Good morning, 2nd Cup friend. It’s been awhile since Dan spent his early Saturday mornings writing into your life. He’s been making some worthwhile adjustments in his routine since he moved last June, and I had a little discretionary time this morning. I thought I’d spend it with you.
Please–come on in. I’m reasonably sure you like coffee, so I’ve a pot of fresh-ground and -brewed Winter Blend. Grab one of those cups and I’ll pour. There’s sugar and cream there if you’d prefer some this morning. I even have some hot chocolate mix if you happen to like mocha java once in awhile. It’s what I’m enjoying right now.
Go ahead and fix your coffee; we’re in no hurry.
Pardon? Oh. That’s Pandora, and I have Smooth Jazz Christmas Radio playing until after the holiday season is past. It was one of you who years ago said I should try Pandora, and I’ve had it softly playing in the background almost daily for years, every time I’m here in Granger’s office. You know who you are, and I’m grateful. In fact, if I recall, you first steered me to it during holiday season a few years ago. It’s a true friend’s kind of gift, for it endures over time. From my heart, I’m appreciative.
I’m blessed to have you stop by. The chance to visit with, to get to better know Dan’s readers, is a rare treat, for he keeps me and my friends busy.
I’m his principal character. My goings-on appear in many – actually, most of – his stories. Because my personality lives in so many of Dan’s writings, I literally have no time to myself.
Why, right now I’m in the middle of a multi-chaptered short story introducing yet another of Dan’s peripheral characters – this time an independent news reporter. The reason I’ve a bit of breathing room, and time to chat with you, is that Dan’s hesitating in how to progress with my allowing this reporter to interview me.
Oh, you didn’t know about that? Yes, it’s definitely a first, and likely an only. You’ll have to go back and read the first two chapters. I’ve already set the rules by which we’ll proceed, me and Glennis Witherspoon. Unh-hunh. Definitely a reporter’s name. I’ve no idea if that’s the name her mom gave her, and it isn’t germane to the story – unless, that is, Dan decides to make it so.
Anyway, I made it clear that I’m a very private guy, and the only way I’d agree to her interviewing me is if the entire thing’s off the record.
My calling, my ministry, if you will, is to be a professional encourager of those God sends across my path. It sounds mundane until you begin going back through the various stories Dan’s written about my intervention, directly or indirectly, in those individuals’ lives.
You probably feel a bit awkward interacting with a writer’s fictional character. I understand that. Think how I feel . . . I’m almost always connected to one of Dan’s stories. Since my dialog with other characters is always directed by him, I don’t get the chance to sit with you, his readers, getting to observe and know you better.
Dan first started his 2nd Cup stories back in 2012-13, and the early ones didn’t identify me by name. Once you read the story, though, you could catch the scent of my favorite cologne back then, Burberry Weekend, wafting through the sentences and phrasing–well, that and the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. Dan doesn’t add the Divine mystique in all my adventures; yet the inexplicable, the “No Way!” stuff, shows up just often enough to remind all of you who follow me: I’m God’s. It’s Him working in and through me, Who makes things work out as they do.
Mystical or not, they are all meant to help you grow, to draw you closer to those you love, and ultimately to God.
Hmm? What’s it like being the principal character in a lot of Dan’s writing? Well, if you’ve spent any time at all reading his stories, you know a lot about me. I won’t bore you with details, since you have access to Dan’s archived 2nd Cup of Coffee posts that started back in early 2013. They’re in the drop-down box on the right side of his blog site. I guess you could say that’s where I, Arlough, Sparks, Raven Wing, and all sorts of intriguing guest characters live . . .
Mmm. That’s the New York Jazz Trio doing The Christmas Song.
I never shut down any particular season’s music immediately after that holiday’s past. And where Christmas is concerned, those twelve days begin on December 25th, so I’m relaxing in the aural flow of Beegie Adair’s styling of Rudolph – with the sound level at 8. I’ve long loved smooth, easy jazz playing in the background just loud enough to hear but not intrude. And though I don’t often frequent live jazz venues in Dan’s stories, I’m a bit of a musical rebel in that I’ve always felt creative freedom and been at ease around smoky, warm jazz renditions of all sorts of music genres.
As Granger, I’m not a young man; and though my past, early life is only hinted at, there are clues scattered here and there – enough so if you’re a fan and read back through previous posts, you catch on I’ve been and done a lot of things that enable me to be the man, the friend, the confidante I am. To reach out and touch lives as Dan always has me doing. Thus, though time does pass in my stories and adventures, it, like the music, moves easily, smoothly, and slowly, giving you and I plenty of time to spend together.
