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Excerpt from "Two Sisters' Cafe"

by Elena Yates Eulo and Samantha Harper Macy

People in northern Kentucky would say later that they had never seen snow fall so thick. A storm, the third of the season, had been predicted for the evening of January 28 of ’52. But nothing like the one that showed up, a monster of a storm made of ice and cold and, most of all, a snow that wouldn’t let up. A snow that mounded almost before it hit the ground; at least, that’s the way it seemed to the people of Willow Creek.

It came on so quickly that farmers who had gone to their fields to check on their cattle got stranded and blinded, wading back to their houses half frozen. The town whore got stuck overnight in a barn with a hired hand. Cars slid off the roads or came to a halt right where they were, their drivers staggering toward the nearest houses they could find, their own or neighbors’.

In most houses, the electricity was out and people couldn’t watch I Love Lucy on TV, one of the worst things that could happen to a body on a Monday night. Inside The Two Sisters’ Café, the lights were on and the two sisters, Alma and Vannie, had long finished with the main crowd. Only two customers still lingered. One of them, a teenage boy, sat alone in an upper dining room booth, his back to the fire, eyes fixed moodily on the front door. Such eyes—a brew pot of all that was young and old, both explosive and saddened, at once hard and vulnerable. He was a singer and a poet and a fighter and a problem at school. He had big plans tucked away inside a shabby suitcase in the seat opposite his in the booth and in the beat-up guitar case stacked on top of it. Plans long in the making. They had started practically the day, now over five years ago, that he had picked up his first old guitar and found himself plucking on the three remaining strings, tuneless and full of dust that blew in all directions under his fingers. Playing and humming, he had pictured a future that took him out of this town. The dream was close now, almost close enough to touch.

Yet, here he sat with the possibilities motionless inside him as he stared at the door. In this moment, instead of joy, he felt yearning and pain and growing anger. This, too, he kept inside, sitting rigid, buried under that unnatural silence in one so young. Only his hand moved, rubbing slowly across the gunnysack that lay beside him on the red leather seat.

Below him in the lower dining area, Burris McCarthy lingered at the counter hunkered down over his coffee, his peach cobbler scraped clean off the plate in front of him, staring out at the white wilderness that had come swirling out of nowhere. Sister Vannie cleared the plate and asked Burris if he wanted more. He said no, meant yes, but only if it was on the house. She looked at his potbelly and didn’t offer free seconds.

“Damned if I can see my house out there,” Burris said, turning to squint out the farthest window.

Vannie pointed out the window and said, “It’s right across the road, you dang fool cuss.”

At the wave of her hand, Burris caught a glimpse of his house, a little gray bungalow with a rock and gem shop attached, standing there snug and sturdy against the storm. “Well, I still can’t get there,” he said, not stirring.

“Damndest thing I ever heard, to see your house with your own eyes and know you can’t get to it.”

Vannie almost sent him packing but thought better of it. He could get to the house alright, she could see to that. But she knew he didn’t want to go there. Not tonight. There were a lot of times lately he didn’t want to be inside his own house. It frightened him with its ambiance since Mattie, his wife of forty-odd years, had recently died. Part of the time the place scared him with its emptiness, and part of the time it scared him with the feeling that it was haunted. Once he woke in the middle of the night and heard the sound of rocks being poured into the sorter. He went into the shop, but as he’d expected, there was no one there. Yet, a gaudy stone with more prisms than any diamond ever mined rolled gently across the counter. Not a costly stone, but the sort of huge sparkly thing that Mattie had liked to wear. He’d never been able to afford to give her anything but a small diamond cluster, not that it had bothered her. She liked the fake stuff just as well. She said in a way nothing was fake. It was all part of the world, wasn’t it? That was something she’d heard the sisters say as she sat drinking coffee at the café and displaying her gems on the counter, occasionally selling something, either to the sisters or to a customer.

“Well, just sit there,” Vannie said comfortingly. “Alma and I aren’t going anywhere. She’s cooking, and I’m doing my pies.” She poured him more coffee, thinking of the adventure that was heading down LaGrange Road, coming straight toward the café. She could see it in her mind’s eye; see the man at the wheel staring into the blizzard, cussing as the car swerved out of control.

Not yet, she told him in the telepathic language she spoke so well and believed to be the only true language of the world. She saw the driver blink, saw him pull the car out of the skid and keep driving. He was on his way.

It was the thought of what was to come that had almost made her send Burris across the road, but she figured a good adventure would be just the thing to raise his spirits.

Voices that Burris couldn’t hear suddenly rang out. Vannie smiled, looking her best tonight in a gray tailored dress covered by a hand-crocheted apron, a cameo pin at her neckline, her silver-and-brown hair piled on top of her head. Her purple eyes grew keen as she glanced through the front window. The forces were in good form tonight, bringing in dynamics of snow, ice, wind, and spectacular shades of darkness punctuated by intense flashes of light.

In the front room of The Two Sisters’ Café, the two old-fashioned pinball machines and the shuffleboard were quiet and dark, and the door to the adjoining gas station was shut tight. Andy Poole had turned off the station lights, closed up, and beat the storm up the road to his brick house, where Liz waited for him with dinner, homemade cookies, and a pot of coffee.

The upstairs dining room was lit in low overhead bulbs that hung down from an old wagon wheel, glowing neon from the jukebox, and a fire that crackled in the grate. The café was usually a lot brighter, but not tonight.

The dimness was appropriate tonight.

Elena Yates Eulo’s novels include: A SOUTHERN WOMAN, published by St. Martin’s Press in the USA and by Presses de la Cite in France, and ICE ORCHIDS, published by Berkley in the USA and by Star in England. Her young adult novels include MIXED-UP DOUBLES and THE GREAT RECEIVER, both published by Holiday House. In addition, she has written for television and has been a journalist and a ghostwriter of novels and plays. She was born in northern Kentucky, where her magical grandmother owned and ran a restaurant much like the Two Sisters’ Café. She is married to Vince Valva and has a son, Ken Eulo, Jr. who is currently in law school at Florida State University. She lives in Palm Harbor, Florida.


Samantha Harper Macy has been an actress, acting teacher, teacher of metaphysics, and writer of poetry. She appeared in the Broadway, Off Broadway, and film versions of “Oh! Calcutta!” and in two films directed by Hal Ashby, “Bound for Glory” and “Looking to Get Out.” She was a series regular on the hit late night television comedy soap, “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” and taught acting in Los Angeles for seven years, coaching such stars as Jon Voight and Paul Michael Glaser. Her interest in transformational magic, metaphysics, and esoteric knowledge has led her to explorations of ancient and modern schools of thought, including Buddhism, the Cabalah, Science of Mind and Western Magic. Inspiration from a grandmother who enchanted and healed those around her in rural Mississippi led her to partner with Elena in writing THE TWO SISTERS’ CAFÉ. She is married to actor Bill Macy.

$18.95 on Amazon.com

$11.99 on website — www.2sisterscafe.net

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