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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A new business has come to the small town of West Prairie. Some residents may welcome the addition while others shun it, but none can know what the new business will mean for the fate of West Prairie as a whole.






February 14th, 2016

  Step and then a squish, step and then a squish, step and then a squish.  No doubt each passerby can hear the sounds of his discomfort.  He watches them, all but those busy holding their Android phones into the air in an effort to gain satellite reception while the prehistoric flip phone in his own pocket was showing full bars, look to his feet and he recognizes the spark of humor in their eyes as they offer friendly greetings.  He disguises his annoyance with smiles and nods.  As if the misery of a soggy sock wringing water between his toes with every other step was not enough, a stiffening cold is now beginning to settle in.

  It occurred when not even two complete blocks into this day's pilgrimage.  He had stepped into the very center of that one spot, the spot every walker tries to avoid throughout the year, but especially during this time of year.  It was the spot with the appearance of every other spot on the ground.  A flat, wet spot, covered by a thick layer of a half frozen mixture of mud and slush.  An unassuming spot until you tromp on it and discover an undercover pothole of twelve inches filled with icy cold water.

  He pays his taxes regularly, he votes when the time comes, he abides by all lawn care and excessive yard trash ordinances, and yet here he walks with one wet foot.  All summer he watches the head patrolman cruising the streets on resident funded fuel, going about his patrolling duties.  Curbs are painted, the street in front of his preferred watering hole is swept, sewage lines are marked with green spray paint, and the ball park occasionally gets a mowing.  Obviously these laborious activities along with two hour lunch breaks on taco Tuesdays leave no time for the filling of potholes.  You see, when you're paid salary from taxpayers' money, whatever you do or fail to do becomes irrelevant.

  As he makes the turn onto Clary Lane, he gives the prospect of returning to the spot only to allow his other foot a dip some serious consideration.  At least with both feet in the same shape there would be some trace of uniform to his stride.  The thought reminds him of how much he despises walking in the first place.  Particularly, walking while his car sits motionless in his driveway.

  He is not mechanically illiterate by any means.  His whole driving life has been spent behind the wheels of older Buick Centuries and Chevy Cavaliers and an occasional Ford Taurus.  All eighties model cars which he consistently repaired and maintained himself using only the collected tools in his garage chest.  Those were the days of backyard mechanics when most issues were addressed by changing points and plugs, and maybe an occasional fuel pump or alternator.

  Now that he had recently been persuaded during a moment of post-sex weakness to splurge for a newer model vehicle, there it remains parked in the drive, not repairable except for by a specialist.  The over the phone suspected diagnosis is some sensor malfunction.  Cars have sensors?  It will be four days yet until Jerry's Auto can get a man out to tow it into the shop.  So he walks, no thanks to Carrie's advice on the benefits of upgraded transportation.

  Come to think of it, this dreadful walk is Carrie's fault through and through, and in more ways than one.  He put forth his most desperate debates, trying to get her to understand that the concept is literally impossible.  The single room candy store is only slightly larger than Barry's Burgers.  Despite the late night television commercial's guarantee of serving only fresh, hand picked cherries smothered in home made milk chocolate, he knew this to be but a falsified sales pitch.  There are no cherry trees in West Prairie, there never has been.  Furthermore, there simply is not enough space to mix vats of chocolate in the tiny shop.

  West Prairie has always been a small, not commercialized and quaint little village with a strong football team and a hunting and fishing problem.  The family names who live here now are nearly the very same that always have.  Downtown, if there were something that could be labeled such, consists of Ferry Street and Clary Lane, two intersecting roads lined with taverns, general stores, Ma and Pa restaurants and barber shops with red, white, and blue candy cane-like cylinders above the doors.

  Naturally, when the almost corporate candy store came to town with the channel eight news crew and extensive ads in which they always insisted upon themselves being  West Prairie staple, the men of the village were quick to shun its popularity, with much prejudice.  Their women on the other hand, were instantly star-struck.  This was their chance at a taste of luxury.  It wasn't long before all the rage and gossip at Sherry's Salon got the best of Carrie and now she insisted upon a try at these irresistible candies.

