All names have been changed to protect the innocent. Well, really to protect me!

Jeremy (name not changed) is sick. Dreadfully, death-bed sick. This morning, we discovered that we had run out of medicine, so I heroically drove down the road to the gas station to pick up some more for him before I left for work.

We live in a town of about 1,400 people. For the longest time, we only had one gas station, but now there are two, the "Old Casey's" and the "New Casey's." I rarely stop for gas in the mornings, so the amount of people standing around drinking coffee and eating donuts in the station really surprised me. Judging from the conversation and postures, I guessed that most of these people are regular morning "stationers."

I weaved between "stationers," looking for the medicine aisle, and absorbed the conversation around me. One topic dominated:

Why had the ambulance come to Norma Jean's house, and why had it driven away in the direction of THE BIG CITY instead of towards the hospital in the next town 20 minutes away?

I read medicine labels while citizen after citizen gave testimony to what they had seen that morning. One man had run to his front window after hearing the sirens, and noticed that it came from the direction of South Street. He mentally "run down a list" of who lived on South Street, and checked off possible victims and possible ailments. (He also generously listed them all for his listeners in the gas station.) Then his phone had rung, and it was Jesse's brother William who told him that the ambulance had stopped at Norma Jean's.

A lady with large curls in her white hair interrupted, "Yes, Betty called me and said she had seen Larry and Pete wheeling Norma Jean out on a stretcher. I sure hope they covered her good and tight. The cold gets into your bones nowadays, and that's not much help if you're already sick." She tisked her tongue, and I watched her curls bounce in a lively fashion from side to side with her head.

A small man with dark leathery skin and multitudes of wrinkles piped up in a voice that sounded like sandpaper scraping sandpaper. "But why did they drive in the direction of THE BIG CITY? Joella saw for herself that they headed West on the highway. Not East. Why would she need to go to THE BIG CITY?"

A grave question indeed. The gas station was silent for a moment, and then the Lady With The Large Curls bobbed her head again. "Well, you know who has a police radio." She looked significantly at Beth behind the counter. Beth looked startled to be looked at so significantly, and she hesitated. "Oh?"

"That's right," Large Curls went on. "As long as she's home to listen to it, she can tell us all about it later today."

Beth suddenly understood who you know who was, and she nodded in agreement.

Several of the people standing around also seemed to know who was being referred to, and they took obvious comfort in the knowledge that they would soon know why Norma Jean had been taken to THE BIG CITY.

I must have had a huge grin on my face when I arrived at the checkout counter, because Beth grinned back at me and said, "Small towns. Everyone needs to know, you know." She winked as I left the store.
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1 Response
  1. So funny... and OH SO TRUE! :-)

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