There is a little store in our little town that I pass on the way to Katie's school. It's one of those places that's been there for a million years; if it ever had a name, it's long since been erased from the building. There are two gas pumps out front, though I've never seen anyone getting gas there. In the summer months, two white plastic chairs sit alongside the pumps, sometimes occupied, sometimes not. Around Christmas, the pumps are festooned with white lights and, one year, cedar garland.
I've never gone inside.
I have heard that the aisles are tiny and the shelves stocked with dented and dusty cans of meat-stuff, bags of pork rinds and stacks of Slim Jims. The front counter, holding smokes and snuff and gum to hide the evidence of their use, is the most frequented spot. In the back of the store is the ham counter, where a local company sells their meat. The man behind the counter chain smokes, moving his cigarette to the corner of his mouth to ask what're y'all up fer today? and only removing it to flick a long ash into a rusted out coffee can.
There is ham steak and bone in and spiral cut and hocks. On one side of the counter is a plastic tub filled with just parts, and if you have to ask what parts, you don't want to know. In the center of the case is the money-maker, the jewel of hammery - Country Ham. Thin slices cryovac'd to tempt you with their salty goodness.
By the ham counter is a small formica table and two metal folding chairs which are constantly kept warm by a rotating stream of old men. They talk land (good) and politics (bad) and children (somewhere in between). They bring in rumors and they and the ham man and the man at the front counter distill it and digest and spit it back out at anyone who comes through the door.
He lost his house.
He lost his farm.
Someone's born. Someone's dead. Someone's in jail.
Someone should be.
You might think that if you'd hang around long enough, you'd know everything that's going on in this small town. You'd be right.
Or so I've heard.
2 weeks ago