A dark and stormy night

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It was a dark and stormy night. A thick cloud of hunger settled on Harry and Stella Johnson as they strained their eyes through the black, unfamiliar landscape for some semblance of civilization.

Thirty miles back had seen them take a wrong turn off Highway 13. As they struggled to resume their former journey, a small “Eat” sign beckoned them down a long winding path into the forest.

They at last came upon a small, wooden building with lights barely protruding through smoky panes. The trees lapped over the rooftop being forced down by the blustery wind, sending a clattering sound upon the Johnsons.

Stepping inside, both surveyed the setting. They were the only patrons. It was dimly lit, so much that the far corners were barely discernible.

As they stood in silence, out from the shadows waddled a small, wrinkled form resembling a human. Its head hung down, encircled by long strands of black and gray hair, as if to hide itself.

A high, broken utterance spilled out from underneath.

“This way, please.”

Harry and Stella glanced at each other with raised eyebrows as they were directed toward a corner table on which lay their utensils and menu.

Soon afterwards, the figure moved toward their table and directed her comments towards Harry.

“The cook desires to speak with you.”

Looking perplexed, but not desiring to be rude, Harry glanced with a furled forehead at his wife and followed his server through the shadows into the back. As Stella heard a door shut, she nervously perused her menu.

“What an odd place,” she thought.

Five minutes later, her server slid a steaming bowl of soup before her.

“On the house.”

Though such conduct seemed peculiar, Stella could not resist the unusual aroma that wafted to her senses and found herself relishing the delicacy, full of deliciously seasoned chunks. Barely had she finished her appetizer than was placed before her long strips of sautéed meat characterized by such freshness that Stella could barely contain herself.

“Have you seen my husband?” she inquired to her server.

The cook is sending him out now,” was the reply.

While Stella waited, a thick broth of stew was placed before her. She could not resist this last course while waiting for Harry.

As the last spoonful was scooped out of the bowl, she heard the light tinkle of metal against metal. Raising the spoon, she noticed a silver ring, half submerged in the stew. She recognized it immediately. It was her husband’s wedding band.

REX ALPHIN of Walters is a farmer, businessman, author, county supervisor and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is rexalphin@aol.com.