Okay, one more question . . . Yeah – way over there.
Could I slip back into character and start a story for old times’ sake? Well, I’ll need Dan’s help here. He’s my Jim Henson. Hey, Dan? Put the coffee down; you’re gonna need both hands, because a fan wants a Saturday-morning style story like you used to do, back when. So, whaddya got, there?
Oh-h-h… Hey, this will be good.
Amanda stood there in her USAF hoodie and jeans, scanning the warm interior of High Plains Diner in Bennett, Colorado, hoping to find a vacant table where she could sit with her 6-year-old son, Preston, until the winter storm abated. She’d pulled off I-70 into the sprawling Love’s Travel Stop to gas up her car and give her eyes a rest from squinting through the blowing snow. Wanting a hot breakfast somewhere a bit safer and more inviting than a truck stop, she’d been directed a couple of miles up the road to the diner by a helpful attendant.
She wasn’t the only traveler with that idea. Though cheery, the diner was busy and every table was taken. Amanda had zero desire to go back out into the swirling, icy storm, so she sat down in the only vacant chair left just inside the door. She wadded up both their winter coats and stuffed them down beside the chair, patting her lap for her tired son to sit with her. They weren’t going anywhere in a hurry, and it wasn’t like she had anywhere pressing to be or anything.
As she sat absorbing the warmth, her mind traveled back to the Utah town that had been their first cool little home until her husband, Rick, decided single life surrounding his being stationed at Creech AFB in Nevada would be more fun than driving back to boring little St. George, UT and his sensible, small home, wife, and son.
They’d started out with both the promise of Rick’s income and a sizeable wedding gift from her dad’s estate, earmarked for her before his passing. They’d scaled down honeymoon plans, choosing to spend those days and nights in Kayenta, Arizona at a Hampton Inn operated on an Indian reservation a friend had told them about. She’d done her best to make the little house a home, and had worked hard to be responsible with their money. She’d always kept herself attractive, walking several times each week and keeping her auburn hair clean and presentable. Preston liked his school and had a lot of friends, and she thought life was good – until it wasn’t. And she didn’t even know he’d—-
Amanda dropped her head, shaking it. “Oh, please, God–I do NOT want to sink back down into that swamp of depression and self-pity. I made my decision to start over, I’ve got a beautiful, smart, funny son to think about, and that’s that. I’m claiming Proverbs 3:1-10 again. You know I’ve made that passage totally mine, I’m gonna live by it, and I know You’re going to see me and Preston through this! And, Lord? We’re both tired and hungry, and it’d sure be great if—-“
“Excuse me, ma’am. I don’t mean to intrude, but I noticed you and the boy come in. You look like you’ve been on the road awhile and need to warm up and get some good food in you.”
Startled, Amanda looked up to see a man standing several feet away, looking at her, with a gentle look on his face. He was older with beautiful silver hair, dressed in casual khaki slacks, a red plaid flannel shirt, and a British tan leather jacket. He wore a wedding ring, and his face had laugh-lines framing the crow’s feet beside each eye.
Making a rueful face, she nodded. “You’re right, we do. But every table is full.”
“As it turns out, mine is not. It would be my pleasure for you and–” He raised his eyebrows and looked at Preston, whose eyes were hopeful as he answered, “Preston. I’m Preston.”
“–and Preston to join me at my table.” At this, he gestured toward a table set for four she hadn’t noticed. Cautious, Amanda hesitated, although there was something reassuring about the man. Preston sealed the deal by locking eyes with the man and saying, “My mom’s name is Amanda Brockings. Can we, Mom? I’m starving!”
The mom in her hesitated. Considering what she’d been through the past several months, men weren’t real high on her list. She scanned the roomful of bustling travelers once more, then eyed the man again. He stepped back and said, “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to bother you. Please forgive m—“
“No–I’m the one who’s sorry. You’re being kind; of course, we’ll join you.”
Sighing through her nose and upset at herself, she told the boy to grab their coats and gathered her purse and the green fabric shopping bag she’d intended to carry some drinks and snacks back to the car with them. The man stood back, again gesturing toward his table. He followed them to it, and grinned as Preston put both coats on chair backs and slid up onto a seat.
