The Town That Never Ends

A tale of a small town, 15 minutes at a time

Side note

It has been brought to my attention that it is a little difficult to follow what is going on with this blog. It is a continuous narrative to help me improve my writing and the overall creative process of getting ideas and thoughts out into some form of media.  To follow the narrative, it would be best to start at the first post and read up through the entries. This will fill in some of the blanks regarding a few of the reoccurring characters, themes, and incidents that happen within the narrative.  In the near future I will be looking for a way to format it so that the entries appear in a somewhat chronological order.  Yes. I do realize that Old Man Fletcher is dead near the beginning of entries, but the way I write allows for inaccuracies like this. This will be put in proper order at some point in the future. For now, this is the order they got spat out onto my screen.  Also, with patience, comes rewards. A new chapter is in the works and will be up in the coming weeks.  

Thanks for following.

Rivals

“Jerimiah? Are you even listening to me?” The disdain in Cynthia’s voice was rather apparent.

“Yes Miss Chestnut?” said Jerimiah as he halted his thoughts for a moment realizing, that now, he must interact.

“Did you sweep around the tables yet?”

“Yes Miss Chestnut, I will go sweep.”

Jerimiah limped to the back of the pie shop to get his broom. He preferred limping. Shambling seemed too indiscreet and tended to draw too much attention to himself. More attention than he attracted on any given day. After the long process of establishing himself with the job agency, hiding behind false pretenses of being a person whom was “deficient in his faculties”, with a hunchback to boot, limping was the proper gait to maintain.

He grabbed his broom and proceeded to the front dining area to begin his daily housekeeping duties. Jerimiah preferred it here. He could keep a close eye on Old Man Fletcher who ran the pie shop across the street. Most outside observers would think it odd for a town of this size to have two pie shops, let alone across the street from each other, but most of the residents here didn’t seem to mind. Miss Chestnut and Mr. Fletcher were fierce rivals, and with that, the consumer came out in front.

Jerimiah swept. He could hear Miss Chestnut in the back, beginning a new batch of pastry dough. The bowls clanged off the stainless steel countertops. Jerimiah knew exactly how much time he would have before she would remind him of his next set of tasks, and that she would not be paying him too much attention for that duration.

His gaze became cold as he peered out through the window, following Old Man Fletchers movements with intense interest. Jerimiah stood up straight, revealing his true height. The hunch in his back all but disappearing. He raised his cupped hand up to his eye and squinted. The eyeball landed in his hand.

“Go.” Jerimiah whispered as he lowered the eye to the floor. It spun eagerly in his hand, glancing around at its surroundings, and it too, fixed on Old Man Fletcher.
As Jerimiah quietly opened the door, making sure the bell at the top didn’t ring, the eye rolled out of the shop and across the road to Old Man Fletcher’s shop.

Jerimiah continued to sweep.

Don’t Scratch

Clutch in. Down to 3rd. Gas down. Bobby skipped fourth. The tail end of his 911 let loose as he rounded the bend. He could feel the back tires skipping under the strain. Bobby grinned and gave himself a reassuring smile in the rearview mirror. He enjoyed these weekends in summer. Leaving the big city, with all of its stresses, and vices, to go for long drives and see where the road would take him.

Ready for the apex, gas in to bring the revs up, clutch in, slam into fourth, pop the clutch, and throttle to the floor. The car shot off on almost a perfect line out of the curve. Bobby chuckled and adjusted his sunglasses.

These were the moments where his vices would loosen their grip. When he was behind the wheel, on an open road. The engine howled. Into fifth. Bobby eased back in his seat, relaxing his grip on the steering wheel, letting the breeze coming in from his targa top caress and sooth his still sore body.  This week had been a strenuous one. Between the meetings, the late nights, the copious amounts of cocaine and alcohol, and the women, he was reminded he wasn’t getting younger. That his life as a “playboy” was drawing to a close. He was still quite healthy for a man in his late forties. Physically fit, clean-cut, no signs of health issues all things considered. Prostate in good working order. Hair still thick on his head.

Bobby put his bottle of Perrier to his lips, his golden Rolex clinking off the glass bottle, swallowing the last few drops.

Going to have to make a pit stop soon, thought Bobby.

“Gas, 10km” the sign instructed him as he flew past, almost nothing more than a red blur.

