Condredge Baxter-Halloway III rushed past a group of cowboys leaving Frank’s Diner, scurried around the tables filled with tourists visiting Shawnee Ferry and took the only empty seat at the counter. “Marge! I need a cup of coffee immediately,” he shouted.
Bob Lee Colwell, Dennis T. Hernandez, Tom Behren Jr, Wendell Blasingame and Marge the waitress stared at Halloway with shock.
“What’s the rush?” Colwell, the grandson of one of the founders of the Greater Delaware Procrastination Society, asked.
Halloway, who worked part time as an art critic for The New London Imperial Gazette, opened his archaic brown leather briefcase, pulled out a paperback and set it on the counter. “This is the reason I’m in a hurry. The paper wants a review for the late edition today.”
Blasingame, the mayor of Shawnee Ferry, picked up the book, perused the cover and tilted his head. “Isn’t this the new book by that author who stopped in here several years ago?”
Marge nodded. “He ordered the lunch special and left four dollars and thirty-seven cents for the tip.”
Behren grabbed the book from the mayor and waved his hand without spilling a drop of last night’s coffee. “I read something about this book online several days ago. I was going to mention it at our next meeting, but now’s as good a time as any. Sir Richardson Warburton-Spencer bought a copy and claimed in the House of Lords the map at the beginning of the book was not somewhere in Utah, but on his estate outside of Dunfermline-on-Ayrshire in western Scotland. He claimed he showed the book to a high-ranking member of the royal family and that person agreed wholeheartedly.”
“That’s utter nonsense,” Colwell proclaimed. “The map is a perfect match for Eerie Lake outside of Phoenix.”
“Let me see it,” Hernandez said, taking the book from Behren. He opened the book somewhere close to the edge of middle and began to read.
Marge poured a cup of fresh coffee for Halloway and said, “I was watching 54 Minutes on TV last week, and that one reporter… What’s his name? I can picture him, but…”
“Rooney Maxwell,” Art the cook shouted, took a drag of his ever-present cigarette then rang the bell and added, “Order up.”
“Yeah! That’s him. He was talking about the book during an interview with Brigham Alan Young IX, who is campaigning to be governor of Utah and wants to change the name of the state to Deseret. He claimed the book is a code for where the new state capitol should be.”
“Hogwash!” Blasingame shook his head. “That makes as much sense as chocolate cows and purple cheese.”
Halloway took a sip of coffee, set his cup on the counter and said, “I had to read this last night in order to write a credible review. I called the author’s press agent, Denise Bartell, and she promised I could talk to him on the phone today.” Halloway checked his watch. “I have six minutes left before I need to make the call.”
Hernandez laughed then closed the book and set it next to his plate of staked acorn casserole. “I like the dog. I might add this to my list of summer reading material.”
Ben McGee walked up to the counter, put a hand on Colwell’s shoulder, noticed the book and added, “Hey! My grandfather wrote that book fifty years ago. Purple Skies Over Sage Canyon sold close to ten million copies. Are you guys just getting around to reading it now?”
Thirty minutes later Halloway returned to his seat at the counter, smiled and asked for a second cup of coffee.
“How did your interview go?” Colwell asked. “Did you send your review to the paper already?”
“I did. It will be on the front page of the Features section tomorrow with a color photo.”
“What did the author say about the book?” Hernandez asked.
Halloway shrugged. “He said he hoped it will be more interesting than reading the phone book.”