Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.
The Hardware Store
Harold, or Hal as he liked to be called, peeked between two cans of paint and watched Clive and Mary leave the building. Tradition was important and it was, after all, time to go home for the noon meal. In their wake, Evelyn and Richard stood frozen in a state of confusion. They'd just been fired.
"But I didn't tear out the pages," Richard insisted. His denial went unanswered as Evelyn gathered the few things scattered around the store which belonged to them.
"Maybe it wasn't about you," Evelyn said quietly. She had a resigned determination not to show her true feelings. Certainly not in front of Hal, anyway.
When You're Strange
"What do you mean?" he said, not so much a question as a statement. "Of course it was about me." Evelyn stopped what she was doing and put her hands on her hips.
"Maybe it was about me," she said. He looked carefully at his wife. She was young. Quite young, in fact. Slender, curvy, liked to wear the latest fashion however impractical it might be in the dusty old hardware store. That never bothered him. He liked the way she dressed.
"No," he told her. "Clive said he knew I tore out the pages." Richard hissed. "You know I didn't. Don't you?"
"How would he know such a thing?" she asked in return. "Unless someone saw you do it?"
"Or told him I did," he whispered low enough so only she could hear. Evelyn had already told Richard that Hal couldn't be trusted. At first, he'd denied it. Now he had his doubts.
There'll Be Days Like This
The Name's Harold But You Can Call Me Hal
Hal had worked at the store most of his adult life, right out of high school. Clive had taken him in when no one else would hire him, overlooked his juvenile behavior and minor criminal offenses.
"It was just teenage acting out," Clive had said one day when he was showing Richard the basics of paint mixology, Hal’s chosen specialty. Richard pressed for more details but Clive clammed up after the out-of-character remark, refusing to say anything further. That was the only comment he'd ever made about the surly, stand-offish employee.
"I get an uncomfortable vibe from Hal," Richard confided to Evelyn one day when they worked the store together.
"Yeah, me, too." She straightened out the display on the shelf as she added, "His eyes seem to follow me wherever I am in the store. Sort of like those pictures on medieval castle walls."
They both snickered as Hal walked in the back entrance just in time for his afternoon shift.
Time of the Season
Lunch for Clive and Mary had been a couple of bologna sandwiches and a glass of cold milk. Supper would be nearly as simple. Meatloaf, already put together fresh this morning, waited in a white casserole dish with a blue flowered design in the fridge. Leftover snap beans from Sunday's dinner and some corn on the cob would top off the meal. Clive's favorite, apple pie, would be desert.
She and Clive were back at the store promptly in their usual forty-five-minute span. By then, the young couple should have already gone.
Downtown Main Street
Out of Balance
Mary sat at the old wood desk twisting her stub of a pencil. Her chair creaked as she moved closer rocking the desk as she leaned hard on one elbow. She bent over and forced a matchbook under the short leg.
"There, that's better." She busied herself reviewing the events of the past few weeks since they'd shown up at the store. She could tolerate Clive's affection for the boy he'd once taken under his wing, but the girl had been a problem right from the start.
"Who wears dresses that short to work?" she quizzed herself. "Climbing on ladders and being around men all day." The corners of her mouth turned further downward. The boy, now a man, had been out of their life for over twenty years, once his real family had moved out of town. "An absent father leads to troublesome times later in life," she'd told Clive on many occasions.
Clive had generously shared the basic manhood rituals with his prodigy. Richard had learned about baiting hooks and fishing tackle from the best. Fishing trips to the nearby inlet reaped its reward in evening meals shared at Clive and Mary's house with sleepovers ensuring an early start out on the boat. On Saturday nights, the Dodgers had entertained the pair, leaving Mary free to knit or sew without interference.
Now, after a twenty-year absence, he'd returned to their lives, upsetting the established balance of their stride. Worse yet, he'd brought along his new wife, the blond bombshell.
The Old Movie Theater
Richard and Evelyn walked out of the store, out into the bright noon sun, entering a new and untainted world. They'd parked on the street to reserve places for the customers of the hardware store. On their way to the car, they passed the old closed-up movie theater. As they walked the old cracked sidewalk, a new thought sprang into both their heads, simultaneously.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Evelyn asked.
They stopped and peered in the dusty window, trying to see beyond the ticket booth into the lobby of the old place.
"Wonder what it would take to get this place going again?"
"Exactly what I was thinking," she said.
"Let's call the number on the sign, just for fun." Evelyn pulled a scrap of paper and a pen from her purse and scribbled down the number posted on the window. They turned toward one another, smiled, and held hands as they continued down the street.
"What could it hurt?"
They put their belongings into the back seat of the small hatchback, started it up and drove off with brand-new resolve.
© 2019 Peg Cole