The gas station sat on the edge of town. The main road that Bobby had chosen ran past the outskirts, the way he liked it. No country folk to slow him down as they puttered about town.  The engine purred loudly as he pulled up to the pumps, downshifting into second. He shut the car off, checked his teeth in the mirror, and pushed his hand through his hair. Not one strand stuck to his hands.

He closed the car door behind him lightly, and surveyed where it was he had ended up. The town was rather quiet for a midsummer’s afternoon. Especially with the amount of shops down the side street.

“Hmm, two pie shops.” He thought, as he walked to store part of the station. His hand began to itch.

The bell above the door jingled as Bobby entered. For a moment he debated on if he should keep up his appearances, or push his sunglasses up so that he could actually see. He chose the latter.

The store was dimly lit, with the fluorescent lights that were on, flickering in the dusty air. He walked to the back of the store where the drink coolers were and assessed their contents. No Perrier. Damnit. The itch moved to his wrist.

Bobby grabbed a plastic bottle of water. He hated these type, glorified tap water. Nothing like the mountain springs always printed on the labels. He was sure that most manufacturers didn’t even distill the water. He grabbed a second bottle and let the door close. It did with a faint thud.

He browsed through the meager aisles. Most of the shelves half empty. Clearly having stock was not this store’s primary goal. He gave up on finding something he would consider edible, and let out a sigh. Dietary supplements it is. He scratched his hand.

The man at the counter was far more interested in his magazine than serving Bobby. It took a second clearing of his throat for him to receive his total. The man looked at Bobby with almost animosity. Fine no tip. Bobby put the ten dollar bill back into his wallet and pulled out the five, tossed it on the counter, and took his bottles to leave. His arm felt odd.

Must be all the dust around here. He turned the ignition to start and the engine roared to life. Bobby revved the engine. Clutch in, into first, bit of gas, and off the clutch. The 911 eased back onto the road. He scratched his hand again then shifted into second as he pointed the car back in the direction of the city and of home.

As he floated down the lazy curves of the road, he felt the itch again, slowly climbing up his arm. He scratched his hand, then continued up to his forearm. It began to feel wet. He glanced down at his hand on the steering wheel. Blood. Damnit, he thought. He pulled the car over on the side of the road, pulled his parking brake, and popped open the glove box. Looking for napkins, or Kleenex, or anything, to prevent him from bleeding on the car’s interior. A McDonald’s napkin, and one solely at that. It will have to do. He tried to wipe up the blood on his scratched hand, when he finally realized, he wasn’t bleeding.

The redness was the meat of his hand, which in its natural state, would be hidden from sight, under a layer of skin. He felt under his nails of his other hand, the buildup of skin. He raked his thumbnail under the one of his index finger, fresh wet skin began to pile up. He felt his heart begin to race. Then, the itch, in his shoulder. He scratched again. His nail hooked on the flesh. He could feel the burn as the muscle and lower skin layers had their first taste of air. The sting sent a shock throughout his body. Bobby threw his sunglasses down on the passenger seat and grabbed the bottle of water, opening it and dousing the napkin with water. He placed the sopping napkin on the rip of flesh on his arm, biting down on his lip as the pain coursed through his body again. The itch moved to his back.

Funny Business

At the 5th ring, Edmond was still unsure if he should answer his telephone. He didn’t have such modern bits of technology his son always told him he should have, more specifically, caller ID. This was the third time today his phone rang out of the blue.  Edmond wasn’t expecting any calls, for it was Wednesday.  His son James wouldn’t be calling until the weekend for their usual Saturday afternoon chat. His daughter only called on holidays, if he was lucky. She mostly sent him electronic mail, on the computer his son insisted that he have.

“It’s how everyone communicates now a days Dad.”

It still took several months of convincing, but eventually Edmond acquired one from the local school rummage sale.  It was old, but it allowed him to read the mail from his daughter, and look at pictures of his grandchildren.  Anything more than that, was not worth his time.

Silence.  The phone finally stopped ringing at which point Edmond let out a sigh of relief.  He wasn’t much of a fan of surprises anymore, and every year that past, he became a fan of them less.  Being a widower for the last decade had not been kind to his sense of adventure, or anything that was unpredictable for that matter.  This included ringing telephones.

Edmond leaned back in his arm chair, letting the sound of the breeze of the colorful summer evening to rest his eyes. He could hear birds in the tree beside his patio chirp as if they were celebrating the setting sun. Serenity.

