Essie sat quietly in the stiff chair at the salon as Diane Dricken-Flynn looked her over with a critical eye.
“We can definitely do a roller set,” said Diane.
She hummed a bit as she circled Essie, making her assessment.
Reflections By the River has been in business in the old Barton Roller Mill since 1990. The space where Diane had her shop was previously used as office space by her grandparents, Marcella and Walter Gadow, when they ran the mill. Back in the 1920’s it was a working flour mill which supplied much of the flour and wheat germ to surrounding communities.
Diane started to play with Essie’s blonde hair; tugging and poofing.
“A bob or finger waves,” said Diane. She was starting to get creative.
“Do you want a chignon or is that something too fancy? We don’t want to give you something the nuns will raise their eyebrows at,” she said.
Essie was in a tight spot. She had to get her hair done early in the week for the big Saturday celebration at St. Mary’s School.
Diane and her five siblings all graduated St. Mary’s. Diane grew up in the era of nuns and habits and knew what was acceptable for Catholic school girls.
“You know that dress of yours,” said Diane. “Remember to put your hands down straight to your side and make sure the bottom of your dress is below your longest fingertip.
Diane was direct. As the saying went in Barton, ‘No need to read Diane Dricken-Flynn’s mind… that’s because she’ll tell ya.’
Essie found it hard to relax in the chair as she had a lot on her mind with grandma’s growing state of confusion and Hank off in Tennessee. One of his buddies from the service got killed in an automobile accident and Hank went to pay his respects.
“I sucked up to the nuns,” said Diane in between short snips. “I helped them clean the blackboards; they were nice to me.”
She stopped cutting briefly and waved the comb at the mirror for emphasis. “I also remember being on the playground and during kickball I saw the nuns’ underwear hanging on the clothes line. I really didn’t need to see that.”
Essie stared at Diane, but it was as if she didn’t hear a word she was saying. Essie planned to stop at Kettle Moraine Counseling on her way home. Owner Devnoa Marshall had recently purchased the building on the opposite side of Barton Dam.
Essie knew the therapists at the clinic provided mental health services for children and adults but she wondered if they’d be able to help with grandma and maybe shed some light on her forgetfulness.
Hank and Jeff off to Tennessee
It was still dark for an April morning. but the birds were already singing as Hank took the steps two at a time and opened the front door to Sandy’s Barton Cafe. He had stopped earlier in the week and asked Sandy if she could wrap a couple of ham sandwiches for the road.
Hank and Jeff were headed south. Hank’s Army buddy Clete was tragically killed in an automobile accident and he intended on going to the service. Jeff said he’d go along and pick up some supplies for Wisconsin House Woodworks.
The day before yesterday, Hank stopped at Vrana Lock & Safe to get the lock fixed on his brown leather suitcase. It was a bit of a shabby and smelled of a sharp sweetness, like the inside of his high school guitar case… but it served the purpose.
Hank turned quickly as Jeff leaned on the horn. Hank could see the headlights outside the large storefront window. Jeff wanted to check the air pressure and oil at Hilltop Services before they set out on the road.
A letter to Essie
The funeral for Hank’s buddy came with full military rites. An honor guard detail folded and presented the flag of the United States to Clete’s next of kin. Hank bowed his head as Taps played in the distance.
Back at the motel Hank was weary after a long day of travel. He laid on the bed, on top of the covers and pulled a tablet of paper out of the small desk drawer to write Essie.
Say I hope this letter reaches you. I know it’s only been a couple days but I miss you terribly.
Jeff and I drove through the night to get here. The funeral was awful but I’m happy I came. I know it meant a lot to Clete’s family.
After the service the ladies from the church had a real nice meal all set. There was potato salad, sliced meat, green beans with slivers of almonds and those great rolls that separate into three pieces like a shamrock.
While my heart aches after losing Clete I think most of the pain is because I long for you.
If there was a woman that was walking, all the boys holler at her but I don’t even look at her because I am thinking about you, all day long.
Hon, I should be back in Barton soon. Jeff has a couple more errands to run, he’s supposed to be picking something up for Olaf at West Bend Glass Block.
I can’t wait to see you again and sit in the park and hold your hand.
P.S. I love you more every day. Hank
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Wisconsin House Woodworks
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