Waar is het kompas?

It was dark by the time Kip made it from the Sioux City airport to Verloren. Or at least he hoped it was Verloren. He hadn't seen a road sign since he turned off the highway.

This was the way the whole day had gone: a flat tire on the way to the airport, first flight missed, second flight delayed by mechanical problems and later forced to land in Cincinnati. Then flooding on the highway he was supposed to take led him off down a series of county roads that grew ever more confusing as the day grew dim. And now, to top things off, his phone was dead. At least once he sold his share in the company he'd never have to make one of these goddamned service calls out in the sticks ever again.

The only light still burning on the tiny town's main street was a gas lantern above the door to the bowling alley. That is, he assumed it was a bowling alley. The sign above the door had just the words "Van Bummel" and the image of an oddly shaped bowling pin. There was a low rumble coming from the second floor.

At the top of the steps, a tall blond man with a heavy brow leaned against the door jamb. He appeared to be dressed for some kind of ethnic festival: funny old felt hat, embroidered vest, knee breeches and wooden clogs. At the far end of the long, low-ceilinged room four older men in similarly antiquated costumes were rolling grapefruit-sized balls toward sets of the same strange pins on the sign out front.

Kip asked the tall man if there was a pay phone he could use. Before he could finish the man motioned for him to follow and walked over to a counter on the opposite wall. The man then pulled a tall mug from under the counter and filled it with a frothy brown liquid from a wooden barrel setting in a rack above the counter. He handed the mug to Kip, muttered something and stepped into the next room.

Kip sniffed. The beer smelled good, like brown sugar and grain and grass. What the hell, he thought, and took a swig. It also tasted good and without thinking much about it he drained half the mug. He leaned back against the counter and felt the edge start to come off this long, maddening day.

On the wall above Kip's head, a gas lamp hissed. After looking around for the tall man, he leaned over and refilled the mug. He was musing about things he might do with his coming windfall (sail boat, Harley, Tahoe timeshare, and so on) when he realized that people were calling out to him. The old men at the other end of the room were waiving their arms and pointing to four full mugs that had somehow appeared at his elbow.

What the hell, he thought. With two in each hand and began to move toward the quartet of bowlers through the flickering amber light. Maybe they'll let me roll a game. But then I've got to get out back on the road.

Image above: Sunset I-29 by flickr user leespeaks.


Doc said...

There is no such thing as free beer.

Lee said...

I'm told there's also none in heaven.