Free Air (Chapter 7, page 1 of 9)


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Chapter 7

It was Claire's first bad day since the hole in the mud. She had started
gallantly, scooting along the level road that flies straight west of
Fargo. But at noon she encountered a restaurant which made eating seem
an evil.

That they might have fair fame among motorists the commercial club of
Reaper had set at the edge of town a sign "Welcome to Reaper, a Live
Town--Speed Limit 8 Miles perhr." Being interpreted, that sign meant
that if you went much over twenty miles an hour on the main street,
people might glance at you; and that the real welcome, the only
impression of Reaper that tourists were likely to carry away, was the
welcome in the one restaurant. It was called the Eats Garden. As Claire
and her father entered, they were stifled by a belch of smoke from the
frying pan in the kitchen. The room was blocked by a huge lunch counter;
there was only one table, covered with oil cloth decorated with
venerable spots of dried egg yolk.

The waiter-cook, whose apron was gravy-patterned, with a border and
stomacher of plain gray dirt, grumbled, "Whadyuhwant?"

Claire sufficiently recovered to pick out the type from the fly specks
on the menu, and she ordered a small steak and coffee for her father;
for herself tea, boiled eggs, toast.

"Toast? We ain't got any toast!"

"Well, can't you make it?"

"Oh, I suppose I could----"

When they came, the slices of toast were an inch thick, burnt on one
side and raw on the other. The tea was bitter and the eggs watery. Her
father reported that his steak was high-test rawhide, and his
coffee--well, he wasn't sure just what substitute had been used for
chicory, but he thought it was lukewarm quinine.

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