He took the road out of town. After driving past the funeral home, Dairy Queen, and a pasture of cows, he pressed his foot to the pedal and turned his siren on. He drove like that until his speed matched his heartbeat and then he slowed down a bit, turned the siren off, pulled off onto the side of the road, and turned around. He drove back to town recalling a girl he’d met in Italy during the war and feeling much better. By the time he got to Ray Ramsey’s furniture store, he was able to walk in, sit down in a recliner, rest his hat in his lap, and lean back in relative calm until Ray finished waiting on a customer.
Ray said, “Jerry, that chair can be yours to sit in to listen to the news tonight. Make me an offer.”
Jerry looked at the price tag. Eighty-two dollars. He said, “I didn’t really come to buy furniture.”
“A lot of people don’t. But they walk out happy anyway. I tell you, there’s nothing better than a new chair to chase away the worries of the day. And look where your soles are pointing to. I don’t believe you and Evelyn have got one of these yet.” He laid his hand on top of a blond maple console that housed a television set.
“I’ll make you a deal you’ll never regret. Throw in the chair for way under its dollar value just to spruce up your living room.” He waved a palm, smiled showing his teeth, and stared to a spot in the air just beyond his fingers.
Jerry pursed his lips. He’d been thinking of buying a television set. Evelyn wanted one so much that she brought it up wherever she prepared spaghetti and meatballs, his favorite dish. He pushed his rear deeper into the chair and thought about not having to go to his brother-in-laws’ to watch Ed Sullivan.
Ray tapped a knob. “The nice thing about this model here are these two knobs. See how they’re at the top? A lot of models have them below the screen. You have to bend down to turn the things on. But this baby has her knobs at the top, where they’re supposed to be.” He winked at Jerry.
And the wink brought the pink balloons back to Jerry’s mind. He blinked hard, picked up his hat, pulled the lever on the recliner, and swung upright. “I’ll think about that. But I’ve really come about a case I’m on. Not a crime, but a mystery. Mark Dittwilder told me that you saw a big bird in your yard.
“Sure as heck did. Saw him from the back, but his wing spread was this wide.” Ray extended his arms to their full width.
“What do you think he was?”
“I think he was a turkey buzzard.”
“I wondered about that. But there’s nothing else that big around, unless eagles have come to Kentucky Lake. You know, they like to fish dams.”
Jerry hadn’t been down to the lake in some time. He supposed that was a possibility, but he said, “Miss Pickens mentioned turkey buzzards, too.”
Ray’s house backed up to Miss Pickens’. He said, “You talked to her?”
Jerry ran his fingers over the crease in the crown of his hat. Ray had been in the third grade with him. He was tempted to say more than he should. He pursed his lips real hard and nodded.
Ray said, “Come here. I want to show you something.” He turned toward the back of the store. Jerry got up and followed him to a little room that Ray used as an office. It wasn’t much larger than the desk and file cabinet in it, and Jerry had to rest his right arm on top of the cabinet for Ray to have enough room to shut the door.