Lil Miss

Grant sent a diminutive blonde teenager named Lillian into my lobby yesterday afternoon to inquire about a job.

Lillian, who hates her first name and just goes by “Lil,” is an honor student and president of Coldwater High School’s FFA chapter. Lil drives a ’73 Ford pickup she inherited from her late grandfather, loves history and geography, and assures me that there is not a motel guest alive who can make a mess any nastier than anything she’s cleaned up on her family’s ranch.

A well-known Route 66 historian happened to check in while I was showing Lil how to run the credit-card machine this afternoon. Upon hearing her name, he told her about another Lillian with ties to a historic motel on the Mother Road, then announced that Lil should henceforth be known as “Lil Miss.”

Lil Miss nodded. “I like that,” she said, her eyes downcast and her voice soft. “I like that a lot.”

After our guest headed off to his room, Lil Miss looked at me, tears brimming in her eyes. “Nobody’s called me ‘Lil Miss’ since Grandpa died,” she said. “That guy called me ‘Lil Miss’ because it reminded him of someone he obviously loved a lot, who also died. Isn’t that odd?”

I glanced at the picture of St. Julian the Hospitaller pasted onto a jar candle above the fireplace and smiled.

“Around here, ‘odd’ is relative,” I said, pressing a heart-shaped milagro into her open hand. “Welcome to the Tumbleweed.”

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