Stories from an Alaskan Cabin: Chapter Two

Read the introduction, prologue, and chapter one.

George and Lee looked at John, who shrugged and said, “That’s probably fair.” He took a breath, and this is the story John told:

Jamison was a vagabond who never had any luck. When he strolled into the small town of Fulcrum, Wyoming, his shoes were worn through the soles, his pants were threadbare, and his shirt was a combination of rags that he found on the road. His hat, though, his hat was full of promise and optimism. It didn’t look like much the outsider, but to Jamison, it was the best he could do and it represented the best he could become.

Just because he was a vagabond didn’t mean that Jamison didn’t like work. He loved to work. The problem was that he would find himself with a couple of odd jobs here and there, and then people would tell him the jobs dried up.

He wasn’t sure what the real problem was. He always arrived on time. He worked more hours than required, and he always made sure to give the most effort he could at any given job. When he was working regularly, well what he thought of as regularly, he always seemed to find decent clothes and a shower. When he worked with other people, they seemed to like him. His employers always found him to be honest and trustworthy. It just seemed whenever a cut had to be made, Jamison was on the chopping block.

Jamison expected to pass through Fulcrum. Small towns didn’t usually offer much in the way of jobs, and many people who lived in them were suspicious of outsiders, especially if they didn’t look the same as the townspeople. Jamison reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin purse he used to keep coins from falling through the hole in his pocket. He flipped the clip and looked in. He had enough money for a cup of coffee and a night at the Y. He looked down the main street of the town and saw the diner. He decided to go there first.

He opened the door and the bell above it jingled. The three people in the diner stared at him. He sniffed. This might be more difficult than he thought. He looked toward the counter and his life and intent immediately changed.

He couldn’t explain what he felt, but when he saw the waitress behind the counter, his heart fluttered. He knew he would stay in town just for her. She looked up from the counter, and her eyes captured him.

“Can I help you?”

Jamison held up a dollar bill out of reflex. A lot of places hesitated to serve someone who didn’t look to have any money. “I’d just like a cup of coffee, please.” His voice cracked, betraying him.

“Okay, just have a seat over there, and I’ll be right there.” She pulled a cup out from under the counter and turned toward the coffee pot.

Jamison went to the booth and sat down so he could see most of the diner. There probably wouldn’t be any trouble, but he wanted to be ready, just in case.

The waitress was headed to his table with a cup when the door opened again. A man in a sheriff’s uniform stepped into the diner removing his hat.

“Oh, hi, daddy!” The waitress said. “Let me just deliver this coffee, and I’ll meet you at the counter.”

“Okay, sweetheart.” His voice was tender with love and tough with years of police service. He walked over to the counter and sat down.

The waitress set the cup on the table. “You look like you’ve been down a hard road,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am, been walking for nigh on two weeks now.”

“Well, can I get you anything else?” She smiled.

Jamison felt warmed by her attention, even though he knew it was only what any other customer would get. “No, ma’am, except for maybe directions to the Y…”

“We don’t have a Y in town, but if you need a place to stay, the church at the corner of Main Street and Cedar is an option. When you head out the door here, turn left, you can’t miss it.”

“Alright, thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll be back to refill that for you in a couple of minutes.” She returned to the counter and poured the sheriff a cup of coffee. She turned around and flashed a peace sign at the kitchen while she grabbed a plate with a ham and cheese sandwich that had appeared on the steel counter. She placed the plate in front of her father. They talked for a little bit.

Jamison sat drinking his coffee. It was good. He watched the interaction between the sheriff and his daughter. He smiled. He would need to get a job and some new clothes if he was going to turn his life around for the better. He looked down into his cup. It was empty. He looked up, and the waitress was at his table pouring another cup and setting down a ham and cheese sandwich. “Um…”

“It’s on the house. You look like a man who could use a free meal and that dollar your keeping out.” She interrupted.

Jamison opened his mouth.

“There’s no use arguing with me. Just enjoy your sandwich and coffee. When you’re ready, make your way to the church for the evening.”

“Well, thank you, ma’am.”

“You’re welcome. Now, enjoy.” She walked back to the counter and made a phone call.

Jamison finished his sandwich and another coffee refill before he left the diner. He then walked down the street to the church. A man in a dark suit and tie stood outside the doors.

“You must be the man Jenny called about.”

Jamison looked confused.

“Jenny at the diner? She called to let me know someone was going to need a place for the evening.” The man smiled. “I’m Pastor Duncan. We have a small room in the basement you can use.” He held out his hand.

Jamison shook it. “Thank you.”

“It’s the least a Christian can do for a man who needs help. Come on.” Pastor Duncan led Jamison to the room downstairs. It had a cot with a small mattress and pillow. There was a toilet and a shower in a nearby shower. Pastor Duncan pointe at another door. “You’ll find some clothes in there. Hopefully, there’ll be something that will fit you. Tomorrow is our Annual Pancake Feed.” He rummaged around his pockets and pulled out a white piece of paper. “This’ll get you all you can eat.” He handed the ticket to Jamison. “My wife made a lunch you can take with you. Nothing fancy, but it’s in the fridge.” He pointed out the small refrigerator on the other side of the cot. “If you leave the church and no one else is around, the door will lock behind you, so you won’t be able to get back in. And just so you know, we don’t keep any money on the premises. Do you have any questions?”

