10 miles outside of Monticello, Indiana
Amy didn't know what to make of the man who sat in the booth, eating chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.
The spring storm had come in quick, and when the man had run into the coffee shop, his jacket pulled up over his head, he had seemed like just another tourist at first glance. But Amy could spot the difference. 10 years of being a waitress taught you about people. He was a handsome man, but something wasn’t right about him. The man had laughed, and cracked easy jokes, and hadn't done anything to make her suspicious, but as she had waited on him, she could spot the signs. His jacket had seemed new, never worn before. Same thing with his blue jeans, like they just come out of the store. His flannel didn't look worn either. Then there was the way his goatee was neatly trimmed, and the three rings on his finger, and the way he had talked on that fancy phone of his. There was something familiar about him, but she didn't know what.
Thom was in the back, cleaning the grill, his portable radio blaring out some country western song, and he was singing along with it. She wasn’t alone with the stranger. The rains and temperature kept most of the city folk and tourists away. Soon enough, they would be driving through town. No, it was the other things she noticed about the man that made her uneasy. For one, he was a big guy. She would have said a football player, except he didn't move like a football player. He moved like a fighter, like some of the boys down at Maple Rock Bar.
She wished Brad was here. Brad would put her at ease. Oh sure, they’d more than likely just flirt, but they would also talk about things. Important things. Things that happened outside of Moticello, in the big world beyond the cornfields. Amy drifted off into a daydream. She woke up from her dream as the man finished the last of the steak, and pushed the plate away. Habit took over, and Amy grabbed the coffee pot, and walked around the counter over to the man.
He looked up as she approached and flashed a devilish grin. The twinkle in his eyes said he knew what she had been thinking about, and didn't mind in the least. The smile nagged at her memory. She had seen it somewhere before.
Amy: Would you like some coffee hon?
Man: No thank you. Would it be possible to get some hot tea?
Amy: No problem sir. Would you care for some dessert?
Man: I would love some! What do you recommend?
Amy: The rhubarb pie is good, and so is the pecan.
Man: The rhubarb sounds delicious. I’ll have a slice of that.
Amy: Be right back.
The man went back to reading the paper. Amy had taken the chance to look at the rings again. One was a school ring, she was certain, but unlike the ones the local high schools gave out, or even like the ones from ISU either. The other ring was smaller, but still fine. The one on his pinky didn't seem to fit at all. She couldn't shake the feeling that it belonged to a woman. Amy cut a slice of pie, and grabbed a pot of tea that was left over from the morning rush, but was still good. Amy brought the man his pie. The man put down his paper, and rubbed his hands together, and flashed Amy another mega watt smile. He picked up his fork and took a bite.
Man: MMM! This is really good! I haven't had rhubarb pie in ages! My grandmother used to make it.
Amy: Well, Thom made it, but he’s like a grandmother sometimes.
The man laughed, and recognition clicked.
Amy: Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude, but aren't you Wevv Mang?
Wevv: One and the same.
Amy: I saw you on Oprah, and Larry King talking about your book! I went out and bought it that day!
Wevv: Well thank you! Did you like it?
Amy: I loved it! All those stories about traveling across the world! But what are you doing here in Monticello?
Wevv: Well, since you read my book, I’m sure you remember how I talked about my grandfather’s farm?
Amy: You mean it’s here?
Wevv: Well, it used to be. My granddad sold it years ago, and I was feeling nostalgic, and stopped in to see if the old place was still there. Sadly, it seems that a Wal-Mart has taken it’s place.
Amy: Wait, you mean the old Fortenski place was your grandpa’s?
Wevv: Indeed. I wasn’t always know as Wevv Mang. Don't go telling anyone! There’s a reason I changed my name! Ha Ha!
Amy: Oh, I won't. All big celebrities use stage names!
Wevv: Very true. Would you care to join me?
Amy: Well, I shouldn’t…
Amy looked up, and saw that the rain was still falling heavily, and lightening was flickering. The locals would be staying home on a day like today, and enjoy the show that nature was giving them. And here was a real life celebrity, who wanted to talk to her. Amy slid into the booth, opposite Wevv. Wevv turned over an unused coffee cup and filled it with tea, and slid it towards Amy.
Wevv: I find a nice conversation helps the digestion. So tell me.. (Wevv looks at Amy’s nametag)…Amy, have you lived in town your whole life?
Amy: Oh, no sir, just most of it. I went away to college, down in Indianapolis. Wanted to study art.
Amy: Well, I wanted to see the world, see all the great works of the masters all over the world. I’m afraid I wasn’t a very good student, at least my teacher said so…
And just like that, Amy began to talk. How it just all seemed to be too much at times, that she would never succeed, how she met her future husband Bill, and how they bonded together, since both came from small towns, and how they made plans after graduation to get married and start a family. Wevv made sympathetic noises, and offered encouragement. Amy talked of how things quickly things changed.
Wevv: How well I know. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I had chosen a different path.
Amy: Well, you got to see the world, meet famous people. Doesn’t seem so bad to me.
Wevv: It may seem that way, but no matter where I went, or what I did, it was always the same. I was an outsider, trying to fit in. I could put together the greatest line up the world had ever seen, but the people who called the shots always saw me as just a punk kid. After I left the music business and moved to Japan, it was the same. I was an outsider.
Amy: I don't remember that part in your book.
