After a few days, the cash reserves had dwindled down. But with a magical piece of plastic all would be better, no?
The machine beeped angrily at our hero and spit the card back out. He tried again. And again, the machine resounded with its disapproving beeps. Our hero knew that another try and the machine would consume the card leaving him totally stranded.
What to do? He had already consumed a portion of Ramen noodles over the course of the few days. That's not to say that "real" food had not been dined upon...
A mysterious creature known as "Wee Willy" had been lurking about town, and as it would turn out, had reportedly hiked with Cotton and his family back in 1980. Willy took our hero about town and on more than one occasion had taken him to Dot's for a burger, fries and a pitcher of beer.
Now this bothered our hero a bit, because access to money was right there in that little plastic card, but alas, the numbers to access the funds could not be obtained. How does someone homeless get their pin # mailed to them?
Mysteries of the Universe continue to unravel but this answer will be lost for all time I'm sure...
Lone Wolf was the only local that Cotton had any contact with prior to his arrival and Willy it would turn out was good friends with him as well.
For the next few days, Cotton, Wee Willy, and Lone Wolf would spend the evening cuttin' up the town bouncing from one waterin' hole to another. And it was good...
At least until the sun rose and the drum circle began in their heads.
By this time cash was gone, save a few bucks in change. Enter the Side Track Cafe.
The Side Track Cafe was a small diner located just a couple of blocks to the south of "the Place." The theme of the diner was naturally centered around the railroad. Back in the days of old, The Virginia Creeper would chug its way in and out of town, hence the theme. Cotton wandered in one day, early in the morning.
The day prior, our hero had tried to hike out of town, determined to hike regardless of his pack weight or gear condition. The first miles were grueling uphill for someone out of shape. Being a flatlander, Cotton was unaccustomed to such things, and having a heart condition did not make it any easier. The only pleasant moment was about three miles in a ridge not more than thirty feet from the trail, and our hero heard a noise like the snapping of twigs.
He paused and glanced with fatigue in the direction of the noise. A female deer peered back at him. Both spent what seemed like an eternity, locked in the stare down. With a deep breath and a nod, Cotton continued keeping the doe in his periphery.
The doe walked with him, parallel. He stopped and looked at the doe, and she did the same, looking back at him. This continued on for about ten minutes before trail and ridge went in separate directions. He waved at his hiking companion and began to travel down the trail. Five miles down the trail a rock became lodged in his boot so just before a road crossing our hero paused to dislodge the offending piece of stone. More bad news. The entry for the stone had been that the sole of his boot had come apart at the seams.
He removed his pack and sat for a time pondering what to do. The words of other hikers echoed in his brain. "There's still snow on Mount Rodgers." Fact being that he had been in town a few days earlier and small flurries had fallen around him. This was the last road intersection. He had duct tape and it would only be a 3 to four days before he would make it to the next town. Perhaps a quick fix and continue on until another outfitter could be reached.
The other choice was to walk back into town. This choice had the taste of defeat. But it was the smart choice. Only a fool would set off with busted boots. So he heaved the pack back on and began making his way back to town. As if to signal this was the right decision a lone van came rolling past and to a stop. A ride was offered and grudgingly taken back into town...
Which leads us back to our hero making his way into the Side Track Cafe. The owner nodded to Cotton and asked him if he'd like to order something.
"Do you take cards?"
"Nope. Only place in town that takes cards is the Old Mill."
The Old Mill is the "finer" dining establishment in town, complete with overly priced menu. Dot's didn't take cards either.
"Well then I guess I'll not be ordering."
"Are you hungry?"
"Yeah, but I can't pay for anything. All My money's in my account and I can't get access to it."
Stupid hero forgot his pin #. Somewhere, Satan laughs.
"Well how about I give you the first pancake. It's always the worst one."
Grudgingly our hero nodded.
The pancake covered the entire plate, and a family from Ethiopia could probably be fed by one. Our hero hungrily wolfed it down after applying some maple syrup.
"You know if you want, you can wash dishes and I'll feed you lunch..."
"That would be great." Our hero smiled and nodded.
"I'm Trey, the owner. But everyone around here calls me Mountain Man. That's Small Child behind the Grill and Hawk, " He motioned over to a table.
"I'm Cotton," replied our hero...
Hawk chuckled and stated with amusement...
"Well Cotton... You've just been sidetracked..."