  If such an entity as an expert gift giver to women existed, he would not be the one holding the title.  Yet, he usually managed without any unbearable stress.  Until he entered into relationship with Carrie, that is.  The lady friends of his past had always been attracted to ornamental objects of minimal sentiment; shoes, lingerie, earrings, and other pretty little trinkets capable of testing time.  Carrie preferred edibles and fresh flowers wilting in a vase on the dining room table within days.

  So he awoke this morning with an unspoken honey-do list ahead of him.  Only a single responsibility mattered.  There would be no taking the garbage out, putting the tools in the garage where they belonged, fixing the leak beneath the kitchen sink, replacing the broken doorknob or throwing a load of clothes into the washing machine.  Running to the post office or stopping at the bank was not on the agenda. There was only a mandatory trip to Mary's Cherries.

  He had black coffee over the morning news before he left.  The coffee was as strong as it should be and the news had nothing new to announce.  There was another movie theater shooting somewhere, a severe weather advisory for the better portion of Wisconsin, and still more troops sent to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, the Ukraine, Korea, Guam, Zimbabwe, Bolivia and several other nations that are currently in distress.  Also, a wealthy and possibly chauvinistic business tycoon along with a vague and felonious female are expected to be the front runners for the United States presidential primaries.

  Sick with the status quo and already settled upon his intentions to vote for the one who vowed to build a wall along the southern border, he skipped breakfast, forgot to call in for next week's unemployment benefits, threw on his hat, coat, and ninety five dollar water-proofed boots, and embarked on his quest.  A quest which began peacefully and only a bit on the chilly side until his foot plunged into that spot.

  He stuffs his hands deeper into his pockets and tucks his chin tighter to his chest as the wind begins to gain momentum and precipitation flies, not rain or snow, but those miniature ice pellets that sting as they bounce off of your face and never fail in finding a way to roll down the inside of your clothing no matter how securely you bundle.  Having lived within this region his entire life, he has grown accustomed to the weather, but he still hated these Midwestern winters.

  On his way by Gary's Gas Station, he considers dropping in to purchase the warmth of some blackberry brandy and a bargain box of chocolate covered cherries from the heart-shaped rack next to the checkout counter.  The charge for these is a very reasonable seven dollars and ninety five cents.  He could go home, have himself some old fashions before calling it a night, and Carrie would still have her stupid candy.  

  Well, having already overcome so much adversity in traveling this far, he may as well accept what little punishment remains and attempt to ignore the frozen toes on his one foot and the icicles forming along the tips of his mustache hair.  It is but one more block, just past Terry's Tavern and on the opposite side of Harry's Hotdog Parlor, the owner of which, Harry, is an absolutely stunning woman by the name of Harriet who apparently has an interest in tube-shaped meat.

  There it is, Mary's Cherries.  It is a rather plain building.  White brick with a red roof, the metal, cheaper and more durable type that everyone seems to go with instead of shingles in this era of resourceful spending.  There is a hand written sign on the door assuring that they are open for business and another, larger sign in the window announcing their amazing special for this week only.  One hundred and fifty dollars for a dozen of chocolates!  The place is even smaller than he thought.  He's been in larger wayside restrooms.

  The dwarf-like man behind the counter wears a part down the center of his thinning hair and a label on his breast declaring his name to be Larry.  Larry claims to be the owner before he takes the order with a grunt and a couple of squiggly lines on a page from a spiral notebook and then he rips the page out and shoves it into a clear capsule which is then vacuumed up a tube and carried away to somewhere in the ceiling, or in the space beyond.

  In the year 2036, Larry's twenty two year old daughter Mary sets down her 'Perry The Predator' novel, fifty eight year old author Christopher Rice's forty fourth addition to his mother's Vampire Chronicles, and pulls a newly arrived capsule from the open order dispenser.  Of course, the annoying interruptions never fail to come at precisely the moment when the plot is on the verge of making an important twist and she is somehow the only person in the head office.