Wevv: Yes, I didn't write about those times. (Wevv moves a hand over to twist his pinky ring and stares off into space for a few seconds, before he comes back to himself). Indeed! I had to leave something for the sequel!
Amy: Ahem. Well, those times are long gone. No sense trying to tear down the Wal-Mart built on our past, huh?
Wevv: (Wevv laughs) Very true! Sigh So much has changed. I’m not the person I once was. This trip has shown me that the past is not the answer. Change happens whether we want it or not. I longed for the old days, and those are gone. Now, I can either try to bring them back, or move on, and accept the present.
Amy: Very philosophical.
Wevv: Must be the time I spent in the East. But think about it. The past can be a prison, just as much as it can be a sanctuary. Amy, when was the last time you picked up a paintbrush instead of a pot of coffee?
Amy: What? Oh, it’s been years since I tried to paint anything!
Wevv: Why is that?
Amy: Well, you know, I’ve got Bill and the kids, and work, and so much to do; I just never seem to find the time.
Wevv: Or maybe it’s because you still feel the sting of your teacher’s words, and are afraid that the people in your life now will echo his words. A prison of the past you see.
Amy: Are you saying that I should start painting again?
Wevv: Perhaps. That’s for you to decide. You said you wanted to paint to see the world. Well, the world is still there. Maybe you can paint your way there, or not, only time will tell. But let me tell you a story. I'd like your advice on something.
Wevv: An old friend of mine made some bad choices. He left behind a promising career, but it was rooted on past accomplishments. He thought the whole world was before him, but it wasn’t what he was used to. This new life was new, but it frightened him. I tried to show him that there were options. That he could use his past to shape his future. The past would always be there, but it didn't have to be the same. He had made some bad choices, but his past would allow him to be forgiven. I knew where his path would lead him, oh yes, how well do I know.
Amy: This friend of yours, he didn't listen did he?
Wevv: (With a smirk) Not one bit. Instead he went further down his path. Away from those who only wanted to help him. He made some bad choices. He then made worse choices. Now, it’s too late. He made his choice. His past is truly behind him now, and his future ahead of him. But it’s not the future I think he would have wanted. You see, he felt trapped by his past, but he fell into another one. Only this prison has bars he may not see.
Amy: Poetic. So, this friend of yours, are you just going to let him fall into this trap?
Wevv: I tried to help. He won’t listen to me now. What else can I do? I’m sorry to burden you like this, Amy, but I can tell you're a bright woman. Do you have suggestions?
Amy: I don't know. I don't think giving up is the right thing to do. I he’s your friend, you should keep on trying. Don't give up on him, even if he falls into his old habits, you need to shake him out it!
Wevv: I don’t know Amy. Some habits are hard to break. Change isn't easy. It can very scary.
Amy: I know, and when you push some one, they might push back. But once they’ve started their change, you have to make sure they stick to it, and catch them if they fall. It’s the only way.
Outside, a limousine pulls up. Mr. Wang steps out. Holding an umbrella to keep the rain off, he steps into the diner. Wevv holds up a hand, telling him to hold on.
Wevv: I think you’re right Amy. My old friend Rabbi does need one last chance. I will give him one last push, as you say. He can do better, I know he can. And I’m just the man to prove it to him. He just needs one, FINAL push. Thank you Amy.
Wevv throws a hundred dollar bill on the table, and stands up to leave. He pauses, and reaches into his wallet and counts out more hundreds. He lays them on the table with care. He looks into Amy’s eyes, and says quietly:
Wevv: Thank you Amy. You’ve been a great help.
Amy scoops up the money and tries to hand it back, as Wevv tries to turn away, grabbing his arm.
Amy: Wevv, NO! That’s way too much-
Wevv takes her hands in his, and looks deep into Amy’s eyes. He gently folds her hands over the pile of money.
Wevv: My old friend Rabbi may not be the only one who needs a push in the right direction. It’s a big world Amy, you should go out and see it again.
Wevv lets Amy go, as she drops back into her seat, stunned. He scoops up his jacket and heads out. The bells above the door jangle as he leaves, Mr. Wang falling into step behind him.
Amy sits in the booth looking startled. She slowly picks up each of the bills, and counts them. She shakes her head, and gets up, wondering about the strange conversation she just had. As the day goes on, Amy keeps thinking back over everything she had said to the strange man, and his final words. And she keeps reaching down to the pocket where she put the money he had left.
The limo heads down the rural roads, heading back north to Chicago. Mr. Wang sits across from Wevv, who seems lost in thought, looking out the window. Mr. Wang leans forward and cocks an eyebrow at Wevv. Wevv catches the gesture out of the corner of his eye, and turns to face his friend.
Wevv: Hm? Oh, I was just wondering over the earthy wisdom my dear friend Amy said. Rabbi does deserve one more chance. One more chance to see the error of his ways. Indeed, he needs a taste of where his path is leading him. I think our match at revelations will be quite…revealing to him, ah ha.
Wevv leans back I his seat, and smirks. Mr. Wang lowers his eyebrow and looks quizzically at Wevv.
Wevv: Oh, who’s Amy? My dear friend from the restaurant. I wonder…I wonder how long it will take her to think over our little conversation and take her own advice. I say she leaves her husband and children in a week.
Mr. Wang leans back and shakes his head sadly. He then reaches into his front pocket, sighs, and pulls out a hundred. He holds it out, and with his other hand, holds up three fingers. He smiles evilly.
Wevv: Three weeks? Ah, that my friend, is a bet….