9.20.2006

Lincoln Memorial: 5

Mr. Horner walked out of the pharmacy door with his right hand in his pocket, jingling his change, and his left hand buttoning the top button of his jacket. He felt like smiling, but didn’t, and stopped at the end of the curb. He looked down the way he had come, back north toward home, and then to his left, west, toward the industrial part of town. It was clear that this street, Gamble Street, did not lead toward the affluent part of town. Even where he was, still inside the city proper, but on the southern end, this was one of the roads that everything backed up to: there was no street frontage, no storefronts, no shops or homes, but essentially a back alley road that was a two-way street instead of a one way thru street. He didn’t want to go down it, but felt like he should for that very reason. He eased his feelings by making a mental note to do that another day, maybe Tuesday.

Delaney Street ran to the right, and it led completely out of town, toward the farming community, and there was nothing to do out there, nor was there any way to get there in any moderate length of time without a car. That was immediately dismissed. He had already decided not to take Gamble, couldn’t go back north toward home, and wasn’t going to the farming community. He continued to head south on McLean, like he was doing before, but only one block, so he could walk a few blocks west without taking Gamble. He would then head north on one of the presidents’ streets so he wasn’t retracing his steps. This would eventually lead him to Wilkinson’s, which was a few blocks northwest of his home, but farther than he had been that morning. Virtually no time had passed for Mr. Horner to calculate his next move, but to him, it seemed an eternity.

As he walked down McLean Avenue, he noticed something about the brick buildings on either side of the road; this far down the street, outside of the nice residential and rebuilt part of town, some of the older buildings were abandoned, the windows broken in or shattered. Some of the brick sills still shelved shards of glass that were dirty and colored from the time they’ve spent exposed to the weather. Most of these buildings were factories, and therefore were built higher than most of the other shops or houses, and Mr. Horner couldn’t look inside the windows; rather, all he could see was the ceiling as they were too high off the ground to look anywhere else. He saw that the wall ended a short walk ahead and then resumed. He walked down to see that a set of stairs had been recessed inside the building, and walked up them just enough to look at the floor. It had some remnants or other of manufacturing products and materials, but they were so old he couldn’t even tell what they were. As he looked closer, he realized that they were badly charred, and the building was no longer in use from some structural damage from a fire. He reached into his pocket and flicked a penny inside the building and it clinked and rolled a few feet on the concrete floor. Mr. Horner walked back down the stairs and headed south as he was before.

He was a little bit disappointed with his solitude. He was heading away from the city, and even though it was to get back into the city without backtracking, he felt as if he were wasting time. There were no people around and he was walking alone. He stopped what he was doing and turned around. He walked back up the stairs he had just come down and looked down the other end of the building. There was light coming through the other side. He decided to cut through the building instead of walking around the empty blocks. He hurried through, not running or jogging, but sure not to spend any unnecessary time in a burned building. He came out the other side and there were people. Only a few of them, but cars were passing by, and there were some businessmen walking up and down North Street. He had only come over one block, but the difference was noticeable. He waited until anyone that would have seen him come from the building had already left, and headed back north.

Now feeling a little better about his progress, and also realizing he was getting closer to Wilkinson’s, as well as the time when he could actually go there, he started walking, and stopped to go inside at a diner on his right. It was a greasy place, one where breakfast was served all day, and the silverware was almost expected to have smudges, and the table would certainly be sticky. Mr. Horner walked in and sat at far end of the bar. People around him were eating waffles and pancakes, and it seemed that most of them had been there for a while. He was somewhat secluded from everyone else, and he waited for the waitress to approach him. She looked to be a woman who would consider this her career, and therefore also seemed to consider it entirely normal if people did not greet or address her before giving their breakfast order. Mr. Horner moved his head to be able to read the rest of her name, as part of it was covered by the lapel of her work blouse, a blue and white vertically striped short sleeve shirt. She had curly blonde hair, and it appeared that it would have been curlier if Mr. Horner had come in earlier in the morning. She was probably younger than she looked, and he said “Hello, Polly,” and was about to continue with a request when he stopped and asked, “Is breakfast still being served?” Knowing it was, he looked up from the menu at her and smiled as he waited for her response. He watched closely the look on her face, and he was first met with some disdain and irritation, which changed to pleasantness as soon as she looked up from her dirty counter.

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“Oh, good. Well, I’ll just have a cup of coffee for now. I may have to leave soon.” Polly asked him how he would like his coffee, and he pretended to debate, and decided on having it black. She poured him a cup of coffee and walked away. Mr. Horner looked around near her work station. She was the cashier, and he looked for trinkets, pictures, magnets, or something that belonged to her. He saw along the back wall a few plaques that had peoples’ names on them. He saw one with the first name Larry “T,” but could not read the last name. He saw Larry at the other end of the bar at the stovetop. His plaque was for employee of the year. He saw a few more below those, but couldn’t find those employees at work today. Below that was a plaque with a picture on it that was clearly Polly, but it was a few years old. He looked closer at it, and it was to commemorate her tenth year as an employee. He was very surprised, not that she would keep a job, but that anyone would have such tenure, if it could be called that, at a breakfast diner. They usually didn’t even stay open that long. He was sipping on his coffee and had picked up a section of the newspaper in which he was not interested when she came back by. He coolly dropped the newspaper onto the counter from where it had been suspended in front of his face. He swallowed the coffee he had just sipped and asked her about the plaque.

7 comments:

The Polyglot said...

I want to know what everyone thinks so far... like where this is going, how they like it, their perceptions, etc. Please?

t said...

I am thoroughly enjoying it thus far. I like his quirk with the coins..feel sure it must have a deeper meaning, a connection to his past, to be revealed later.

I think you have good use of detail, not so much as to be a drudgery, but enough nuances that you can imagine yourself there. In real life, i notice & value those odd/unique little things about ordinary circumstances/happenings. So it's nice to see them in a story..i feel like i can smell, hear,see what's going on in his world.

Affable Olive said...

I'm thinking it has something to do with a penny for his thoughts, just maybe?? But it hasn't always been pennies that he's throwing out, has it?
Anyway, this one started slower than the others. A little over done, or either underdone (more of the latter) because we come off of him just having bought and shipped the no smoking stuff and immediately it almost dies. I would say work on that transition a little more. I understand the concept of having the "action" die down, but you are usually smoother than this.

Affable Olive said...

It's moving at a good pace though. Similar to 20 yrs., so don't do anything with the speed at which Mr. Horner is putting along. Suits his age. This one isn't your best tho.

P. June said...

I am definitely liking Mr. Horner more and more. His interest in others and how he acts on that interest is endearingly amusing.

I enjoy all the little details... keeps me paying attention and wondering where each step is going to lead us eventually, whether we're going to return to some of the events later or not... etc.

I wondered if the coins were markers - reminding him of where he'd been. Kind of like a bread crumb trail.

I want to have a copy of this when it's done so I can read it again all together.

Affable Olive said...

Or you can do what I do P. June and that's copy & paste as we go to a word doc. That's how I have the Williams...who never went on their happy adventure, sad to say.

The Polyglot said...

Maybe not my best, but I'm writing (and posting) this without any editing or "fixing" and it's been very easy to write so far. I haven't had much time lately to sit down and do it, but when i do it really works. The last post was a little disjointed, but we'll see...