The Running Inn

He was staying alone at the inn for two more nights. The waitress was rushed and mistook his calmness for arrogance.

A wooden wall hung with framed portraits of each of the characters in the piece.

Content warning: animal death


David Karlen had been a sheep-shearer by trade. He had married into wealth and become a stockbroker. He was staying at the Running Inn for two more nights, and he had ordered lamb. When the waitress took his order she felt forewarned.

Missy Lou had always been a smiler. She was sitting with her mother and they were smiling together. Her father had died during the cholera and their sadness had brought them closer. They were leaving the Running Inn that day, and had both ordered the same thing.

Jesùs Estos had made his bones on the plains. He had turned in the Gang of Six and not told the police they had been the Gang of Seven. He had arrived in Running that morning, and had chosen the table with the view of the window. He liked to smoke and felt he might as well. The waitress liked his accent, and imagined running off with him.

Karleen Baker was a midwife. She was getting older now, and these days she ordered what she wanted, to hell with anybody who knew. When the waitress saw her, she took her order next, and gave no emotion towards it. She had delivered half the town.

John Reid worked in irrigation. He knew crops and had used his opportunity at the academy like his parents had said he would. He liked listening to Maurice Rohan, the French tenor, and he had considered buying a phonograph. For his own reasons he had decided not to. Inside he was living a life the world around him believed impossible. He was staying alone at the inn for two more nights. The waitress was rushed and mistook his calmness for arrogance.

William J. Blake was a young man. He was in Running for his mother’s funeral. His grief was long-lived, and he feared foreclosure on his business premises in Ohio. Days before, he had visited a physician, and had poured out his feelings under confidentiality. His father had paid a visit to his flat unannounced, in tears for the first time Blake had ever seen. Blake listened, then asked him to leave. Afterwards, Blake went to the locksmith and had the doors changed. As he looked around the room of the Running Inn he saw only unfamiliar faces. He wondered who these people were, and why they had come here. He had ordered chicken.

Anne Roland was a schoolteacher. She was eating at the Running Inn because the general store was closed and she had forgotten her lunch. Her pet chook had died the day before, and she had cried and buried it alone. Her greatest fear was that she would be left with nobody to talk to. She had ordered soup.

The waitress was thinking about something else when she gave the woman chicken and the man soup. She was halfway back to the kitchen when the woman stood up and said: “No, excuse me, no, I’m sorry, I did not order this.”

Blake and six others looked up at the woman. Blake looked at his bowl. “Oh,” he said. “I think that’s mine an’ this is yours.” He passed it over. He smiled, and looked at the empty seat beside her.

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