Julie ran out to meet me from the restaurant.
She was a lot more confident on her home ground. I thought for a moment she was going to hug me, but she pulled herself to a stop about three feet away, and fell into place beside me. She was carrying a large conch shell.
"Hi," she said, not quite looking at me.
"Hi." I said.
She kicked some sand in the air, but didn't seem inclined to talk.
"Thanks for covering for me with Officer Barnes." I said, "You didn't have to do that."
She examined the shell in detail.
"You helped Tim and me with his uncle. I guess we're even."
We walked a way in silence.
"What do you have there?"
"A shell. You can hear the ocean in it." She ducked her head. "Sorry, everyone knows that."
I nodded, sagely.
"I used to carry one of those with me all the time," I said. "They're very beautiful, don't you think?"
"It's not really the ocean you hear," she said. "It's only your own pulse."
"Only? We'd all be better off if we spent more time listening to our own pulse, don't you think"
She ignored that.
"What happened to your shell?" she asked.
* * * * *
I did what I could to help them.
I cleaned up that back room and the kitchen, scraping years of grease off the stainless steel.
I put the grill stone to good use, and soon the grill was smooth and even again.
I cooked, and improved the menu considerably, adding fresh fish for one thing. Why they were only using frozen is beyond me.
I convinced Ann to put up a Christmas tree and helped her decorate it. Julie and I repainted the sign out by the highway.
Also, I joked with the customers, making them feel at home.
By the end of the week we were actually making money. Ann hired a cook, but now we needed two, so I stayed on.
Their house was just off the restaurant parking lot: an aging Cape Cod, overlooking the beach.
After I slept in the restaurant for a couple of nights, Ann let me move into their spare bedroom.