Derenberg Wilson woke to the usual silence. He'd been sleeping fine. A regular pattern for his habits was what he ascribed it to, so that you didn't confuse night with day. Aside from that intention, he did indeed stay up too late usually, as he worked behind the wood in a regular comfy joint 'til midnight most nights. Occasionally had a brew near the end of the night, hotel motel time. As in,"Dont gotta go home, just gotta go." Today was a Friday, and he began shaking the cobwebs with a rote mental procedure of what the hell do I need to do. Got plenty of beer, got plenty of vodka, plenty of gin, scotch, bourbon, plenty tequila, on down the mental row of the metal well hooked to the ice sink behind the center bar station of the Bad Tavern. Ice machine been workin good too, thank heaven, if you can thank heaven for such a thing, as he moved carefully to his bathroom for morning ablutions. Not too stiff, another good sign. Friendly old pattern of clean linoleum underfoot. He sat gratefully on the can to pee. Nothing wrong with a man sittin to pee first one of the day. Time for a good look out the window anyway, see whats on the road. His third floor bathroom window looked mostly south down 3rd street that ran in front of his building. Not every apartment was occupied, and the businesses on the first floor were small nine to five concerns, so quiet and peaceful was the usual state of affairs here in Marlinton West Virginia. A grey shadowless morning. Winter had been one long dull experience, lots of time on the couch with Tammy. That wasn't too dull, but Daren could imagine it being so, down the line. But Tammy's mother was still fine and slim, so a serious LTR might be not the worst thing that could happen, should a man decide to marry.
A not too shabby Nissan Pathfinder with big tires and mud splash turned in to the lot and rolled to a stop in front of the Seven Eleven across the street. Two guys got out, city fellers but not in a rush. That put Deren in mind of his back bar stock, the high dollar stuff. Those fellers probly drink Makers Mark, or Wild Turkey Rare Breed. They were dressed for fishing, vests and ballcaps, jeans and flannel shirts under open multipocket jackets against late April morning chill. Deren recalled the distributor telling him about how Austin Nichols distillery paid the state of Kentucky a quarter of a million dollars for it's bourbon killing about a zillion fish in the Kentucky river when a warehouse burned up, spilling thousands of gallons of bourbon. West Virginia usually spills mine waste or drilling chemicals in the river, reflected Daren. He wiggled his equipment and stood, thinking he probly had enough of the fancy beer on hand, too. The guys coming up from D.C. usually drank that expensive darker beer. Or light stuff, like most folks sometimes, or that Ultra. Whatever. I got it. Where else they gonna go if they wanna hit a bar? They were rock climbers and flyfishermen, or the crazy ones bombed expensive bikes straight down the sides of mountains, going down trails across the switchbacks of the old logging roads and railbeds, tearing ass where even ATVs and fourwheelers couldn't go. Damn. I can't afford that beer, I can't afford those bikes, I can't afford those wiggly fish poles either. But I got enough of the back bar stuff. Better get down to Daisy's and write my list though.
Deren got his shit together in fairly short order. He didn't wear his pants low like a wigger but he did favor black attire, large exaggerated graphics patterns and logos rather than camo. Too many city punks in weird camo now, the ones on those bikes. Deren liked a Last Kings shirt he had, and put it on before grabbing his dark brown Carhartt coat, arms up high while the sleeves came down and settled over his shoulders while he cantered down his quiet stair.
The two city fellers wandered the aisles of the Seven Eleven, one looking for bags of hot peanuts. One got a bottle of iced tea and the other a large can of beer. Peanuts and tea in hand, wearing a WVU hat, Lucian Heck asked the cashier about a place to get fishing licenses. The fat young thing said “only place near is Spire's out on 219. They got bait too.”
“Point to it,” Heck said. She put her right arm up one way, looked nonplussed, then the other arm instead, out the other way. She laughed gap toothed. “It's out on this side, you go out this side an over 8th to cross the river, an then make a right. Make a left I mean, when you're over the river. A mile down an it's on the left. Past the hospital a good bit.”
“Spire's is a what, hardware? Gas station?”
“Alla that, I guess, diner and bar too.”
“Spire does it all. Old General store. Been there forever. His daddy had it for years.”
Heck turned an arched eyebrow and a smile to his left rear quarter on an older skinny fellow in a John Deere cap and full grey beard.
“You can get pret-near anything there you want for out here young feller.” Scratching his Adam's apple.
“I appreciate it.” Looking him in the eye. The city fellers paid up, while the locals watched.
Outside, Pense said over the hood, “point to it?”
“When I ask directions I sometimes can't tell which way folks mean right out of the place.” Heck said, opening his tea, swigging while looking around. “If you start out the street wrong way right away, it's trouble from the start. The long part of the directions is easy to follow. It's that start I like to be sure of. Watch and see when you ask next.”
“I've asked directions many times many places and not had that particular difficulty.” Jerking open his door.
They got in, Heck behind the wheel. He looked around some more as they backed out, paying some attention to an old grey Ford flatbed pickup. Heck surmised it went with the guy in the John Deere hat, and that old guy indeed ambled toward the truck not looking their way. Heck moved carefully out of the lot following the old guy in his mirrors with just his eyes, not moving his head.
Watched his speed and moved smoothly through the small unbusy town, coming to full stops at every intersection. No police had they seen for the hours driving down from further upstate since early that morning. Pense opened the beer when they hit route 219. It was gone before they rolled to a stop at Spire's General Store.
Inside the large old wooden timber frame building were several aisles of old shelves with all the stuff one might want on a fishing or camping trip stacked and divided neatly, everything fitting in with the genuine rustic interior. Halfway back was a stuffed bear, and a stuffed coyote snarling atop the shelves on an opposite aisle. There was the occasional old wooden barrel full of stuffed toy animals or other touristy eye-catchers, and various useless consumer items. The place was dimly lit but pleasantly so, with a long old counter and functioning antique cash register. Behind the counter to one side of the register stood a middle aged balding fellow of less than great stature, calmly regarding Heck and Pense' entry over half glasses and cigar, one hand holding paper, the other on hip, like a football coach not happy. Behind him was a high full wall of shelves piled with stuff, and an old rolling ladder attached to it that could slide up and down the length of the front room of the store.
“Fishing, I presume?”
“Guilty as charged,” said Pense, grinning. “Got any beer?”