His telephone had decided his evening was becoming pleasant, and was letting him know this was unacceptable. Edmond swore there seemed to be a hint of annoyance, as well as persistence in the ring this time. He took a deep breath and eased himself up out of his chair. He was going to put a stop to this.

“Hello?”

“Mister Werth?”

“Yes?” Edmond was beginning to feel this was going to be a solicitation of some sorts. Most likely, to take his money.

“Hi, my name is Clay Bracken. I got your number from Old Man Fle- I mean Mr. Bristol. He had told me you are a party clown.”

Edmond gave pause. His eyes darted from that spot off in the distance that everyone’s eyes go to when they are speaking on the phone to the hallway of his apartment. Towards his storage closet. Where he kept his supplies.

“Fletcher said that did he?” It was more of a statement than a question. It was no secret in the town that in previous years, Edmond was a party clown. Not the greatest party clown to have ever made a Robert Frost Balloon animal, not by a long shot. When in a small town though, the competition was sparse enough that even the worst personality to put on some oversized shoes and bow tie, brightly colored pants, and a large rainbow wig would suddenly be transformed into best that money could buy.

“Y-yes he did, I have a small get together coming up that I need a clown for, m-my daughter loves clowns and she would really love to have one there.”

Edmond gave another pause. His mind flipped from giving a no to a yes, and back again. Several times in fact, keeping him pre-occupied enough not to notice the discomfort that was echoing in Clay’s voice. Waves of memories washed upon the shores of Edmond’s conscience, back to happier days, before his wife passed.

Edmond had been the go to guy, for all the delights that children wished for to have present on their birthdays, or other special occasions, as required of course. He had been to every child’s birthday party in town, for years. All that was long ago, again, before his wife passed. The memories went from lingering sweetness to echoing sadness.  One moment the smile of a child, watching in wonderment as his flower sprayed water, or to the comical peep his big red nose made when squeezed. Then to the warm loving smile of his wife, as he caught her gaze across the room.

The worry began to set in. It had been years since he put on his face makeup, or his tiny top hat. All had been packed away with the mementos of his marriage. Sometimes, out of sight, truly is out of mind. Sometimes.

“Hello? Mr. Werth?”

Silence. Edmond was lost in a maze of bitter sweetness. Weighing the gratification of a happy child, with his longing and loneliness for his wife.

“Are you still there?” Clay was beginning to feel a sense of urgency. This was not going as well as he hoped.

“Sorry, yes I am still here. Its just been so long since…”

“I am prepared to pay. In advance,” offered Clay.  He needed to secure this. It was imperative. “It will only be for a short while, I can even pick you up.”

The scales began to tip for Edmond. It was the first offer for a clown job he had actually had since Aubrey’s passing. He could hear her in his heart. Asking why he is hesitating. Reminding him, of how much he cherished those moments of putting a sparkle in a young child’s eyes.

“What day?”

“Saturday afternoon. We have a field just out of town we are having the party at!” Clay’s tone changed. He was beginning to worry he may have given something away in his elation.

“Well I guess you can pick me up around noon. I will be ready. How old is your little girl turning?”

“Who?” Clay was taken aback, in his eagerness to please his friends, he had clearly not prepared his entire story. “Oh, 7, I mean 8”

“Alright, I will see you then. Don’t worry about any fee or anything. I usually do these things for free.”

“Thank you Mr. Werth, I will see you then.” With that, Clay had hung up the phone.

The veil from reality that Edmond’s memories had placed over his senses had begun to lift. He placed the phone back onto its cradle, still focused on that spot in space. The walk to his closet seemed to be a greater distance than he remembered. Eventually though, he was there.

The doors loomed in front of him, a monolith dedicated to happier years, beckoning him to throw the portal open, and to live again. The light fell onto the plastic covers of his white puffy clown shirt, the bag of balloons, and his shoes. His beloved shoes.

Through his misting eyes, his loving gaze caressed all his old suit, and his props. They were his armor.

A thought scorched a trail across his mind. A field? Out of town? Mister Bracken didn’t even say goodbye.

Game Shows and Nervous Breakdowns

The sound of bells and applause drifted through the wall the same way a windshield drifts through a bug.  For at least ten of the last 12 hours, Mark’s apartment was cursed with the sounds of being in front row of a TV game show, with the comfort and convenience of him not having to leave his home.

