It wasn’t really a question. She was already pouring when Hardy looked up. He was going to say, “No”, but just nodded instead.
The waitress lingered a second on the off-chance a conversation might start. It was a slow evening and the diner was nearly empty. She was a talker without a willing partner. As Hardy looked about for the cream, she decided it wouldn’t happen.She moved along to the other end of the counter.
J.R. Hardy never cared much for a first name consisting of initials. His mother had been a big Johnny Cash fan. She decided he’d be given a name that her kid would just have to live with and that was that. But, from early on, he resisted; eventually it got left at just ‘Hardy’.
It suited him – terse and unadorned; a far cry from the gaudy handle of his friend, Cornelius Caulfield, who, after their rodeo days were done, had owned the very diner Hardy was sitting in.
Hardy missed his friend probably as much as you can miss anyone who you’ll never see walk in your door again. He’d spent many an easy evening drinking coffee and listening to the ramblings of Cornelius’ vivid imagination and elaborately stretched real life stories, usually sitting on that same counter stool he was sitting on now. Not much of a talker, Hardy was mostly a willing audience.
There was just something between them; something that just never got old or tired; not something you easily let go. But let go is what he had to do. Cornelius lost out to cancer at the not-so-ripe old age of fifty-six.