“How many times have you eaten biscuits and gravy,” Professor Hirschfield asked Chief Joseph Paledeer while holding open the door to leave Frank’s Diner in Shawnee Ferry, Delaware.
“Before today?” Ol’ Joe asked patting his stomach.
“Yes,” the professor rolled his eyes.
Ol’ Joe rubbed his jaw, counted on his fingers and answered, “I don’t think I’ve ever had biscuits and gravy before, but they were delicious. So, I didn’t lie when I said what I did.”
The professor shook his head then unlocked the old Ford F150. “You didn’t leave anything on your plate.”
“I was hungry. I haven’t eaten anything since early this morning.”
“You ate a dozen donuts…”
“Yeah, but they were day-old donuts.”
“What difference does it make how old they were?” the professor climbed into the cab and started the truck.”
“Older donuts lose calories, don’t they?” Ol’ Joe asked.
They headed toward the university, and arrived after getting lost twice.
Spencer Jessie returned to his stool at the counter, answered a call on his cell phone, rubbed his forehead then sighed. “Marge, I need a fresh cup of coffee, please.” He set the phone on the counter next to the glass pie rack.
“Bad news?” Marge asked, filling his cup while smacking her bubblegum.
“One of my flock fell off the wagon again. My son found him passed out on a park bench. He’s bringing him back to the mission, and I will need to talk to him again.”
“You’ve often mentioned how difficult it is for addicts to remain sober or clean even after they realize how destructive it is,” Bob Lee Colwell said. “Do you ever get discouraged because they relapse so often?”
Jessie shook his head. “I can’t let myself become discouraged.” He took another sip of coffee then confessed, “I’ve been there myself. I know what they face and understand the temptations.”
“Are we going to attend the professor’s lecture?” Dennis T. Hernandez asked.
“Do we have to?” Tom Behren Jr’s shoulders slumped. “I hated boring lectures in college.”
“I think it will be interesting,” Mayor Wendell Blasingame nodded. “I might even get a few votes out of it.”
“The professor would be thrilled if we all show up,” Jessie said with a chuckle. “He expects me to attend, but you would surprise him.”
“What time do we need to leave for the college?” Colwell asked. “I need time to get ready.”
“The lecture is at 6:30,” Jessie answered as his phone rang again. He took the call and set his phone next to the ketchup and mustard rack. “One of my guys calls me twice a day to let me know he’s okay. If he doesn’t call, I have to check the local bars to find him. His friends are a bad influence, and he can’t resist a free drink.”
Hernandez looked at his friends and banged a fist on the counter. “I say we attend the lecture. Do you remember the time we thought about buying tickets to see Elvis, but waited because we thought the tickets were too expensive?”
“I remember,” Behren replied.
Marge rolled her eyes. “You waited until 1997. Elvis died twenty years earlier.”
“We didn’t want to make a hasty decision,” Hernandez answered.
“That’s not happening now, “Colwell said, standing up and pulling out his wallet. “We’re going to the lecture. I’ll pay my tab later, Marge. I’m a bit short at the moment.”
“Of course you will,” she answered taking an order from a new customer, who had arrived in a blue Jeep Wrangler.
The rest of the guys joined Colwell. Jessie smiled, high-fived Hernandez and reached for his coat. He turned and headed toward the door just as his phone rang.
Marge saw the phone on the counter, picked it up and hollered,” Dr. Jessie, would you like to take this call?”
Spencer Jessie shook his head, chuckled and told the guys, “I lose my phone a dozen times a day. Buttercup calls me an absent-minded professor even though I don’t teach at the university.”
He took the call, which was good news from his son, set the phone on the counter before putting on his coat. He again headed for the door.
“Dr. Jessie!” Marge hollered holding out the cell phone. “You might need this.”
Spencer Jessie rolled his eyes and took the phone from Marge. “Thanks, Marge.”
“Have a good time listening to the professor’s lecture,” Marge said slipping her pencil into her beehive hairdo.
Dr. Jessie slipped his phone into his coat pocket and felt something that didn’t belong. He pulled the object out and smiled.
“There’s the college, and that’s the right building,” Ol’ Joe pointed as Dr. Hirschfield turned left from Kennedy Avenue onto North Schuyler Boulevard. The professor parked the truck, and he and Ol’ Joe got out. They climbed the worn marble steps to Quanstrom Hall on the campus of Delaware United Nazarene University. Ol’ Joe opened the large, wooden door and said, “I saw you slip that gold nugget into Dr. Jessie’s coat. Sooner or later, you’re going to exhaust your supply.”
The professor grinned and replied, “I’ve got a few left to give away for a good cause, but don’t tell anyone.”