Joshua had been on the road for several hours and when he spotted the red neon sign blinking “Deane’s Diner” he let out a heavy sigh of relief. His arms were numb from the vibration of the Panhead and his lower back was beginning to ache. A couple other bikes were parked in the gravel parking lot in front of the diner along with several beat-up trucks.
Not one to judge an establishment by the vehicles parked outside, Josh gave no notice to the transportation hierarchy. He got off his bike, pulled off his helmet then hung it on one of the handlebars. He strode into the front entrance and was immediately greeted by every eye turning to look him over. Again, not one to judge an establishment by its clientele he made his way to the bar and sat down on one of the vacant stools, relieved to be not moving. He grabbed a menu and began perusing the offerings. Thus engaged he did not see the barkeep come up to him.
“What’ll ya have?” came the low, sultry, almost hoarse voice.
An immediate impression of a Marlene Dietrich came to mind as Josh looked up. He was shocked to find a small, spit of a woman, strawberry blonde hair in a braid over her left shoulder and wearing an oversized t-shirt and jeans.
“Umm,” Joshua stuttered, “I’ll just have a beer to start.”
As she went to pour his beverage, Josh watched her through lowered eyelids. Her voice did not match the petite woman whom he saw. He wondered if she was the owner’s wife or perhaps daughter. As she approached he tried to take a gauge of her age but there was nothing in her flawless alabaster skin except for a sprinkling of freckles and wire spectacles which sat halfway down her nose that gave him a clue and the dim lighting of the diner did not help.
“Here ya go,” she stated as she placed the cold brew in front of him. “You want anything to eat?”
“Whaddya recommend?” Josh asked, hoping to start a conversation.
“The pulled pork is good today,” came the smokey reply.
“Great, set me up then.”
As the bartender turned to place the order Josh queried, “This place been around long?”
She looked back at him over her glasses, her brow knotted in a furrow as if she were trying to take his measure. She gave the line cook the order and began to return back.
A couple of patrons at the pool table were beginning to argue. She halted and briefly answered Joshua, “About twenty years.” She then went around the opposite end of the bar and confronted the two men arguing. They were both very big men, well over six feet each and the little redhead didn’t even come up to their chests. Still she showed no fear when she laid her hands on each of their arms which caused the two to move away from her and each other. However, the arguing and finger pointing continued. The bartender pulled a chair over and stepped onto the seat. This allowed her to just stand a bit above them. The entire diner grew quiet at this point and in her deep throaty voice she ground out, “You two will not make a mess in this bar. Am I understood?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” came the reply in unison.
She then stepped off the chair with assistance from both men and headed back to her duties behind the bar.
Josh let out a low whistle as she took his beer glass to refill it. “That was something to see. Still don’t you think the owner should take care of these guys? They could’ve really hurt you, even accidentally.”
As she placed the refilled beverage in front of Josh she simply stated, “I’m Deane.”
Josh flushed just a little but felt compelled to ask, “Well, Deane, can I buy you a drink?”
A very smokey laughed issued from her. “I only drink wine, and none is served here.”
Joshua was going to question why, but he already knew the answer. Without wine, the bartender didn’t feel obligated to share a drink with fly-by nights like himself. She became more intriguing all the time.
Bickering began again at the pool table. Deane slapped the bar with a towel and in a dusky voice no louder than before said, “That’s it. You two are outta here. Now get.”
Completely taken aback by the petite owner’s ultimatum the two looked at each other then gathered up their leathers and started for the exit. As they opened the door Deane shot at them, “Dinner’s at eight. I expect you two to be on time.”
“Okay, mom,” answered one, while the other replied, “Sorry “bout the fight.”
Joshua’s mind was blown. Never did he imagine that that pixie of a bartender could be a mom, much less a mom of two strapping young men. He saw his already meagre chances of getting a date gone completely down the tubes. And with that realization also came with a bit of jealousy. Whomever had this woman’s heart, certainly had a treasure worth protecting.
Throwing his tab along with a generous tip on the bar, Josh waved to Deane in his most endearing fashion. “Thanks for the beer and the grub.”
Deane waved back with her own endearing smile. “Thanks and come again,” she replied.
Josh quickly got on his bike and headed back on the highway. Deane’s Diner was a place he would remember with relish for a long time.
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This little bit of fun is dedicated to a most beloved family member. Hope you enjoyed D.