Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bouncing Off the Past

I started to write about my current emotional state, which is depressed, but decided to redirect my thoughts ...

Carl sat in his car as the rain came down in sheets on this windy, miserable Tuesday. He was parked in front of Peg's Diner in a town he hadn't been to for thirty years, his hometown. No, he couldn't really call it his hometown because he grew up on the outskirts, it was just that this was the closest place to his parents' farm and the place he was dragged to every Saturday when it was time to go grocery shopping. He'd hated it because most of the kids at his school lived in town and hung out together and he was an outsider, never quite fitting in. Soon after high school he'd gone off to college and had never come back to this town. The visits to his parents were fewer and farther in between over the years and today, a week after his dad's funeral, he'd come back to decide what to do with the farm which was now his. The visit to Fremont today was more out of curiosity than anything else. Peg's Diner wasn't always called that. He remembered it as The Candy Castle, a sweets shop that had bar stools and served colas and milkshakes along with an array of pastries. It had been his favorite part of the Saturday shopping excursion, when mom and dad would give him a couple of dollars to spend in there while they went to Marnie's Market.

Bracing himself against the wind and rain he got out and headed toward the door of the diner, hoping a hot cup of coffee would warm his spirits. The inside of the place had changed dramatically from what he knew as a kid. Gone were the aisles that held all those doughnuts and candy bars, replaced with tables which made the place seem twice as big as he remembered it. He made his way to a booth by the window and ordered his coffee from a pretty waitress who made him feel as welcome as Mrs. Kozell used to when she doled out the goodies from behind the counter. He remembered that now, how could he have forgotten. She had taken a liking to him and always stuck a doughnut in a bag for him as he left. "One for the road" she'd said with a kindly twinkle in her eye. He stared down the street to where the feed store used to be. Either it had been torn down or remodeled because there was a block of apartments there now. Signs of decay all around them hit home how long thirty years really was, since they'd been built and were now falling down in the time since he left. "More coffee Carl?" his waitress said as she stood poised with a pot in her hand. He started to say yes then gave a start. "You know me?" She just smiled and poured him a cup. "Sure I do. We graduated together." It took a second for it to come to him. "Carol! Oh my gosh how..what.. have you been up to all these years?" Carol Trimmer had been one of those girls he'd always thought was out of his league. Pretty, outgoing and slightly mysterious, she never really hung around with him in school, but she was never one of those snobbish girls from the "A" group either. She had gotten more scholarships than anyone else in their graduating class, so he was slightly astonished to see her working here, or to even see her in Fremont at all. He figured she would have moved far away and been a successful... whatever.
Carol didn't say a lot, other than she'd been working there since they had opened up fifteen years earlier and that she wasn't married or seeing anyone at the time - another puzzle in Carl's mind since she had all the attributes any warm blooded male could hope for.

Stepping out into the cold Carl was glad he'd gone in for that coffee, as he now felt more at ease in town and also a sense of determination started to build. He had to find out more about Carol and why she was still here, slaving away at a diner in Fremont. The truth was, he'd had a crush on her in school, but because he considered her in a class above him he despised her in a way. Once he'd gotten out of school and into the real world he realized he had been childish in that way of thinking and wished many times to be able to redo life, like so many people wish they could.

One of his friends who might know about Carol lived just a couple of miles from the farm, so he decided to pay him a visit. Ken had worked on his father's sheep farm all his life and had inherited the business when his father died. Carl still had contact with him from time to time and they had remained friends all these years, so a visit was in order. Also, if Carl was going to sell the farm Ken might know someone interested. He pulled into the driveway just as Ken was headed out. "Bout time you made it out here to see me" Ken greeted him with a big grin, then turned serious. "I'm really sorry to hear about your dad. If there's anything I can do to help let me know. Will you be selling the farm?" Carl walked with Ken and talked about the farm and who might have an eye on it. Then Carl casually mentioned Carol and his surprise at seeing her. "Oh, Carol. Sure, she's been at Peg's for a long time. She had to come back home when her mom died to take care of Anna." "Who's Anna?" Carl asked with a blank look on his face. "That's her sister. She's retarded and can't be left alone, so Carol came back to look after her so she wouldn't have to go to one of those homes." "And.." Carl stammered."She never got married because of that?" "Carl, you know the guys around here. Things haven't changed much since you left. None of them want to get involved in that kind of situation...and.. Hey, you're asking like someone who's interested. Huh?" The big grin came back to Ken's face. "Just asking." Carl tried to sound nonchalant, but his face cracked into a smile as Ken poked at him with a piece of straw. "You should keep the farm and move back here. Be good for ya, buddy. Fresh air, no suit to wear, set your own hours." A surge of excitement, which he never thought he'd feel about the farm or life back in these parts, passed through him. "Might just keep that in mind" he said as he got in his car and said goodbye to his friend.

On the drive back to the city he had a lot of time to think and decided not to sell the farm right away. In fact, he was thinking about coming down the next weekend and taking stock of things, maybe making some life decisions. The kind that you have to take your time and think out over a hot cup of coffee.


Blogger Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Tim,

This is a great, sweet insightful piece of writing! I really loved the way it turned. Hope that your current emotional state is turning upward -- I know the holidays make me depressed. It's like the whole Charlie Brown specials say, I should feel better, but I just feel sad . . . Here's hope for a happy weekend!

5:55 PM  

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