I dropped the original permit in Bonnie’s basket.
“Here you go.” She picked up the page to read the name. The fact that she sat facing the glass separating her office from my counter either reflected on her intense focus on her work at hand or her obliviousness of the Lumberjack. Knowing how she perceived him, I had a good idea which one it might be.
“Well, good. That’s three. He only gets one more and then he’s reached his quota for the year.”
“I’m so sorry you didn’t get the opportunity to assist him. I know you really had been looking forward to it.” I offered her a hefty dose of sarcasm, which her lackadaisical disposition may or may not have enjoyed. Curiously, I looked forward to his arrival, but I didn’t want Bonnie to know that.
“He’s just too weird.”
“What do you mean by ‘weird?’ Having dated quite a few over-the-top crazy men in Texas, ‘weird’ takes on all kinds of meaning down there.”
“What isn’t weird about him? What did he say to you today?”
“Practically nothing. A half-dozen words at most.”
“Yeah, he’s a whack-a-doo. He even looks like a hermit with that shaggy hair and scruffy beard. Santa should bring him a razor for Christmas.”
“Beards are a thing now, though. Maybe he’s just ahead of his time.”
“His appearance is just the start.”
“Have you known him long?” I’d only met him twice and I was already curious about him.
“Known him? You’ve seen him. He only says a few words. What’s there to know? Most of what I know I didn’t learn from Mr. Chatty, just from what other people have told me.”
That hardly seemed like a way to get to know someone, but I couldn’t say I had practiced my best investigative skills when it came to meeting men.
Bonnie began with the basics of what she knew. “He grew up near here, maybe in Johnson County. Anyway, he got married, right out of high school…”
“Really? He’s married?” Crap! Suddenly that phone number idea was a big mistake. I definitely should have thought that through better. What a stupid mistake! Maybe next time he came in I could make an excuse that I accidentally picked it up off the printer. How would I bring that up in conversation? It never even occurred to me to wonder what kind of woman must have said, ‘yes’ to him.
“Well, yeah, but they got divorced. They moved to Montana for a while I guess, but I’m not sure if it was before or after 9/11. He joined the army, I don’t know, maybe the Marines, anyway, he served several tours over there for like six years. Somewhere in the middle of all that, they divorced and he came back to Wyoming.”
Okay, not married. At least I didn’t feel quite so much like an ass.
“He’s kind of a recluse. With all the firewood he gets, I suspect he’s living off the grid – no electricity, no phone, no contact with the outside world, which doesn’t surprise me, because he never talks to anyone.”
“He talked to me.”
“Really? All six words?” Her sarcasm rang true. I didn’t want to encourage her by admitting that included getting ma’amed.
How exactly had I gotten my panties somewhat twisted over a guy that only said six words to me? Assuming he said twice as many on his previous visit, that’s still not even twenty words. And here I was handing over my phone number without his even asking. Maybe the mythical power of the handshake impacted me as much as him. Or maybe I just couldn’t get over the eyelashes and the blond hair. Or his big hands. Or the way he could stare so directly. Maybe my problem was becoming pathetically obvious.
“Well, the good news,” she continued as I fantasized about his physical features, “is we only have to see him once more and then we’re done with him for the year and he can go back to his cabin or cave or whatever and take that ugly shirt with him. Oh, and that shirt! That stupid, red shirt! Ugh, don’t even get me started. It’s probably the only shirt he owns.”
NEXT: The Invitation – Part 8