He lay awake listening to the thin thrum of the nearby highway traffic. If you could call two lanes with double yellow lines down the center of it a highway. The last few weeks had left him feeling exhausted, what with the move, and the crappy job he'd managed to find. Ben never expected to end up in rural Wisconsin, but here he found himself, listening to the distant semi's rolling to their far off destinations. That hum used to put him to sleep, but those were days long past, when the hum was a much much louder thrum.
No need for the alarm clock today, he rolled over and found the off switch, then begrudgingly got out of bed. Grabbing his pants from the day before off the floor, he turned on the bedside lamp. 3:15 a.m. was never a time he wanted to be awake, for something wicked always lurked at this hour he thought. Something he'd read a long time ago had convinced him of that, and either that author was right, or he just felt he was right. Either way he wasn't getting back into bed. Grabbing a shirt out of his old go bag,which was still packed and not put away, he made his way down the short hall of his first floor flat, and into the old farmhouses kitchen. He had no need for that large of a kitchen, as he had no kids or a wife to give him any, but he had a coffee maker there. It was already prepared for later this morning, and he turned it on. Out of habit he went out to grab the daily paper. The walk to the end of the driveway was long, nearly a quarter mile. Knowing that this walk was pointless, since the paper wouldn't be there like it had been in Chicago, he took it anyway. Too early for anybody up here but the farmers, who were undoubtedly still in bed for the next hour. He stood at the end of the dirt driveway, far from the front of the shabby old farmhouse that some dumbass at the zoning department had dubbed an apartment building, and stared up at the stars. He still wasn't used to being able to see that many stars. Growing up in a city were you can only see the brightest of the constellations on a so called clear night was not a real introduction to the true vastness of space. Cursing under his breath, Ben walked slowly back to his pseudo apartment, sans anything to read, but now mostly awake.
Filling a mug with some no name boldless coffee, he settled into the used recliner that came with the furnished apartment. Rejecting the inclination to turn on the ancient style turn knob television set, he sat in the dull glow of what he swore was on old gas light, though he knew that an electrical light switch would result in certain fire if that was really a gas light. Ben just gazed at the black lit window, thinking about how to start anew. Coffee in hand, and mind to change the world, nothing happened. Ben had discovered quickly that the news up here was far different from the news back home. He was used to political blowhards, and murderers a-go-go. Not being much of a fan of that, he was also not a fan of newscasts the were fluffed with nothing but stories of a ten car backup because a new family of ducks were crossing a road. Or when a local corn farmer's tractor had broken down, and five local dairy workers were delayed because of it. As far as Ben was concerned nobody up in the cheese state were in any big trouble. He was pretty certain that the cows wouldn't explode if their udders weren't drained at the regularly scheduled time. He also knew that the owner of said cows would probably beat him senseless if he said that out loud within earshot. All Ben knew was that life up here was slower, and that gossip doesn't vary much. Only in a small town, gossip gets back to you much faster than it does in a city of three and a half million people. In a town of around six hundred, not counting the truckers that stopped on their way though, gossip about you reached you in no more than four hours, Ben figured.
Four hours later, and a pot of crappy coffee fuller, Ben grabbed his car keys and walked out to his old Jetta. Smiling as he unlocked the car with his car key, he dropped in thinking about all the locals who damn near called him a heathen for driving "that foreign p.o.s." They all had shiny new Ford's or Chevy's, or an old International, and he was the new "city folk" with his German made piece of communism. Still smiling, the Jetta's engine coughed to life, and Ben started laughing. Not some kind of personal chuckle, but a full blown belly jiggler, and it felt damn good. He knew he didn't fit in here, but after the city he loved had let him down, he was here, and that made him laugh even harder. When he reached the end of the dirt path that served as the driveway, his laugh was cut short by an airhorn of a passing dairy tanker. Ben slammed on the old VW's brakes, and felt the shudder of the passing truck's air steam. Now wide eyed and more alert than he'd been a minute ago, he made his way to the diner he'd found work at. Only when he got there, it was burning down, rapidly, too rapidly. He had seen this before, and his heart started pounding. The regular morning staff, and a couple of regulars, were standing at the edge of the road watching their lively-hood burn down. He felt his cell phone buzzing in his pocket. Taking it out he only saw the 312 area code, and ignored the call, then threw it on the passenger seat. He just hoped that what was happening to Carey's Diner wasn't his past following him. He killed the engine and got out to talk to his newest boss.