Marilyn was driving as we went hammer down through Kansas City and on to Omaha. Our home was just about 3 hours ahead. We decided to stop for a late lunch at a truck stop 45 minutes out of K.C. We had found what seemed like the last parking spot and settled into a booth. I ordered the special of sloppy joes with fries and cole slaw while Marilyn opted for a salad. We visited about whether it was smart to have stopped or if we should have kept going. Getting us home earlier would have been nice and the incessant coughing of a trucker in the booth behind Marilyn cemented our thinking that we should have kept pounding the pavement. The man alternated sucking on a cigarette with bites of food and talk with another trucker. They were both loud, opinionated, and like some drivers I've known, (yes I've done that for a living for a while) not terribly well spoken.
A waitress came to their table mid way through lunch with a full pot of fresh coffee. She had the look of a tough old bird who had been serving truckers all of her life. She was about to ask the man with the 'shipping fever' if he would like his cup topped off when he began to cough. The first few coughs expelled some smoke and part of his lunch. He then continued to cough. This was no ordinary cough. It made all the patrons in the whole area freeze. We all wanted to watch the outcome of this spell. It's the same instinct that makes one look at the bad accident on the other side of the Interstate. It really doesn't concern you but you must look. I'm also sure everyone was thinking like Marilyn and I, 'can this man survive this or will his life be snuffed out right before our eyes.' We should watch just in case they need to take testimony from eye witnesses.
I looked at Marilyn. She had her napkin over her mouth and kept it there. The look on her face told me we should probably make a run for the pickup before we also came down with the plague.
I looked at the waitress who had her head cocked to one side. She stared at the side of the mans head as he fought for his life. She was motionless for a full thirty seconds. There was nary a ripple in her coffee pot. She was obviously even more interested in the outcome than most of us in that eatery.
The man finally stopped coughing. I leaned to my left a bit so as to see around Marilyn. I could see the man had a napkin held over his mouth with his right hand, tears running down his face and a cigarette still burning in his left hand. He wiped his mouth and eyes and then noticed the expressionless, motionless waitress at his side and turned to look at her. With a firm authoritative voice she announced, "Well...Damitalltohell...winter's gone, springs on the way, and now you're gonna die!"
What goes around comes around. It was our turn to fight for air.