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Land of a Hundred Wonders
A Deadline

a ever notice how some folks get well-known for how they dress or hunt or even what kind of truck they drive? Along with my outstanding Scrabble playing, I'm well-known for my newspaper.

Who: Me
What: Reporting
Where: Top O' the Mornin' Diner and Pumps. Cray Ridge, Kentucky, United States of America. Conveniently located at the corner of Main and Route 12.
When: Friday, August 10, 1973
Why: 'Cause if I don't get cracking, next week's front page is gonna have all the pizzazz of a piece of one ply.

I put my favorite No. 2 back to work.

Welcome to Cray Ridge

You can set your watch by Miss Cheryl and Miss DeeDee showing up for biscuits and gravy every Sunday morning at the diner. Miss Cheryl tells me she's a secretary. Her friend, Miss DeeDee, has been experiencing some trouble with her vision, so they've been driving all the way from Paducah to visit regular with Miss Lydia.

As you probably already know, an investigative reporter needs folks to write about. Late breaking stories about trees, for instance, are few and far between. So when I'm not busy bussing tables, I'm allowed to interview subjects from all walks of life who later on become the who what where when and why of my stories. That's one of the things that's so rewarding about working here with Grampa at Top O' the Mornin'.

We're the last stop for refreshments before you hit Highway 75. You'll know the diner when you see it. Shaped like a shoe box, it's got tires washed white and lip pink roses lining the entrance. Candy cane awnings billow like crazy when the west wind kicks up. There's a counter inside with slick yellow stools, booths that sit four, and up at the cash register there's toothpicks—Take Two...They're Free! And since everybody knows what a tremendous part the good or the bad version of luck can play in your life, a rusty horseshoe all the way from Texas hangs lopsided above the screen door that creaks when you open it, but not when you close it. Just another one of life's little mysteries. (In case you haven't noticed...life is chock full of 'em.)

This morning, like every morning, my Grampa, who owns the place, is where he is most of the time when he isn't out on the lake. In the kitchen. Decked out in his white apron and cowboy fishing hat. He's wrassling up the breakfasts he learned to cook in that Army mess, and damn, if there's anything that smells better on Earth than sizzling pork sausage, I wish somebody'd let me know. Oh wait, I just remembered lily-of-the-valley smell...it's simply outta this world.

"Hey, Lois Lane, there's tables need your attention," Grampa yells, sticking his head through the kitchen peek window.

"Gimme a minute, Charlie," I call back. "Gotta get down a few more words 'fore this story flies outta my head."

Lois Lane is not my real name. Grampa's just making a joke due to his keen sense of humor. My real name is Gibson McGraw, but most everybody calls me Gibby. I'm 20, or maybe 33 years old. (I'll check with Grampa and get back to you on this.) I've been living with him permanent in Cray Ridge since the night three years ago, the kind of night anybody in their right mind stays home and is grateful to do so, me and mine were heading down here so I could start my usual summer stay. The rain was gushing down so bad it erased the highway line and our Buick sprouted wings more than a few times. And the sky wasn't the only one spittin' mad that night. The very last thing I can remember my mama saying in her crossest of voices is, "We're not gonna outrun this storm....get off at the next exit and find us a motel...ya got talent at findin' motels, don'tcha, Joe? 'Specially the real cheap kind." Then my Daddy bellowed back, "I'm warning you, Addy... for the last time..."

Little did he know how right he was. A wiper stroke later, we rounded a bend in the road and bounced off a stalled Champion bus, also from Chicago.

Thank the Lord for passing Dixie Oil trucker, Mr. Hank Simmons, who found me wadded up on the edge of a creek and called for help on his 10-4 radio. I got three broken ribs, a gashed up ankle, a cracked collarbone and the worst of all—the left side of my head got dented. Correction: The worst of all was that I became an orphan that night. My mama and daddy made it out of that wagon, but not for long. (See earlier statement about luck. This would be a perfect example of the bad version.)

So that's it in a nutshell. All that I can remember, anyways, about the night I became what Grampa calls NQR, which is his pet name for Not Quite Right, which means—brain-wise—I'm not doing so hot.

© Lesley Kagen