Jamison stammered, “You don’t even know me.”

“Still, you’re my neighbor and my brother. I couldn’t let you suffer while you’re here. I suspect you’ll be getting a job or moving on shortly, so stay a couple of days and see what happens.” He held out his hand.

Jamison shook it. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. See you tomorrow morning for pancakes.” The pastor left.

The next morning, Jamison went upstairs to the pancake feed. As he went through the line, he saw Jenny serving up scrambled eggs. He asked for some.

She scooped them up and lifted them toward the plate. “Oh my! You’re the guy from yesterday, aren’t you? I hardly recognized you.” She put the eggs on the plate. “You clean up nice.”

“I reckon that’s true,” Jamison said. “At least that’s what people have told me.”

“So, what are your plans?” Jamison was going to respond, she interrupted before he could get a word in. “Now’s not the time. Go enjoy your breakfast. I’ll find you when I’m done here.”

Jamison grabbed a cup of coffee and found a space at a table where no one else was sitting. He ate his food and finished his coffee and got up for seconds.

“Where are you going?” Jenny asked. She was standing beside him with two plated of food and two cups of coffee. “I got you another plate.” She put them on the table. “and some more coffee.”

They sat down and ate. After proper introductions, Jenny asked Jamison a lot of questions about where he was going, what he was doing, why he was doing it. He didn’t always have an answer, but that didn’t seem to matter to her.

Jamison asked about the job situation, and Jenny said it was grim. The recession had hit the county hard, and Fulcrum hadn’t recovered yet. When the pancake feed ended, Jenny said she had to get ready for her shift at the diner and invited Jamison to come by for dinner. Jamison said he would, and she left.

That afternoon, he walked through the downtown and to every business that was open. No one was hiring, and no one could find any odd jobs that needed doing. It looked like Jamison would have to move on. At least, he had a meal to look forward to and a place to stay for the evening.

He went into the diner. The sheriff was already seated at the counter. Jenny shouted something to the kitchen and got a cup of coffee. She nodded for Jamison to take a seat at the same booth as before. She brought the coffee over and set it on the table without saying anything. She went back behind the counter, told her dad something, and grabbed two plates from the steel counter.

She came over to the table and sat down across from Jamison. “I’m on break,” she said.

They ate and talked, and Jamison realized he had to take the opportunity in front of him. “Look, I couldn’t find any work today, and I may need to move on.” He swallowed, “But I think we have a connection. If I were to stay would you want to go out on a real date?”

She leaned forward and put a hand on his arm. “That would be lovely. I’ll keep my ear out for any jobs that may become available while we get to know each other better.”

The bell to the diner door rang, and Jamison saw the sheriff walk out. Jenny went back to work, and Jamison walked back toward the church. When he had gotten about halfway there, red lights flashed, and the sheriff’s patrol car rolled onto the sidewalk in front of him.

This had happened to Jamison before, and he knew he was better of doing whatever the sheriff said. He had his I.D. and a dollar, so he couldn’t be found vagrant he believed. Besides, things could get violent and messy if he tried to run. Jamison put his hands on his head and stood still.

The sheriff and a deputy got out of the car and started questioning Jamison. Who are you? Why are you? What did you come for? How long are you staying?

Jamison did his best to answer the questions. It didn’t seem like it was enough.

“Deputy, cuff him. I think he has drugs on him.”

Jamison allowed his hands to be cuffed.

When the sheriff searched him, he reached into Jamison’s pockets and found the coin purse. He opened it and saw Jamison’s ID and a small amount of cash. He showed it to the deputy and help up a plastic bag in his other hand. “Read him his rights and put him in the car.”

“Those aren’t mine,” Jamison said. “I don’t use drugs. I’ve never used drugs.”

“You have the right to remain silent,” said the deputy as he jerked up on Jamison’s arms to get him to stand. They put Jamison in the car and took him to jail. The sheriff saw to it that the arrest was kept quiet and the trial moved to another county where he knew the judge.

Jenny never heard from him, even though Jamison tried to write her at the diner. He was locked up for seven years. When he was released, he went back to the Fulcrum church. Pastor Duncan was still there. Jamison asked him a couple of questions and found out the sheriff had died six months ago. Jenny was married and had two children. Jamison gracefully turned down the offer for a place to stay. His luck hadn’t changed. He wandered to the next town, and as far as I know, he is still wandering today.

“Wow. That’s not depressing,” said George.

“Doesn’t mean it’s not true,” said John. “Isn’t that the point of fiction? To contain the truth in the lie.”

“I’m not saying it was a bad story,” said George. “So, who’s next?”

“I think, it’s Lee’s turn. That’ll give you some more time to come up with something to counteract the depressing story I told,” said John.

“Well, as long as you say so,” George said.

John nodded.

“And so say we all!” George shouted raising his fist.

“So say we all!” John, Gerald and Lee answered back.

Thank you for supporting us on Patreon! I hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Read Stories from an Alaskan Cabin: Chapter Three.