery, getting arrested for some foolishness during deer season, and winding up the year owning the Double Axle due to Linda Mae leaving under suspicious circumstances with some guy in a sleigh. It doesn’t look like things are going to get any better this year…
The January afternoon was overcast promising more snow than sun for West Burville and the rest of Piney Woods County. Staring up at the grey sky Hooter had an idea. The idea was the product of the lull between Frenchie LeClair’s valve job and Edna Squire’s radiator hole with a whole load of boredom thrown in for good measure.
Truth be known, Hooter, full-time owner of Wilson’s Auto Repair and part-time owner of the Double Axle Diner had long ago lost interest in valve jobs, radiator hoses and “that shimmy in the front end”. Hooter was in a funk.
“I’m feelin’ not fish and not chicken either”, Hooter confessed to the other Counter Dwellers. They agreed. Life just hadn’t been the same since Linda Mae took off with that smooth talking, oily Klauss guy and left them trouble in the way of a fully operating only-game-in-town diner right in the middle of downtown West Burville. Without the bumptious delights of Linda Mae and her Meatloaf Special it seemed as if life wasn’t worth the effort, even if she did leave them her Pecan Fantasy Festival pie recipe and little Vonda Sue, who agreed to come in for the rush.
“We better saddle up, boys, or we’ll have disappointed the trust that sweet girl put in us to carry on the tradition,” Hooter exhorted the bedraggled Counter Dwellers who had gathered over at Wilson’s for a powwow. “Who here can cook?” Everyone took a big step to the rear.
“Fine. I’ll cook,” huffed Hooter. “But none of you is gonna wiggle out of helping with the rest.”
“The rest” meant planning menus, serving meals, doing the ordering, cleaning the fry-o-lator, and spit and polishing the Double Axle. Old Mel wished he’d had his hearing aid on to get the gist of what Hooter had been saying instead of getting stuck with toilet duty. ” I ain’t cleaning no girls’ room. Man’s got to have standards.” And that was that.
As the full horror of the amount of work involved in getting just one meal off the floor dawned on the assembled, it hadn’t occurred to them that the same sort of thinking might be dawning on the other regulars, the Weekly Regulars, who relied on the Double Axle for the amenities of fine country cuisine. After three weeks of barely edible meatloaf and shoe leather pie crust, it looked like a revolt in the making.
Mabel Buck was the first to vocalize the whispers and head shaking. For over forty years Mabel had been the biggest whiner in town and nothing and no one was going to stop her now. In a mood as sour as Bunchy’s lemon meringue pie, Mabel gave the lads a comeuppance the likes of which West Burville hadn’t seen since Etheleen Longchamps gave Frog Bennett his travelling papers and a quickie divorce. And she wasn’t the only one. Such was the high pitch of sentiment and opinion about the sudden change of command at the Double Axle that Hooter was left wondering what great idea would placate the horde.
Truth be known he was also contemplating bugging out of town one step ahead of the Health Officer when it occurred to his avaricious mind that there had to be an angle somewhere. Something that would stir up the locals. But in a less bloodthirsty way.
Hooter was a man with a knack for conflict resolution by the simple expedient of disappearing. Longing for the open snow highway, and figuring it might be a good time to make himself scarce, Hooter dragged out his old Arctic Cat Razzledazzle Model 7x34b, the keenest meanest snow machine that ever laid track on a virgin field. Revving the sputtering engine back from the grave, Hooter tore out of Wilson’s at a top speed of just over 25 mph, no mean feat for the Razzledazzle.
Ripping up the snowy town center and laying a swath of oily blue smoke, Hooter had time for just one clear thought before the track blew off the old Razzledazzle and he went ass over teakettle into Beulah Nault’s rambling roses. As he climbed out of the nest of thorns and shriveled summer buds an idea caught hold.
That was the trick, the key to it all. Fame and fortune and maybe the town center jammed with big city newspapers and TV and their fancy trucks with those swirly twirly things that auger up and down from the roof. The Double Axle would host the first ever West Burville Snow Gliders Ride Out. Or was it a Ride In? The object was to get everyone back to the diner in one piece not lost in the pucker brush. The plan would be a doozy starring the Double Axle Diner with the whole town as the supporting cast. All the proceeds would go to charity, of course. Except for expenses. Hooter anticipated the expense might run a bit high.
But who was counting.
This was going to be one winter in Piney Woods County not to be missed. Here was a chance for West Burville to celebrate its cultural heritage of winter sports and beer with one action jammed weekend of merriment and gas fumes that would send the less actively inclined scrambling for ear plugs. In fact, if his idea ran true to plan, Hooter anticipated that a captive audience of festive and hungry snow machiners might be inclined to overlook some of the recent culinary snafus of the new Double Axle management, even the near fatal ones like old Mel’s failure to take the plastic off the Kaiser rolls before putting them into the fiery furnace of the Vulcan Torpedo Oven.
Now all Hooter had to do was sell the idea.
To be continued…