Lunch [15]

“GOIN’ FER ZAH!!” she hollered towards the back, as we headed for the door, “BACK IN A FEW.” The top of Al’s head poked out the door, backwards, as he leaned his chair back just enough to casually wave two fingers at her before tilting upwards and disappearing back into the office. She flapped a hand back at him, wheeled on her heel, and pointed her head at the door, elbows out in joking cartoon determination.
We hopped into the car. I pulled a u turn back to 1st street, then headed back to the road we’d come into town on. There was a pizza joint next to the discount store there.
We ambled in and the clerk greeted Grace in familiar tones. She ordered a couple of large pies and some sodas to go with them. I opted in for a root beer.
All of it was so… normal. I started to feel a little more settled.
There was a short wait until the pies were ready so we grabbed our sodas and sat at a table near the door.
There was bit of a silence, but Grace smiled at me in a friendly way, and I smiled back, gaining a little bit of courage.
So I said, “Do you mind if I ask a few questions? Is that okay?”
“Sure. Go ahead. Shoot.” she grinned.
I asked, “So you and Al are from here? Why isn’t the same mess that’s hitting Salina and points east coming here?”
She said, “Well, we spend some time here. Not exactly ‘from’ here, but we come through fairly regularly. And the “mess”- good word for it- has tried to come here for thousands of years. They can’t break through because it’s protected. There are many more sides to this story. We aren’t alone in our struggle against these beings, but we’re not exactly the most important thing in the universe, either.”
The order came up, so we dropped the conversation and schlepped the pies and drinks out to the car.
As we got into the car, I resumed my questions.
“Protected how?” I asked, putting it into gear and backing out.
“I promise you we’ll get to that, just as soon as we can, but it’s a REALLY long story, and I’m starving. AND we have some other things to handle right now, so it’s going to have to wait a little while.”
She was reciprocating on my straight talk attitude from when we’d first met that morning. I was grateful.
We brought our armloads of nosh into the museum. Grace locked the door and flipped the “open” sign hanging on a string from the crossbar to the “back in five minutes” one taped to its back.
“We’re BAAAaaaaack,” Grace called, smiling. She dimmed half of the lights and we trundled past the jumble of museum exhibits heading for the back room. I focused on following her back through the somewhat narrow walking space when out of the corner of my eye something shiny glinted.
I glanced over at the tall brown wooden bookshelf. It was packed with an assortment of books, chachkas, dolls, and souvenir plates. The second-to-the-top shelf was laden with perhaps a dozen or so crusty old leather-bound brown books of medium size, all about an inch or so thick. Fairly unremarkable except for the rustic quality of their bindings, which looked to be handstitched- and very worn.
They were being held in place in the center of the shelf by a pair of shiny brass bookends.
I gasped a little bit, and nearly dropped the sodas.
The bookends were cast in the shape of two cougars, with inlaid jade eyes.

Published by goddesswest

I'm a painter and am writing something now. People keep asking me to put it together in an easier to access place, so here I am. Plan to get some of my artwork in here too, eventually.

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