Mark had become the neighbor of Old man Fletcher the previous November when he left the big city to come back home to the quite small town life.  His work had got the better of him for the last time to the point where his doctor, his therapist and his psychiatrist all suggested getting away might be the best medicine for him.  Along with the medication of course.

Mark had abandoned most of what he owned, leaving it in his small apartment in the middle of the trendy area of the city. Taking what he considered his essentials, his TV, his clothes, and his computer, he drove across the province to the small town he was born in, with its quietness, vast open fields, thick brush covered forests, and the quiet. Well one would have hoped for the quiet.

As with most old people, Old man Fletcher spent most of his time watching game shows.  Mark couldn’t understand what the draw was, but accepted that’s what his neighbor enjoyed to spend his time on when he wasn’t at his little store down the street.  On most days though, the volume didn’t make Mark feel like he was in the television studio during the filming.

Another hour passed, and Mark’s annoyance increased.  The lorazepam he took earlier to help deal with the day had long since worn off, leaving him feeling foggy and unable to hold much of a thought, except for the noise. Another hour passed.

Enough was enough. Mark floated to his feet, trying to be sure of his footing as he drifted dreamlike to the door of his apartment. The sound was less muffled in the hallway.  Mark finally made it to Old man Fletcher’s door, he had to stop several times to remember what it was he was doing.  Some days the drugs hit him harder than others. He banged on the door, softly at first, then waited.  A NEW CAR!  There was no answer.  Mark banged again, gaining some momentum to help along his determination.  Applause.  Still no answer.

“Mr. Fletcher?” yelled Mark “Mr. Fletcher are you home?”

Mark banged for a third time, louder still.

Again no answer.  Mark tried the door knob, expecting it to be locked, since it was mid-day. Old man Fletcher should have been at his shop, so there was no reason for the television to be this loud.  The latch gave way and the door slowly opened.

“Mr. Fletcher?”

Mark crept in through the doorway, fighting off the daze that was always trying to make its way in from the outskirts of his mind. He slowly made his way to the living room, and saw the offending machine blasting its horrendous din. Mark walked towards it, almost like it was calling him, beckoning him to come closer, to reach out his hand and touch it.  The television promptly went black and silent with a click. Mark blinked. He stood there, for a few moments, puzzled. Was this a side effect from his medication? Was it happening for real? He took a step back and felt something under his foot.

Mark slowly turned and looked at the ground immediately behind him.  There was his foot, with another foot under his. He followed the foot to the leg above it and realized it was Old man Fletchers leg, and thankfully it was still connected to Old man Fletcher. Mark felt the knot of a panic attack forming in his stomach.  His mind began to switch gears and push back all the fog from the lorazepam. He began to form thoughts again.

His gaze followed up the leg, to the torso, to Old man Fletchers head. He stood there for another moment, as he felt the discomfort in his stomach fall through his soul and down somewhere on the floor. His eyes were locked with Fletchers. Mark blinked. A moment passed, and Mark blinked again.  Fletcher did not. After a few more blinks, Mark came to the acknowledgement, that aside from no longer being alive enough to blink, Old man Fletcher currently lacked the sufficient amount of eyelids to blink, or even wink for that matter. Conveniently, someone had left a napkin on Fletcher’s chest. Perhaps for Fletcher to wipe away some tears if need be, or perhaps as a note.  Mark felt the latter was the more correct answer, as he began to notice there was writing on the napkin. It had one sole word on it. Bog.

Pie

The chair was out of place.  Fletcher moved it ever so slightly, to the right. He took a step back to survey his empire. The amount of one single color was to the level of being clinical. The new laminate tables, the cottage style wooden chairs, the walls, the tablecloths. It was the way things should be, clean.  He rewarded himself with a slight smile and a sigh of contentment for all his work that morning. The same as every morning. The town was rather small to warrant having two pie shops. Fletcher was determined to make it only one.

It was no secret to the town of the rivalry that had begun years earlier. The constant one upmanship was borderline excessive at times. Fletcher, unfortunately, had some issues knowing where to stop.

He walked to the back where the kitchen was, each step precisely calculated, if it weren’t for the new layer of wax on the floor, one would swear that they could see Fletcher’s individual footsteps worn into each tile.  He had almost made it to counter, as he had every morning previous, then stopped just shy from his net destination. He froze. He slowly turned his head. There in the corner, lying innocently, was edge of a crumpled piece of cloth. Feeling his displeasure beginning to arise, Fletcher walked over.  How had he missed this? The sudden deviation from his routine began to manifest itself in a shiver that started at his lower back then coursed up along his spine, and settled uncomfortably at the base of his neck.