He held a chair out to seat Amanda. A young bearded guy hunched over the next table wolfing down his breakfast paused to sneer until he felt the eyes of the silver-haired man on him. As he looked up, his face went slack, then reddened as he focused again on his meal. Amanda noticed none of this, but the six-year-old was seated where he had an uninterrupted view and missed none of it.
Seated once again, the man gestured to a server bussing the next table over, pointing to Amanda and her son. Receiving a nod, he turned back to them.
“My name is Granger. I’m glad this worked out, for I can tell you’re road-weary and, like all of us, can use the warmth and the rest as well as the good food.”
Amanda was quiet for a few seconds. She’d grown up watching her father always treat her mom like a queen, opening and holding doors, and seating her at tables, including their own at home. It was something Rick never seemed to see as important, so seeing his mom treated nice was new to her son.
“Thank you again, Mr. Granger. I—”
“Just Granger. And you’re very welcome. I appreciate your caution, too. I’d been watching folks coming in, wanting to let someone share this table if they wanted, but felt restrained. Now I understand why.”
Just then a server whose name tag read BRADLEY stopped by with menus, took her and Preston’s drink orders, and dashed off again. Amanda looked at food and prices, checking on the kids’ menu, mentally thinking what they could spend and still get to Springfield, Missouri where her sister and husband lived. As if reading her mind, Granger said, “Your meals have been paid for; order anything in whatever sizes you want – and that includes whatever you need to take with you.”
Stunned, she stared at him. “What? How– I mean, when—“
“When I first sat down and ordered, I told Bradley whoever joined me at this table would need a good meal, could have all they wanted, and to put it all on my check. Please . . . order whatever you both want.”
“Woah! Even cheese curds?” Preston’s eyes were round with excitement. Chuckling, Granger nodded.
“Especially cheese curds. They’re my favorite, too!”
Their food came, and they were quiet as they both ate as only hungry people do. Motioning at her mouth with her own napkin, she got Preston’s attention: “Ketchup.” He wiped his mouth and just as they were putting their disposable dishes together, the extra food they’d ordered came in take-out bags. Amanda hesitated, looking at the table.
“I’ll clean up. It looks like the weather’s calmed down and the plows are out again. You should be able to make pretty good time.” Standing, he stepped around the table and held her coat as she stood up and slid out her chair. Preston was on his feet, too, and was watching. Granger picked up his coat, too, and held it for the boy to put on.
It was Amanda’s turn to watch. Preston looked up and said, “Mr. Granger, sir? Thank you for taking care of me and my mom. I know you’re old and stuff, but whenever I get another dad, I sure hope he’s like you.” Embarrassed, the boy whirled, grabbed the shopping bag full of snacks, and headed for the exit. Taking a deep breath, Amanda hugged Granger as she tearfully said, “Thank you. You don’t know how much this means.”
Granger held her embrace for an extra beat or two, saying, “I’m sorry life with Rick didn’t work out; but you’ll like Springfield. I know things are going to be better. Now, you’d better catch up with that boy.”
Amanda hustled outside and caught Preston halfway to their car. She’d unlocked it and was finishing putting his coat and the bag in the back seat when she suddenly stopped. “How’d he know Rick’s name? And I never told him we were going to Spr—” Telling Preston to stay in the car and keep it locked, she ran back inside the High Plains Diner and looked at his table. Only it wasn’t his; there was another family there, seemingly halfway through their meal.
Catching the eye of the server who’d brought their food, she asked about Granger.
Bradley: “I’d never seen him before, ma’am.”
“Well, did you see where he went when he left?”
Bradley said he never saw Granger leave. He was there, and the next time Bradley looked up, Granger was gone. “The only thing I know for sure about that man is that he tips real good!” With that, the young server disappeared back into the swirl of hungry travelers.
They were back on I-70, nearing the Colorado-Kansas border, when Amanda recalled a Bible verse she’d read as part of her devotions just that morning before she and Preston left St. George for the last time. She couldn’t recall the chapter and verse, but it was something about entertaining angels without knowing it.
With her brow furrowed in thought, she said, “Lord? Is that who Granger is? Was? I mean—“
Well, 2nd Cup friend, I’ve got to really get back in character. It’s been great relaxing a bit with you. I hope to see more of you. The more you read after Dan, the more you’ll get to know me and this amazing band of unforgettable people who live in his mind and imagination. Take care, now.
© D Dean Boone, January 2022