In the early hours of the morning on the Saturday before Independence Day, the Jolly Roger, a place widely known for its “Brews, Blues, and Bar-B-Q,” burned down. By 8 A.M., most of the town’s population of 512 had come and gone, murmuring condolences to the owners and shaking their heads over the heap of charred timbers still smoldering on the bluff overlooking the Pacific.
“Not sure how it started,” Mel announced to the small group of folks keeping vigil at the edge of the street. He stood outside the yellow police tape the sheriff’s deputy had strung around the gravel parking lot an hour earlier, his eyes fixed on the blackened rubble. “Not sure of the cause yet,” he said to no one in particular.
Not far away, Carol leaned close to Leona, who owned the Sea Trader gift shop across the street. “We’re going to be fine,” Carol whispered, pulling her sweater closer around her. “It’s Liz worries me.” She nodded toward a thirty-something woman standing off by herself at the far end of the parking lot. “Running this place for us is all she’s got since she gave up that crazy notion of opening that cupcake shop in Portland.”
A handful of locals ducked under the tape for a closer look and were quickly joined by three or four tourists. “Sheriff says there’ll be an investigation,” Mel called after them. “Don’t want to be getting too close.” His voice faded beneath the clicking of cameras and cell phones.
Liz stood not far from the only corner of the building left standing, the last scorched remnant of the former juke joint still displaying its painted flames and the words “Smokin’ Hot Ribs!” Her blue eyes luminous and distant, she slowly stroked the white tips of her short dark hair, a twitch in her cheek tugging irrepressibly at the corners of her mouth.