Chapter 7Greg unzipped his coat as he walked into the Fat Lion Cafe, busy even at 6 a.m. with the coffee and breakfast crowd. The downtown greasy spoon attracted high school kids and some college students on afternoons, but old-timers and early risers waited for it to open every morning.
Named by owners Myrtle and Beau Perkins in honor of the Darling High School mascot, the Pumas, the cafe occupied a narrow brick building a block from the paper. Greg soon learned the regulars knew more about what was going on in town than anyone else.
This morning, conversation died down when Greg came in, and he suspected it was the editorial. He heard somebody mumble to Myrt about getting Caldwell some jelly to sweeten his sour disposition. Stumpy was sitting in the corner by the steamy plate glass window waiting for him.
Greg grabbed a chair, and propped his back to the wall. He could always get a quick "read" on what people were paying attention to in The Index by eavesdropping and watching out of the corner of his eye what they read. He knew the academic content analysis researchers would be dismayed and scoff, but he suspected what he learned at the Fat Lion as just as reliable as their "scientific' research.
"Well, you do know how to open a can of worms," Stumpy said, sipping his coffee. Before he could reply, Myrt came over with a coffee pot and a mug, "Morning Greg. "Coffee?" She was pouring before he answered.
"Yep, a coupl'a eggs, hash browns, sausage and biscuits and gravy, please."
"Sure, be a minute," and she turned back to the kitchen in the rear where Beau was cooking.
Looking Stumpy in the eye, Greg said, "Yes, I guess I did. What do you hear?"
Stumpy sipped his coffee, frowned, and paused.
"I think you're right, and maybe so do a lot of people, but most of 'em have learned to keep their mouths shut when the town's big dogs want something. They've learned, or given up. You do have guts, boy, but I think you're also still a little naive about who runs the town."
Greg started to respond, but was interrupted by a conversation at the next table.
"Whattya thinking, Henry?"
"Nothing much. I had Post Toasties for breakfast, and read the paper--now I've got nothing on my stomach and nothing on my mind."
"Anything in the Index?"
Greg smirked, mainly to show them he wasn't irritated, even though the comments were meant to annoy. He knew a sign of respect in a small town was the good-natured banter and jibes between people. That's why he enjoyed coming into the cafe, for what he called "real food and real people."
But the next comment was not good-natured, and Greg's apprehension returned.
"Except for that editorial yesterday," Henry said. "I think there will be hell to pay."