(Image Credit: Alistair MacDonald – https://www.flickr.com/photos/alistair_uk/3633322143)
He breezed into town like a black-clad hurricane. Wrapped in a tight leather jacket and an air of nonchalant cool, Ruby Willis made sure to keep an eye on him. People like him never showed up dead in a place like this.
Talleheed was so small, you could lose it and no one would ever know. It had a population of around 300 and had the dubious honour of being home to The Big Spoon. Other main attractions included the pub, the creek and the Silver Spoon Diner, where the coffee was gritty and the décor was coloured a musty, dull shade of biscuit beige and with red vinyl seating courtesy of 1974. The day Ruby had turned 18 she had started working there, wearing a powder-blue uniform of itchy cotton and constant indifference and still unable to work the coffee machine unless you forced it with a jerk. The pay was lousy and her manager more so, but Ruby didn’t have a choice. Not in this town.
He sat down at the counter with one graceful move, arching his back like a lazy cat in the sun to ignite his weary bones. He ended up ordering the Silver Spoon Special, Ruby watching as his spoon dug into the blackberry filling.
“What’s with this town’s obsession with spoons?” he asked, taking a mouthful as he spoke.
“Talleheed used to manufacture stainless steel. Cutlery as well. Who doesn’t want to live in a town with a big spoon towering over you?”
“Well, better than having World’s Biggest Bog or something,” he said, swallowing another rich spoonful.
Ruby looked down at her shoes, the ones with bright white laces and orthopaedic heels. She grinned.
“Sometimes I wonder if it’ll just blow over one day and crush someone,” she said. “It’s been there for almost 70 years, I don’t know how stable it is anymore.”
He told her people said he looked like a Luke, but he usually went by Dean. He wondered what time she got off, asking Ruby to show him around town. There wasn’t much to show, but that night she still went to meet him at The Big Spoon, Dean sitting on the hood of his car.
“Well, this is it,” she told him, pointing at the ominous figure looming over them.
He slipped off the hood and shuffled over. Soon enough they were laid out in the backseat, his lips on Ruby’s like it’d be the last. She twisted her fingers through his shaggy hair as she deepened the kiss, feeling warm leather against her cold skin as she shifted closer.
Her eyes then caught sight of the car floor scattered with all sorts of stuff. Books, bags, bottles, a couple of boxes…
“What’s with all this?” Ruby gestured, sitting up a little as she smoothed down her uniform.
“They’re memories. Stuff I survive on. I take them as I go, taking a little piece of something and add it to the pile.”
Ruby picked up the shoebox by her feet, lifting the lid and finding a whole lot of clutter. She pulled out a long gold chain.
“My grandmother’s,” he explained. “One thing I’ve left of home.”
“Why’d you leave?”
“My family wanted the ham-and-cheese life. Routine, simple… safe. I wanted more. I want to grab this world by the neck and shake whatever comes out.”
Ruby poked through the box some more. An old camera. A small jewellery box. Some old coins. Golden spoons. She laughed softly to herself. In the end, she pulled out a diamond ring.
“One that got away?” she asked.
“Not quite.” Dean rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, there was a girl. No, no engagement. Just a token now.”
Ruby laid her head on his shoulder as Dean’s words spilled over her like honey. He had been to fantastic, faraway places, places Ruby had only seen on TV and the torn pictures she had pinned to her bedroom wall.
“Maybe we should leave the land of spoons,” he said. “Maybe I could be the spoon this time. You be the dish and I’ll be the spoon.”
“Why am I the dish?” Ruby asked. “Because I’m flat and round?”
“Because you’re quite dishy, silly,” Dean laughed. “What you think?”
Ruby cringed. It sounded like some shitty Hallmark sentiment. But her heart felt like it was pounding against tin.
“I’ll do it,” she said before she could stop the words from rolling out of her mouth. “Tomorrow morning, meet right here.”
She pulled herself up and pulled him close, soon heading over the hill to her place.
But when she woke the next morning, he was gone. And so were the rest of her things.
Ruby stumbled out of bed, finding the place ransacked. Clothes thrown. Shelves empty. Draws pulled out. TV and laptop gone.
She headed to the diner praying she would find him in time to belt his arse. As she stormed through the doors, all eyes turned to her. Spotting Nora the manager by the counter, Ruby pounced on the slim, middle-aged woman before she dodged her.
“You see a tall guy with a leather jacket, shaggy hair, stupid-looking smoulder on his face?”
“He came, he left. Looked like he was in a hurry.”
Ruby felt her stomach quiver. The dish had shattered. The spoon had fled.
Her legs feeling like lead, she found herself walking right out of the diner again, not bothering to hear Nora call after her.
That day, Ruby outgrew Talleheed, all falling into place as she stopped at home, packed what little she still had and set out on the open road.
Before she left, she stopped at The Big Spoon one last time. With a rock, she carved her name on the side and the date, the day she would disappear and that bloody spoon would no longer haunt her.
It grew all the smaller in her rear view as she drove down the highway.