By Carter Pierce
One never really knows when an adventure will jump out of nowhere and hand you a cup of coffee.
It was a warm morning in early May when it happened to Marjory: she’d bid her father good-bye at the Denver airport, and he’d driven away. She’d made it through security, and promptly gotten lost.
Marjory had no notion of airports; she’d never even been on a plane. She’d lived on a farm for every day of her twenty-one years and had never found occasion to leave her peaceful existence in search of anything more.
But her parents had gently encouraged her to find a steady job aside from farming and babysitting. She’d called up her brother, who ran a small clinic in Missouri, and asked if she could visit for the summer and study to become a nurse. He’d said she’d be most welcome, and that he looked forward to seeing her.
That wasn’t going to happen if she couldn’t find the plane she needed to be on. Numbers and signs were everywhere. Loudspeakers were shouting at her from every direction, and people were bumping her as they passed by in throngs. She couldn’t remember anything her dad had said about airports.
She kept turning around and around, looking everywhere at once, listening to everything, desperately hoping that something would make sense. And nothing did. She was about to curl up on the ground and squeeze her eyes shut and cover her ears. “God, help me,” she whispered. “Please help. I can’t do this.”
And then a complete stranger, one out of the other three thousand complete strangers in the terminal, took her by the elbow, handed her a coffee, and led her gently away from the rumbling, whooshing, jabbering masses of people. He found her a seat in a long row of seats and sat down beside her.
“You look lost,” he said. “Where are you going?”
“Rocky . . . uh, Springfield,” she said, stumbling over her words. “I mean, I’m going to Rocky Comfort, but the flight lands in Springfield, and then I have to get a rental car and drive there, or I might take a bus if there’s a bus, because I don’t like driving. Unless it’s a tractor . . . I like driving tractors. They’re slow. Kind of like cows. Do you like cows?” And then she realized how ridiculous she sounded, and she clamped her mouth shut.
The man was staring at her, his mouth slightly open, his eyebrows raised a tiny bit. Then he smiled. “Calm down. You’ve got plenty of time. Springfield’s easy: that’s where I’m going, too.” He paused, then added, “Yes. I do like cows.”
“I’m sorry,” she managed. “I’m not used to this sort of thing. I don’t mean to be a bother. My name’s Marjory.”
“Winston,” he said. “It’s a pleasure.” He shook her hand warmly.
“And . . . the coffee?” she asked, glancing at the Styrofoam cup he’d given her.
“For you. I thought you could use it.”
“Don’t mention it,” he shrugged. Then, “What takes you to Missouri?”
Between sips of hot coffee, Marjory explained about her brother and about becoming a nurse. She told him she’d never been inside an airport before. Then she asked, “What about you? Where are you headed?”
He lifted a small case he’d been carrying. “Springfield Symphony Orchestra. They want me to come perform with them.”
“Sounds very prestigious,” she smiled. “You must be really good.”
He didn’t smile back. He seemed thoughtful. After a moment, he said, “Cows and tractors, huh? What else do you do when you’re at home?”
Perhaps he was being modest, she thought. Professionals often downplayed their own talent. At any rate, she had to find something to talk about. Preferably something he could relate to. She said, “Sometimes I jam with friends. We play folk tunes and bluegrass and stuff. It’s a lot of fun.”
“Sounds wonderful,” he replied a little wistfully. “All those mandolins and guitars and accordions . . . accordion is the only instrument I really enjoy listening to, you know.”
She couldn’t help grinning. “Really? Me too. Do you play?”
He shook his head. “No. Maybe someday. What about you?”
“Oh, I love it. My dad taught me.”
“That’s nice,” he said quietly.
She instantly knew she’d touched a sore spot. “I–I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It’s alright. It’s just . . .”
Marjory could tell he was debating whether or not to say something. She waited patiently.
“I never really got to know my dad.” he murmured. “He was tall. And he loved my mom. That’s about all I can remember. When I was six, she died of tuberculosis. Then he went away, and I never saw him again.”
Marjory felt her heart go out to the young man. She’d never felt that sort of tragedy, but she could still understand the heartache.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
“I’ve learned to live with it.” He shrugged his shoulders as if it didn’t matter. “Besides. I’ll find him again someday. Can we talk about cows or something now?”
Copyright by Carter Pierce, 2022