Back From The Big Time...
She could scarcely believe her eyes. An enormous tour bus had arrived in Dry Creek, and from it stepped hometown hero Duane Enger, now a music celebrity. Linda Morgan, owner of the local cafe, had thought her ex-boyfriend had become too famous for the small-town life she loved.
But something had pulled Duane back. Maybe he missed a slower, easier life. Maybe he sought to regain his faith. Or maybe it was the girl he'd left behind. Whatever it was, Duane was now finding life in Dry Creek--and Linda--just as intriguing as life in the fast lane.
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March 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Dry Creek Sweethearts by Janet Tronstad
"I don't care if he did grow up in Dry Creek, he's still not one of us. Not anymore." Linda Morgan struggled to keep her voice neutral as she flipped the sign in her caf� window to Closed and began to stack chairs on tables so she could mop the floor.
A neutral calm was the best she could expect of herself when it came to Duane Enger.
She should have refused to let her younger sister, Lucy, hang his old guitar on the wall of the caf� when the idea first came up months ago. Then she and her sister wouldn't even be having this conversation now.
Lucy was too young to know there was no point in building a shrine to someone who had left everything behind so he could go off and chase his dream of becoming a rock star. Every time Linda looked at the guitar she remembered that the old six-string Silvertone hadn't been good enough for Duane to take with him. The frets were worn down and it needed new strings. So he had left the Silvertone behind, just as he'd eventually left everything and everyone behind, even her.
The small Montana town of Dry Creek had not been big enough for Duane and his dreams.
Of course, Linda couldn't tell her sister all of this--especially not in the tone of voice she was using in her head as she thought it. Lucy had a tender heart and Linda didn't want her to worry that anyone around here held anything against the man Lucy had just started to idolize. A teenage girl needed heroes, and Duane was better than most who were out there.
Besides, Linda told herself, the whole thing with Duane shouldn't bother her anymore. Lots of people were disappointed by their high school sweethearts. She wasn't the only one. It wasn't even worth talking about. It had been eight long years since Duane left Dry Creek. That was plenty of time for a broken heart to heal.
Right now, Linda had more important things to worry about anyway, like keeping the floor clean after all the rain they'd had this week. The road into Dry Creek was asphalt, but the parking area in front of her caf� was pure dirt. That meant mud and lots of it. She'd already mopped the floor twice today and she had to do it again tonight before she and Lucy headed home. A woman who needed to mop a floor that often didn't have time to be thinking about some man who had left her behind to pursue his fantasy of stardom.
Linda lifted the last chair up. It was half her fault anyway. She never should have trusted a man who couldn't even stick with the name he was given the day he was born. Duane had traded his name for a stage name before he left Dry Creek. That should have been her first clue about how much commitment the man had in his bones. He eventually started going by Duane again, but lots of people still knew him as the Jazz Man.
Linda set the chair down hard on the table and winced when she heard the soft slam. Okay, so Duane might still bother her a little more than she would like. Which was probably natural; she was only human. She might have grown closer to God since Duane left, but she still had a way to go. Her heart had healed, but her head still hadn't totally forgiven him or herself for believing in him.
Linda thought Lucy had given up the argument until she saw her sister looking at her with reproach in her eyes.
"But we have to display these things. He's famous." Lucy held up the letter she'd framed to hang beside the guitar and gazed at it as if it were written in pure gold. "The Jazz Man is the only famous person to ever come out of Dry Creek--right here--and he remembers us."
The Jazz Man is what Duane had started calling himself just before he left. All through high school, he'd played and sung his own arrangements, along with songs from the old jazz masters like Duke Ellington. Linda had sung with him, especially on the classics. Back then, Duane had been happy enough with himself and his jazz revival plans.
Then, he set his eyes on Hollywood and nothing was good enough, not his name, not his guitar, not his friends. Not even his hometown.
Still, Linda told herself, none of that was Lucy's fault. Besides, if Linda let her sister hang the letter on the wall as she'd been requesting, it might actually help them both forget about the piece of paper since it would no longer be in her sister's pocket where she could pull it out and read it every ten seconds.
"Go ahead and put your letter up there if you want." Linda tried to sound gracious. "But, just so you know, he's not that famous. There are lots of places where people haven't even heard of him."
Like Timbuktu. And maybe that nursing home in Miles City. The more Linda thought about it the more she knew she was overreacting. Lucy might have been carrying that letter around with her since it came in the mail a week ago. And she might have gone all dewy-eyed every time she read it. But it was the memories that it brought back to Linda that were the problem, not the letter itself.