  She gives an angry holler to Guadalupe, one of numerous South Americans who had managed to make it through the underground tunnel beneath the wall before border control became wise.  The olive skinned woman, skinny, dressed in over-sized rags and sporting a slight but visible mustache, accepts the small slip of paper from Mary and rushes out of the back door, hoping that her future boss will not overlook her haste.

  Outside of the main office there are prominent and uniform rows of cherry trees stretching as far as the eyes can see.  Terry's Tavern and Harry's Hotdog Parlor have long since vacated these premises, sold out to the multi-million dollar corporation that is Mary's Cherries, the world famous candy conglomerate which has long ago put the once unknown village of West Prairie on the map.  Now, men, women and children in round, floppy hats hurry about, plucking fat, ripe and juicy cherry blossoms from the trees and dropping the fruit into wicker baskets.

  Guadalupe fills a sack with twelve pieces from the harvest and then moves on to the west of the colorful field, the side of town where businesses such as Barry's Burgers and Sherry's Salon once thrived, an area now occupied by an enormous, bitter-sweet smelling brick complex.  The foreign woman carries the plump cherries into the chocolate factory and hands them off to her brother Fernando.

  Fernando, a middle aged man whose yellow smile bears sharp contrast to his black hat, and whose facial hair matches that of his sister's, then hurries to the humid factory's rear corridor where he holds each cherry by the stem and dips them one by one into a massive pool of smooth, frothy liquid chocolate.

  The newly dipped delicacies are placed onto a cart lined with wax paper and the cart is quickly wheeled into a freezer where the chocolate becomes a semi-crispy candy shell within mere minutes.  The buzzer sounds and the cart is pulled from the frigid temperature and pushed out of the rear door and across a ramp which leads to the packaging plant where Gary's Gas Station no longer exists, but an aged and contently compensated Gary is still employed.

  Gary snaps his hands into some latex gloves and sets the chocolate covered cherries into a flimsy, plastic and brown muffin pan shaped tray.  He places the tray into a cheap red cardboard box much like those used to make wrapping up clothes less frustrating at Christmas time.  The bax is then sealed with a generic form of saran wrap and tagged with a fake, stick on pink bow.

  Exactly on que, from no place in particular and without any summons, there appears Josefina, an elderly version of Guadalupe, who gives Gary a false smile of gratitude before taking the colorful package from his hands and rushing out through whichever hidden doorway she had come from.  It was now Josefina's turn to disturb Mary from witnessing the romantic encounters of Parisian blood suckers.

  Mary sighs deeply, folds in the corner of the unfinished page she is currently attempting to read, and drops the thick book onto the counter with a loud thud.  The scornful look on Mary's face is the only acknowledgement or dismissal offered to Josefina, who eagerly shuffles away.  Mary carelessly tosses the product into a stainless steel compartment, slams the door closed and pushes the green lighted send button.

  Twenty years earlier and short seconds after taking the order, Larry hands a red box decorated with a pink bow to his customer.  The clearly unimpressed man pulls a hundred and fifty dollars from his flat, brown billfold and reluctantly hands the cash over to Larry before tightening his collar, gripping his purchase beneath an arm and marching out into the cold February air.  Larry notices the awkward sound of the man's maneuvers as he leaves.

  Step and then a squish, step and then a squish, step and then a squish, step and then a squish.  Only now the step is no longer labored and the squish not quite as miserable.  Being that the deed is done, for the first time today he feels at ease and even enjoys a hint of happiness.  He smiles.  Knowing that he has done a good thing for Carrie, he now sees things from a brighter point of view.  After all, it is a special day that only arrives but once each year.  Besides that, nobody knows better than he does about how chocolate candies never fail to put Carrie in "the mood".



Copyrighted 2016 Jason Crager

All Rights Reserved






Submitted: November 04, 2016

© