Small Towns

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Nine

In a small town of misfits, I am a mistake, a misnomer, a twist of odd. And what is done, I do myself. I have no garden, and dreams, if I have them, are question marks left in an abandoned lot at the edge of town. Most businesses on Main Street are shuttered these days – some with graffiti. My favorite: The end was here.

Riding home I stop by the grocer’s because the lights are on. They sell everything here. I padlock my bike. Inside, a low, nasal voice over the intercom drones, “The store is closing in fifteen minutes. Make your selections or plan to stay the night.” I need to check for duct tape and nails. I know they’ll have the wine and bread. Instead, and I’ve no idea why, I’m standing in aisle seven and begin turning all the cans of vegetables on the shelves to face backwards. Behind me, a familiar voice says, “If you touch them, Bill, you buy them.” It’s Clarice, the manager. I get the feeling I’m staying, so I turn another can of roasted tomatoes, and give her a look. I’ve a hankering for soup and lots of it.

Everyone’s gone now but Clarice and me. I’ve known her for years. We went to school together. She relents at checkout – I thought she would – letting me purchase only 12 cans. I’ll use them all – and tell her so.

The last thing she said to me was “Bill, I’ll see you at 7.” Then she leaves.

“See you then, Clarice,” I say as she locks the door. “Drive safe,” I say, thinking maybe she can read my lips. “There’ll be a storm later.” She nods.

I’d say it’s quiet here, but the elevator music with its thick strings keeps playing for some reason – and that would make me a liar. I’ve been worse. Maybe I’ll apply for manager. Some day. “I could live here,” I say aloud to frozen foods.

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