The phones are out of order at a street-corner restaurant on a snowy early morning thirty miles from Kansas City. It is 1:00 a.m., and restaurant proprietor Grace Hoylard and her teenage waitress Elma Duckworth await the arrival of the Kansas City-to-Wichita bus. Will Masters, the local sheriff, comes in to tell Grace that the blizzard has closed the roads; the bus will need to stop at the restaurant until further notice. The bus arrives, and passengers enter the restaurant. They will be marooned together until just before sunrise.
Cherie, a young woman in flashy clothes and wearing too much makeup, asks Sheriff Will for protection from a cowboy who is still on the bus. Cherie claims that the cowboy had abducted her from her job as a singer at the Blue Dragon nightclub in Kansas City. Dr. Gerald Lyman, an alcoholic has-been college professor in his fifties, makes a connection with Elma. Carl, the bus driver, shares a flirtation with Grace at the counter. Cherie tells Elma about her job as a chanteuse, or nightclub singer, and about her family background. Carl and Will have a brief exchange that establishes some information about Lyman, then Carl announces he is going for a long walk, which Will finds hard to believe, given the blizzard. The look between Carl and Grace, however, reveals that something is up between them.
Lyman quotes poetry to Elma, and they converse about William Shakespeare with Cherie. The door to the restaurant swings open, revealing a young cowboy, Bo Decker, and his older friend, Virgil Blessing, who is carrying Bo’s guitar case. Arguments ensue between Bo and Will about closing the door and between Bo and Cherie about her name—is it or is it not Cherry? Virgil tries to warn Bo not to antagonize the sheriff, but Bo is headstrong, launching into a tirade about his ranch and his prowess at the rodeo. He then orders food and sits at the counter to talk to Cherie. He hugs and kisses her roughly, which embarrasses Cherie, and demonstrates his arrogance and lack of manners. Grace excuses herself to her apartment, complaining of a headache.
Lyman begins to tell Elma about his first wife, and Bo demands to know why Cherie’s...
(The entire section is 904 words.)