This is part four of a nine part series I will be publishing over the next several weeks. Please comment, question, critique, and criticize. With your help, I hope to work this into a successful story.
A Leisurely Stroll
I decided to walk to the corner bookstore for a cup of coffee. I knew Main would be busy, it always is, and was grateful for the wide sidewalks—big squares of concrete, squares wide enough for three to walk side-by-side. I know because we do it all the time. Every time we hit the first square on Main we sing from the Laverne and Shirley re-runs. We change the words to homage our favorite beers: Bud Light, Miller Light, Michelob Light, Incorporated. We’re gonna drink it! The sidewalk is almost brand new and each is still separated by a connected crack, which hasn’t been filled with dirt or litter yet. There is a gaping hole at the surface that is the perfect size for my Prada look-a-like, black leather, sling-back, all-purpose, four and a quarter inch heels to get stuck, pulling them off my foot nearly every time. That is if I stepped on cracks. My friends step on cracks. Their shoes get caught. I don’t step on cracks.
All the old familiars welcomed my too early in the morning arrival, wretched and beautiful: a strip mall with a pub and grill that’s really just a pub, the sheriff’s office, a book store, a dollar store, a pawn shop, the grocery store, a drive-thru restaurant, the town church/school multiplex, and the food-mart/gas station on the corner. That bar is what ended me last night. It’s totally a college place, even though there’s not a college. At least not a real college, it’s one of those two year places. If you can make it there, you have a chance of making it in a real U. But all the goners come back for weekends and breaks, and then it feels like a real college town. Drop outs come back for good and that’s what maintains the town’s population. And the bar’s. Supposedly, the bar, it’s eighteen to enter, twenty-one to drink, but, well, let’s just say I’ve been coming in here since long before I was legal. I can still drink like I used to, too. Age hasn’t slowed me down. My friends and I had this trick to get away with our juvenile delinquency and we’ve passed it on to the next generation. Whenever Johnny-Law comes in, you slip out the back door, walk around the building, smoke a cigarette to rid your breath of alcohol and come back in the front. The doorman is still Laura’s brother and he lets people get away with it, but I think there’s something in it for him. Not from me. Ever. Laura wouldn’t let him near me. He cards kids in front of the police and the cops never double check him. I’m sure the cops probably know the real deal and just stop in to scare everyone off. I’m sure they do it just for laughs, and as long as no one causes any trouble, neither do they.
That sheriff’s office is why I walk to drink. Public intoxication, I know. But wouldn’t you rather have that than a five thousand dollar DUI? And I’ve found that usually you can get away with it—better safe than dead, my mother reminds me regularly. Plus walking is more fun and less clean-up. Drink too much, need to be sick—bend over, baby, and let it all out. If you’re driving, well, then you have to slow down, pull over, open the door, lean out—but not too far to fall out, this is when the seatbelt comes in handy—open wide and project as far out as possible, which is usually pretty hard because by that point you can’t even hold your head up, much less choose the correct projection. Plus, with driving, you have to worry about getting chunks all over the side of your car. It’s even worse if you can’t make it and just have to go out the window. You don’t want to clean that with a hangover. No sir-ree! Not fun. And that comes from experience.
The church looms over the strip. It’s a Baptist place so there’s always some thumper out and ready to lecture “the dissenters.” It’s always busy too, with meetings and services and the school. The school is always hopping with the future, but the sanctuary, that is the single most frightening place in the whole town. Why they put a Baptist church so close to a bar, I’ll never know. I generally tend to pretend that church isn’t there even though I have to walk by it every time I want to go to the book store. But that twenty-four hour food mart, with a slushy machine and hot dogs, is one of our most cherished places. That place is our sanctuary. Those hot dogs have saved my life a couple of times. There is nothing like a bite of multi-flesh with lots of absorbing bread to make for a full stomach and an easier wretch. Beyond the strip is the bypass. It’s one of two in town. It is our gateway to a get-away. We look to the bypass as the only way away from small town life. Every one of us is always talking about when and how we’re going to get out.
It was near lunchtime as I was walking and cars turned in and out of everywhere. Big cars, trucks and SUVs. Clean cars and dirty. Walking by the school I got distracted. On the multiplex playground, with the background of a blue sky and empty trees, yellow grass and sand, asphalt and paint, several small children played. I forgot all about getting coffee.
To Be Continued…