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 hungry like the wolf, for abbey
bird
 Posted: Jul 25 2015, 12:29 AM
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number one dad
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Nobody comes to Magnolia to see the flowers. Then again, no one comes to the Milepost Café for the coffee either, but that doesn't stop the lunchtime rush from coming in.

Most weekday mornings, when she isn't working a shift up at the shop back in town, Jules takes her busted-up little blue Chevy up the dust road out to the diner. The Milepost sits right on the highway exit next to a full-service gas station, all of it looking like something straight out of the fifties and all of it looking like it hasn't gotten painted since. Inside, a tape deck and a NO LONG GUNS sticker on the door are the only concessions made to the modern era, in a diner so lovingly worn down that a few film crews have passed through it in better years and left autographed photos on the walls. Around noon, when the summer sun beats down too hot and there's no shade up until the next blue heave of the mountains, the slippery red booths fill up with travelers looking for some combination of coffee, air conditioning, or lunch. Jules likes it then, when the place hums with long-haul truckers slapping the table, laughing Diné youth driving back from Page or elsewhere, tired-eyed tourists and their blonde wives and kids who've just realized that they've wasted two hours on a wrong turn and that at this rate, god, they'll never get out to Coral Pink. There are sunburnt, white-toothed yuppies on vacation and the occasional ornery sister-wife; there are cops from the Sherriff's office who make Jules a little cagey and never tip well, and there are old leather-faced bikers and bearded old ranchers who always do. Town folk come too, sometimes, but not often: Magnolia proper lies about eight miles down the red dust road, a sleepy little tin-roofed town of about a thousand-odd souls who are the type to fry their own damn eggs (or eat them raw).

It's not work she needs, but it's not work that she minds, either, and the tip money's a far sight better than what she makes at the shop getting grease under her fingernails. By two o'clock, after cheerfully dispensing coffee, directions, or plates laden with huevos rancheros and green chiles, Jules - Julie, in looping cursive, on her name tag - is usually free to settle in by the counter with a trashy novel and a fresh pot of coffee until the end of her shift. Frank and Selma and the fry cook and the sleepy teenager pumping gas out front aren't locals -- they drive in from across the county line -- but they aren't stupid, either. They give her all the days off she needs without asking what the hell she does with them, and if they notice that she can smell the oil burning in the back before even the fry cook does, they never bring it up.

Today it's Valley of the Dolls, with the tourist season winding down and the autumn coming. Jules yawns, draping her apron over one stool at the bar and her long brown legs over another. It must be getting to be about that time, though, because she's up and on her feet before she hears the chime.

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abbey
 Posted: Jul 25 2015, 06:54 AM
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Magnolia is where Deirdre grew up, and she likes it well enough. The flora, like the people, is adapted to the heat. Flowering cacti, clumps of low-growing shrub and high-growing gorse, their seeds scattered by the earth's gusty hot breath. They decorate the red ground between miles of sparseness.

She's been and gone, but she always comes back. The town doesn't change in her absence. This is childhood. This is summer the way it was meant to be, with her stubbornly curled hair struggling in the heat and sweat tickling her scalp and running down her neck. Her hair is in long, loose curls, as though it were a pretty accident this morning, and not a carefully cultivated image that walks through the door of the Milestop Café. Deirdre is a quiet girl, or so everyone thinks until she opens her mouth. Somehow, she is quieter in heels. The doorbell gives her away, if the time and the smell of her Aqua Manda perfume don't. She takes off her sunhat and shakes out her hair, smiling.

The smile is for everyone else. Her eyes, large, dark and where the real humour is, are for Jules.

The way she comes over is pert and friendly, and the way she reaches for Jules's hand is over-friendly, best-friendly, like sisters. Jules is already up and raring to go. In contrast, Deirdre sets her purse down by a stool and settles into the red vinyl.

"Can we get some bacon first? And pancakes? I'm starved."
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