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,
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
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.