I walked back along the main street toward the Elgin and the Stockmen’s Cafe, passing the neon outside the bars and looking in the windows at the lit store displays. I was a time traveler between two worlds — only waiting through the passing hours.

In Norbert’s and in Madeleine’s, the expensive women’s boutique, the thin mannequins wore brown and beige, gold and dark orange, and rich-looking, red, wool shirts with red-and-black plaid, zippered jackets. Tall, shiny women’s Italian boots stood arranged on bales of hay and on the floor, which was strewn with bright straw.

With her newly cut auburn hair and good figure, Joyce would look pretty and free if she wore the fashionable fancy clothes. The models appeared happy and surprised that the season was changing and they were dressed in new outfits for fall and all it would bring.

The night girl in the Stockmen’s lunchroom served me two draft beers from the bar and a hot roast beef sandwich with brown gravy over hash browns. She apologized that it was too late for mashed potatoes, but I said it was fine: I liked the hash browns better.

“They found the college kids,” she said.

“I heard that. That was good.”

“Crazy,” she said, pouring my coffee. “They’ll probably make a movie.”

“Why not?”

She smiled and I left a good tip.

I got back to the Elgin and saw a note on my door. From a yard away, I recognized the handwriting.



I didn’t know if she meant she’d be back tonight or some other day. This time instead of drawing a shining star Joyce had signed her name beside a little heart that matched the red birthmark on her wrist she’d shown me in her kitchen.

“I used to think it was good luck, before I got married,” she’d said before she kissed me.

Tug had told her I’d quit the mill and was going to school at the college. Saturday Joyce had driven by in Ray’s new Ram pickup and leaned across the seat so her stylish haircut caught the late sun as she looked toward the Elgin. I’d seen her through the glass door as I held the rod and the creel of trout I’d caught with Wes and nearly hurried out to flag her down.