A vignette from 'Frank' in The Lies We Live
Steph grabbed the fresh pot of coffee and the plate of cinnamon spice cake from the counter and started for her corner table. She glanced out the window and saw a beat-up, old pickup truck idling alongside the curb out front, mottled spots of rust covering much of the vehicle’s lower half. The driver was behind the wheel, looking down at his smartphone. Setting her treats down on the table, she moved her bag from the chair to the floor and looked out the front window again as she sat down, marveling at how much it looked like her grandparents’ farm truck, sans the broken, wooden broom sticking out of the wall of the truck bed. She chuckled to herself as she loaded up her fork with crumbly goodness, remembering the times she rode in the back of that old farm truck as a child, going with her grandparents to check on the crops, and using her broken broom to sweep weeds, dirt clogs, grain, and corn out of the bed. Now, it sat in a tired pile on her grandparents’ farm, hidden behind the trees lining the long, gravel driveway; oats and grass having gone to seed in the hollow of the curled back bumper.
She was saved from the throes of bittersweet nostalgia when she heard voices up near the front of the coffee shop. There was an older gentleman wearing blue jeans, a plaid button-up, and a weathered, white cowboy hat. He was speaking with Tom and Steph saw Tom gesture her way. The man in the hat looked over his shoulder at her, then looked back at Tom and nodded.
Steph took a deep breath and mentally prepared herself for her next appointment. As the man approached her table, she waved at him.
“Hi, I’m Steph, are you here to give confession?” she asked, smiling at the man and holding out her hand for a handshake.
The man took his hat off and held it to his chest. “Well, hello there, Miss Stephanie. I am, indeed. The name’s Frank,” he said, shaking her hand. Steph was surprised by the deepness of his voice. He set his hat down on the table and settled into the chair opposite her.
Steph set her hands on the table and folded them in front of her, her half-eaten plate of cake temporarily pushed to the side. “So, Frank, what brings you to my dark, little corner of secrets today?”
“Well, Miss, I’m sorry to say it, but I’m a downright detestable pile of chicken shit, I am.”
Steph’s smile disappeared and she stared at her new guest in surprise. She shifted uncomfortably in her chair and cleared her throat, “Ehm, eh – ”
Frank must have seen she was taken off guard and jumped in to try to clear things up, “Well, let me just clarify – it’s not just me, it’s really everyone in my town. The whole town’s just filled with chicken shits.”
Steph continued to stare at him for another moment before she was able to think of something to say. She shook her head and held up a hand, “Wait, so… the people in your town, or just, like, the whole town in general?”
“Today, I’m talkin’ about the people,” Frank vigorously nodded, “but about the town? Well, from my point of view, it’s been going down the shitter for quite some time. I haven’t considered it a decent sort of place since I was a youngin’. I’m sure there’s still some decent sorts out there somewhere – decent people, decent towns – but really, the whole world’s just become one big shit-show.”
Steph studied Frank’s face as he spoke and she could see he had a lot weighing on his mind, and a lot to say about it. She held up her hand again to slow him down, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but maybe I should state my disclaimer first and we’ll just go from there. Is that alright?”
Frank looked at her as if he was just noticing her for the first time, and he seemed a little startled. “Yeah, that’d be a good idea. Go ahead, Miss,” he agreed, his gruff, gravelly voice vibrating in the space between them. His hands were also on the table, and Steph saw how calloused and dirt-stained they were. It made her think of her grandparents and their farm again.