“Excuse me.” Both men looked up at the woman in the white apron confronting them. “You can’t eat your own food here.”
Kid Curry looked longingly down at the sandwich in his hand as his stomach rumbled. “Why is that, ma’am.”
She pointed at the sign over the shop behind them. “That’s my restaurant.”
Heyes delivered his most charming smile. “And very lovely it looks too, Miss....”
“It’s missus. Mrs. Bacon.”
“Oh,” Heyes glanced back at the sign. “So when it says the ‘House Of Bacon’ it’s named after you? I just thought you cooked a lot of bacon.”
“Well we do. People expect it, but that’s not the point. You can’t eat here. Not on the bench outside my shop.”
“Why not?” asked the Kid.
“Because you’re sitting on the bench outside my shop and you didn’t buy that food here. It makes me look bad.”
The Kid’s brows gathered. “We can’t afford your restaurant, Mrs. Bacon. We went to the store and bought ourselves some food. We thought we’d eat before movin’ on.” He pointed down at the bench they were perched on. “This is the only place we can find to sit.”
“I clean outside my shop. I keep it nice for my customers. Not for random saddle tramps.”
“We’re not saddle tramps ma’am. My friend here is on his way to his wedding.” Heyes cast out his sandwich towards his partner. “He’s marrying the mayor’s daughter.”
“I don’t care if he’s marrying the Queen of England. You can’t use my bench to eat food you didn’t buy in my restaurant.” Her hazel eyes lit up at the sight of the man approaching with a shiny star on his chest. “Sheriff Lightfoot! I’m glad you’re here. Can you move on these vagrants? They’re hurting my business.”
“Vagrants?” The lawman’s shrewd gray eyes drifted over the pair. “You two botherin’ this lady? What’re your names?”
“This here is Joshua Smith and I’m Thaddeus Jones.” The Kid leaned forward. “We’re on our way to Danesburg for a weddin’. We ain’t vagrants. ”
“He’s getting married to the mayor’s daughter,” Heyes grinned, squinting into the sun. “We’ll be gone as soon as we’ve eaten.”
“They didn’t buy that here,” Mrs. Bacon protested.
The lawman scratched his head. “So?”
“You know they can’t eat their own food on that bench. It’s right outside my shop. It’s bad for business.”
“Well, now,” the lawman mused. “This here bench was put in by the townsfolk, Gracie. It ain’t yours.”
“But I keep the area around it clean,” she protested. “In exchange for that the Mayor agrees that folks couldn’t eat their own food on it.” She thrust a pointed finger in the sheriff’s face. “You were at that meeting, John. You know it was passed as a town ordinance.”
“Now you mention it, I do remember your brother-in-law givin’ you some kinda special treatment,” growled the lawman. “I don’t see that these fellas are doing anyone any harm. You bought that food, right?” He narrowed his eyes and glared at them. “You didn’t steal it?”
“We bought it at the store right over there, Sheriff.” Heyes made to stand. “We don’t want any trouble. We’ll be moving on.”
“Wait right where you are young man,” the sheriff laid a hand on Heyes shoulder and pushed him back into the seat. “This here matter ain’t settled.” He turned back to Mrs. Bacon. “What harm are they doin’?”
“They’re damaging my business. Why would anyone pay my prices when they could eat bits from the general store?”
“Maybe you should charge less?” the lawman suggested.
“I leave that to lower class establishments,” Mrs. Bacon propped her hands on her hips. “Like the one your sister owns.”
The sheriff’s jaw hardened as the partners exchanged a glance. “You leave my sister outta this, Gracie. You two are in competition but I’m here to enforce the law.”
“Then do your job. The town ordinance says that folks can’t eat their own food on this bench. Arrest them.”
“Now hold on a minute,” Heyes began.
“Arrest them?” Lightfoot frowned. “For eatin’ a couple of sandwiches? No wonder folks don’t want to use your place when you’re so ‘ornery.”
“I clean this area and maintain it for my patrons. I’ve got the town ordinance that says nobody can eat their own food on this bench. Are you gonna do your job, or do I have to complain about you?”
“Maybe I can help, Sheriff?” Heyes pointed to the Kid’s sandwich. “Thaddeus, is that your food?”
“And this is mine.” Heyes reached out and took his cousin’s food, thrusting his own into his hands instead. “There. I swapped them. Now neither of us are eating our own food.”
Sheriff Lightfoot threw back his head and guffawed. “Sure enough. Problem solved, Gracie.”
“But nuthin’. They ain’t eatin’ their own food, now move along or I’ll arrest you for creatin’ a disturbance.”
The woman huffed loudly and turned on her heel, her apron strings fluttering behind her. “You haven’t heard the last of this, Jim Lightfoot.”
“I don’t suppose I have, Gracie.” He smiled at the two strangers. “Are you two leavin’ once you’ve eaten?”
“We’ll be gone within the hour,” the Kid nodded.
“Good. You’re best out of it when she starts up. I swear, that bench is more trouble than it’s worth. Somebody should burn the darned thing down.” He winked at Heyes. “Quick thinking, Smith. Are you Best Man?”
“Huh?” the Kid looked indignant.
“At the weddin’?”
“Ah, yeah, Sheriff,” the Kid nodded. “I had to make him Best Man. He’s the one making all the arrangements to get me married off.”
Heyes smiled innocently. “Well, not all the arrangements. I’m sure the bride has a bigger part in that than me.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet she’ll have been real busy,” Lightfoot agreed. “And her mother. Seesh, mothers and weddings. I bet you’ll be glad when it’s all over.”
“Right now, I’ll be glad when this meal is over.” The Kid peered over at the sandwich Heyes held. “I hate mustard.”