So Miss Stoodley, our English teacher, gives us this really dumb assignment. Take a notebook she says, pick a spot in town, and write a list of ten things that happen while you’re there. Who’s she kidding? Nothing ever happens in New Hope. I mean how can it? We’ve only got the Shurfine Supermarket, Kelly’s Diner, Pete’s Hardware, and the post office. Of course there’s three bars but being a high school senior they’re not likely to roll out the welcome mat for me. I guess my best bet for a little excitement is the grocery store.
The Shurfine parking lot is full up with pickups and beat-up wrecks that call themselves cars. I guess the ladies are stocking up before the paycheck runs out. Course with men like Caleb Ross who work at the sawmill there ain’t much left after rent, gas, and beer. Likely his wife, Crystal, got on his ass and that’s why he’s sitting in his pickup, radio cranked up, and revving the motor every couple of minutes while her and the kids are inside. Course by the time he gets her and them brats home he’ll be a dozen beers behind his buddies and I expect his wife will be sporting a black eye at Sunday services.
There’s a ’93 Buick Skylark pulling in and I see it’s Dimock Barlow and his wife. He wedges the car into the handicapped parking space and Mrs. Barlow gets out and comes around to open the door for him. She pulls his legs around and out of the car then hands him a walker. That certainly explains why they poke along the road trailing a dozen cars behind them.
Manny Parker, the town cop, parks right in front of the doors and waddles inside. No flashing lights so I expect he’s just on an ice cream run. I’ve heard that he downs a half gallon a night while he’s sitting over at the station ignoring the phone. He tends to shy away from domestic calls.
With the parking lot thinned out to a handful of cars I head inside. Manny’s leaning on the checkout counter flirting with Hazel Banks. I wonder if he’s trying to talk her into stopping by the station after work to share that tub of Rocky Road he’s just bought. Old Dimock and his Mrs. are rounding the corner into the dairy aisle. She’s leaning hard into the cart while he paces the walker along beside her. They’re grinning at each other like a pair of mushy teenagers. You don’t see that kind of love much around these parts. Good thing, too. It’s kind of gross thinking about them going at it. I don’t see Crystal anywhere nor them scrawny kids of hers.
The door swishes open and Caleb walks in hollering for Crystal and waving his shotgun around. Manny’s yelling at him to put the gun down before he hurts someone but Caleb ain’t listening. Hurt is what he has in mind as he walks back and forth in front of the aisles looking for his wife. I hear Mrs. Barlow squeak but Caleb does a quick apology for scaring her and tells her and old Dimock to get checked out and head on home.
Manny helps Hazel sack up the Barlow’s groceries then he hustles the old couple and Hazel out the door. I’m pretty surprised when Manny comes back in. I didn’t think he had that much backbone.
Caleb’s gone quiet and that ain’t good. Looking out the front window I spot Crystal running for the pickup. She must’ve gone out the back when she heard him shouting. I’m wondering where the kids are when I hear a shotgun blast. The tires squeal as Crystal hits the gas pedal, but she loses control, heads straight across the street, and plows right into the hardware store.
Now we’ve got the ambulance here, and a handcuffed Caleb shouting he had every right to shoot at her. The dumb bitch was stealing his truck and leaving him with the kids.
Yep, just like I figured. Nothing much ever happens in New Hope.