Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SEA CHANGE or TREE CHANGE (07/13/17)
- TITLE: Willy-Whacks
By Yvonne Blake
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Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I glanced at the clock again. It was still 4:38. The whole summer seemed to be crawling as slow as Mister Harvey’s clock. My mom talked me into getting a job. Ha! A job? I would have loved to work at a mall, delivering newspapers, or even mowing lawns, but living way out here in the willy-whacks has its lack of opportunities –especially when a person had to ride their bike everywhere.
Harvey’s Country Store sat at the crossroads of Route #9 and Perkins Road, the main street of the town of Perkins. We had a town hall, which was also the post office and Harvey’s Store. We were open every day from 9:00 to 6:00 sharp and carried just about anything a person might need –coffee, bread, toilet paper, pencils, and even hammers and nails. There was a gas pump out front, which is what most people stopped by for. It was so old, they had to pay inside. My job was to keep the floor clean, the windows washed, dust the shelves, and work the cash register each afternoon from noon until five o’clock while Mister Harvey did his errands.
I figured out quickly why Old Mister Harvey gave me these hours. Almost nobody stopped here in the afternoon. They usually came in to get gas or a coffee on their way to work in Medford in the morning, or they might pick up something on their way home, but not in the middle of the day.
The screen door squeaked as I stepped outside for a moment. The bell clanged and the door slammed behind me. A cool breeze ruffled my hair. I settled on a weathered chair in a shady spot, where I could see any possible customers, and plugged my music in my ears, and leaned back against the wall.
“Hey, kid!” A gruff voice startled me.
I let the legs of my chair drop, and I jumped to attention. A man with a floppy hat and scruffy beard stood in front of me. A red pickup was parked in front of the pumps. I hadn’t even heard him pull up. I yanked my earbuds out and scurried into the store. “Sorry, Sir.”
The fellow had already gathered a few items on the counter –some canned goods, a pair of work gloves, a bag of peanuts, and some motor oil. “I’ve gotten ten dollars’ worth of gas, too,” he said.
“It’s a hot day, isn’t it?” I said, trying to make light conversation as I punched in the prices.
He nodded and gave a curt grunt.
I finished totaling his purchases and snapped open a paper sack. He filled out a check while I bagged his stuff. Mister Harvey had returned and held the door for him. “Good day, Reginald.”
The man nodded in return.
Mister Harvey flopped his mail on the counter. “I see you’ve met our famous customer.” I lifted my eyebrows. “Sure! Look at the name on his check.”
I held up the check to catch the sunlight. I couldn’t quite make out the signature besides a big R and S, but in the corner, I could see his name printed out. “Reginald P. Sterling? Who is he?”
Mister Harvey laughed. “The one and only Reginald P. Sterling III, the millionaire from New York City.”
“No way! He looks like a bum.” I gestured toward the door. “Why would he drive an old truck like that? How do you know him? Where does he live now? I’ve never seen him around here.”
Mister Harvey checked the cash register and added a few more dollar bills from a bank envelope. “I don’t rightly know how long he’s been coming here, but I’d say at least ten years. He’s got a cabin out on the old Jacob’s Road. Some say he lost his wife and ran away from the memories. Others say he went bankrupt and left in shame. Some rumors say he’s running away from the law. But I don’t think it’s any of those. I think he just headed to the woods for a bit of fresh air and never went back.”
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