Sarah Sullivan collapsed down on the plaid sofa, frustrated she removed her sneakers and hurled them across the room. Sullivan’s Hardware was going out of business and bargain hunters had stripped the shelves of both merchandise and her family legacy. The store was established by her grandfather in 1933, but modern day consumers wanted one-stop-shopping. They wanted to buy house paint, car tires, and groceries all at the same store. Now the only signs of life on Main Street were the elm trees planted by the local Boy Scout troop in the summer of 1968.
The next morning Sarah went downstairs to open the store for the last time. She grabbed an apron and headed with dread to unlock the front door. The frenzied crowd grabbed the carts and bustled through the store aisles. Sarah opened her register, silently cursing the shoppers as they piled the conveyor belt with the remaining remnants of her heritage. Memories of her youth flooded in…
Sarah’s father loved model trains and installed a train track the year Sarah was born. During business hours the train would travel along the entire parameter of the store blowing its whistle. Children marveled at the magical sight. Mr. Sullivan loved his customers and always gave out Tootsie Rolls at the check-out counter. But Sullivan’s country charm was no match for the new Mega Mart. Patrons no longer cared about model trains or Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas over the speaker system. Sullivan’s Union Pacific model train had run its course…
Samuel Hampton had been servicing the Sullivan’s vending machines since graduating from Clayton High School in 1988. Sam was painfully shy and never could work up the nerve to ask Sarah out. As he drove past Sullivan’s Hardware his heart ached with regret. Why had he always been such a coward? Now he would rarely – if ever - see Sarah.
By mid-afternoon Sarah posted the ‘CLOSED’ sign for the last time. She went into the office to sit at her father’s metal desk and make out the last of the payroll checks. She touched the photograph of her father as she choked back tears, “I’m sorry daddy – I did my best.” Feeling hopeless she rose to her feet and headed out the front door to the vending machine. Craving a kick of caffeine she inserted seventy-five cents and selected the last Mountain Dew. The motor turned and she heard a thud. When she went to retrieve her soda she heard a tiny ‘mew.’ Curious she looked behind the vending machine but didn’t see anything. She reached in for her soda and felt a paw tap the top of her hand. Snow was beginning to fall and the temperature was rapidly dropping. She ran back into the office to phone Hampton Vending but there was no answer, so she left an urgent message for Sam.
By nightfall several inches of snow had fallen and the kitten was silent. Out of desperation Sarah was getting ready to break the glass with a hammer. Sam pulled up in his truck, “I got your message - I hope I’m not too late.” He unlocked the door and the lifeless kitten dropped out onto the sidewalk. Sam scooped it up – its frail body cold and limp.
Sarah whispered, “Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any worse.” She took the small creature and brought it to her face, tears streaming, “Poor little thing, why does life have to be so cruel?”
It pained Sam to see Sarah upset. “Here - let me see it.” She handed the kitten to Sam. Gently he blew air into its tiny nose and mouth, while Sarah silently prayed for a miracle. She noticed one of its paws suddenly twitch with life. “Sam look – its breathing!”
Sam handed the resurrected kitten to Sarah as it started to purr. Blushing with slight embarrassment he rallied to regain his manly composure. “Well, I’ve heard the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat, but I guess in this case, curiosity only chilled the cat.”
Sarah laughed for the first time in days. “It’s not a joke Sam…it’s a miracle.”
Sam smiled, “Yeah that was really a lame thing to say, I always manage to say something stupid when I’m with you.”
Sarah noticed Sam’s dark soulful eyes for the first time. Smiling she placed the calico kitten inside her jacket - close to her heart. “You know Samuel - I think we should name her Hope.”
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