Published 8:08 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009
See that girl behind the counter? She’s quite good at the register, don’t you think? “Did you find everything satisfactory, sir?” Such a nice smile. She must see 1,000 faces a day. Pleasant countenance. It masks the raging storm underneath. Cindy buried a son. One summer night, he took his life. Who knows what goes on inside a teenager’s head? Five years ago, it was. Cindy was left to put the pieces together. She’s still working on it. “Two seventy-six is your change, sir. Have a good day.” She turns to the gal behind me. “Did you find everything satisfactory, ma’am?”
Down at Ed’s Barbershop, waiting my turn, Charlie walks in. Removing his cap reveals a balding scalp. “Half price for me,” he says, as the others chuckle. Goodness, gracious. Charlie’s lost a lot of weight. Those treatments will do it, so they say. Skin and bones, he is. Arms trembling, he backs into the chair and sits, releasing a deep, wavering breath. “Who’s next?” asks Ed.
Waiting at the pharmacy (just between you and me, my cholesterol’s a tad high), Julie walks up. This woman can talk the ears off a mule. “Hello, Rex!” I’m trapped. In her late 40s, Julie has maintained her figure remarkably well, in no small part due to her inability to have children. Years of trying, pills, clinics and the like have proved fruitless as she watches other’s offspring mature. I hear it’s taking a toll on her.
Thirty long minutes later, in the parking lot, I hear a tapping on the side window. “Wassup, old friend?” Doggone if it isn’t “Dumpy” Beale. Ricky Roberts gave him that title in the fifth grade when Dumpy under-estimated the distance to the bathroom. These days find him with neither job nor wife. He and Shirley seemed happy together. But what do I know? Can’t ever tell what goes on behind four walls. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a “For Sale” sign show up in his front yard. I could sense the strain in his voice. “Stop by my place sometime.” “Sure,” I said, rolling up the window. Pulling out onto the road (is it me, or is traffic getting worse every year?) I head home.
Then it hits me. That slightly-sore throat and just-beginning headache. The start of one of those cotton-pickin’ winter colds. I can’t believe it! I just got over one two months ago. How come I have all the problems?