Middle Of Nowhere Chapter 2

We haven't been here yet," Laurie offered. "Why don't you lead the way?"  So mom, with my hand in hers, pulling me along, leads us to the window seat we always sit in. I try to slow a bit and quietly mutter, "mom, can you let me go please." She slows, looks back and notices that Laurie isn't holding Josh's hand. So, reluctantly, she does let go and looks down at me giving me a quick wink, letting me know she understood. The booth next to the window overlooks the Pilchuck River. This is my favorite seat, because out the window, I can see the fisherman out on the river. They are just now starting to ice fish, as the temps have been below freezing now since late August, so parts of the river are already frozen over. The fisherman always have their sons out there with them and I often daydream of what it would be like, out there with my dad were he still alive. I have never gotten the chance to fish, on ice or not. I often get jealous of those kids who have their dads. As I enter the booth first, slide in toward the window, Josh does likewise, directly across from me. The last thing on my mind today is the river or fishing, even my dad. I feel as though I am floating on big fluffy white clouds. As I get situated and look up, I notice Josh is looking my way with a big smile on his face. I couldn't help but notice his bright blue eyes, same color as the ice covering much of our little village. I wondered to myself, is he noticing my eyes too? They aren't blue, but they are bright green, almost like that nice grass we get here, only about two months a year, when it gets just above freezing, just long enough to melt away and show off the beauty below. Maybe he is smiling, and inside laughing at me? I'm not skinny like he is, nor as well dressed. I honestly don't know what to think or expect. I was excited but now have talked myself into uncertainty. Maybe he isn't smiling because he's happy to see me. Maybe he is thinking, "this kid is a dork." I hope not, but my rather low self-esteem leaves me somewhat hesitant to believe anyone but my mom would like me. As always, Debbie, the waitress, who also is the owner of River's Edge, brings us ice water and menus. She hands me and Josh the kid menus, that double as a picture to color. Once colored, they post them on the wall behind the cash register, and customers vote on their favorite one. Each month there is a new winner. The winner gets to go out on a snowmobile with Gary, Debbie's husband, to ice fish, after a free lunch with him. I have been trying to win this contest since I could hold a crayon. Over the years, my coloring has improved a bunch. At least I can stay inside the lines now! Sitting to my left, Josh's right is a Styrofoam cup full of crayons. Unsure if Josh might think I'm a 'kid' if I color, I just sit there and don't grab for the crayons. As I hesitate, Josh grabs the cup, chooses a color, and then hands me the cup. So, I relax a little, grab a color myself, smile, and say, "Thank you Josh." We both turn to coloring our pictures, my picture an outline of a big bear with a large fish in its mouth. Josh's picture, an eagle soaring above a river with a large fish in its talons. I make pretty good headway on outlining the bear in a chocolate brown. I don't need to study the backside of the paper where the menu is because I always get the same thing. The Swedish pancakes, smothered in strawberries and whip cream. An egg on the side, sunny side up, of course. And, one small caribou patty, my favorite! Josh, however, never eating here, I thought may need to decide what he wants to eat, but he is pretty busy coloring his picture. Laurie and my mom, had been busy chatting away, but stop to ask us if we know what we want to eat. I looked at my mom as if, 'come on mom, you know what I am eating!' But I would never disrespect her like that. I smile and say, "yep!" Laurie says, "Josh, how about you?" "Yep!" Josh almost mimics me. I thought that was kind of funny, because he had not even looked at his menu. Debbie walks over to take our order and looks to me, "Shiloh, the norm?" "You bet you Ma'am" I replied. She then looked to Josh, "and for you mister?" Likely feeling important after being called mister, Josh sat up straight in his seat and said, "I'll have the usual!" I look at him and his mom does as well, soon, all five of us were laughing. Josh had no idea what he was ordering, but he sure looked grown up and certain as he ordered. It was in that moment that I began to feel that he hadn't been smiling at me before, secretly making fun of me, but this was truly the start of a good friendship. I'm not sure how I knew, because I'd never experienced a friendship, but it was as though God was telling me, 'My son, things are going to be ok for you. I've brought you a friend. You've been patient and your patience hasn't gone unnoticed, Josh is my reward to you.' I then sat up in my seat, more confident, and went back to work on my picture. Occasionally I checked out Josh's picture and he mine. Once we were both done with our coloring and our meals, my mom and Laurie went to the cash register to pay the tab. Why they were gone, Debbie stopped by and asked, "You men done with your pictures?" We both looked at each other, giggled a bit for being called 'men' and in sync, said "yes ma'am." Debbie looked at both our pictures and said, "Wow! It's going to be difficult to choose a winner between these two! This is the best work I've seen from you Shiloh. Josh, you are quite talented as well. The judges really have their work cut out for them!" She then walked away and Josh and I got up and joined up with our moms to head out of the diner. This time, no hand of my mom's. Instead, it was Josh and me, walking side by side. He turned to me and said, "What did Debbie mean by judges?" I went on to tell him about the monthly contest and prize. That seemed to put a bigger smile on his face. With that smile, I wondered if his dad ever took him fishing.

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