He sat on the terrace behind the hotel. The sun was warm and the breeze had a hint of fall. The man was sipping coffee and reading a book. At the top of every page he would lift his head and scan the area. The river slid by silently a few yards away. Its current seemed laconic, yet was probably stronger than it looked at a glance. He was perched on an iron chair at a dirty patio table. Cigarette butts lay scattered under the table. They were not his. A large cloud cast its shadow and the man put the book on the table and glanced right and left. Something caught his eye and he squinted, peering into the distance. A large blue heron lifted from the wooded opposite bank. The river was perhaps sixty or seventy-five yards wide at this point.. He watched as the bird flew upstream then stole another look around and turned back to the book.
A thin elderly woman in tight jeans and high heels came around the corner of the hotel walking a fluffy white dog along the asphalt walkway. Her long wispy white hair was tussled by the light breeze.Neither she nor the dog paid him any attention as he followed them with his eyes over the brim of the pages. A small black beetle landed on his shirt and he flicked it away. He took a sip of the lukewarm coffee. He reached into his left front pocket and pulled out a phone. A quick look at the screen and he replaced it in the pocket of his jeans.
He laid the book on the table and watched the river. Here, squeezed between Iowa and Nebraska, the Missouri River flowed mostly southward. It turned east to loop and separate the two Kansas Cities then snaked across The Show Me State to mate with the Mississippi in an orgy of Great Plains runoff and Northwoods mud. Just a little further downstream the river was T-boned by the turbulent and reckless Ohio River. All three waters then joined in a winding, jostling hurry south to the warm Gulf of Mexico. The man reflected on this as he stared at the placid river before him.
He stood up, placed the book into the back pocket of his jeans, and walked to the trash can next to the wall beside the door. He dropped the paper coffee cup into the receptacle. He opened the door and disappeared into the hotel.