He knelt down, almost lowering his head to be level with the floor so that he could further inspect this sudden anomaly and try to divine from where it came. He inched his face closer to the fragment of cloth. It defiantly continued to sit in its spot. Fletcher marveled in disgust.

The sound of a throat being cleared from behind him startled Fletcher back to the moment.  He glanced over his shoulder slowly, trying to keep the cloth in his view.

“Morning Fletcher, you open yet?” The voice belonged to a slightly sweaty man. He lived down the road from the shop and was a curious fellow by Fletcher’s standards. Always going for late night jogs.

“Not quite, come back in 10 minutes, I will be ready to open then.” Fletcher’s eyes darted around the shop, scanning for any more annoyances that may have mysteriously cropped up.

“Oh, I was just hoping to get a coffee, to go. You see, I’m in a bit of a….”

Fletcher cut him off, his persistence began to become insulting.  How could he serve anyone in with the state that his shop was in? Who knew what other aberrations where lurking just out of sight.

“10 minutes, you can wait outside”

“Is everything ok? Did you drop your contact or something?”

“10 MINUTES!” snarled Fletcher.  His patience was being taxed to its limits and the shiver from before was still lingering in his neck. Intensifying.

The man quickly retreated to the street, the bells on the door adding to Fletcher’s tension.  He returned his focus to the cloth. It still was in its spot, silently besieging Fletcher’s expectations of order in his shop.  He felt as if it were mocking him, and all that he had worked for. Daring him to change his daily routine. He snatched the cloth up, glaring at it.

It was clearly one of his napkins. The anger began to pump adrenaline into his brain. Who would treat his shop with such disrespect? Who would have the audacity to throw one of his napkins on the floor? There was a slight stain on the corner. Black. He turned the napkin over in his hand, and saw a simple word staring back at him.

Bog.

Someone had written Bog on his napkin, in black felt tip marker. His mind raced. His mouth had suddenly become an arid wasteland. He could feel the goose bumps expanding on his arms, the hair on the back of his neck beginning to stand on end. His eyes narrowed on the napkin as he thought back, going over all his customers from the past few days, trying to connect to the memory of who sat in that corner. His list of suspects was compiling in his thoughts as his hand clenched around the napkin.  This act, this desecration, this defiling, would require punishment.

The Group

The simple life.  Waking up late on Sundays to the smell of freshly brewed coffee.  A gentle breeze on a spring day bring the scents of fresh blooms. These were things that Clay could not afford.  The time spent to enjoy the world around him, was nothing more than an unnecessary luxury for those who had no direction, no purpose.

Clay, despite his recent sense of drive, had spent the vastness of his life as a layabout.  Some would call him a slacker, a waste. Up until recently that is.  No one knew of this group that he had fallen in with. No one questioned it.  He had always seemed a little eccentric, even with his social status, or rather, lack there of.  His neighbors and friends considered eccentricity a gift of the rich. Not one that would be bestowed upon Clay.  Most of the time, they felt he was teetering on the border of crazy.  Clay’s energetic rebirth, fell into this classification very well, so none payed it much attention.

On his daily run to what he claimed was meetings, some of his neighbors would comment and pry.  Not much of his time was given to what he felt would become an interrogation.

“Getting into shape Clay?” some would ask him as he passed.

“Sure, doctor’s orders.”

Never once did he stop.  He had to be back for the meeting, and not once did anyone ask why his ‘runs’ would last so long.

He wasn’t quite sure how it all began, or how he came to be in contact with this group.  Some days it felt like he had always been part of it, others, he would just marvel at all this new knowledge he was absorbing. This all eclipsed his recollection of his comrades. If one were to ask him who else was there, Clay’s face would quickly reveal his puzzlement, and his eyes, would show how clouded his thoughts were.

Tonight, was to be a special night.  Clay was to receive his full membership into the group. It was to be a celebrated accomplishment. He sped up his pace as he ran down the old forgotten path that led to the farmhouse owned by, one whom he was sure was a member, no names were ever mentioned. The lack of crickets, or even birds for that matter this far out from the town, would have been noticeable to most normal folk, Clay had more important things on his mind.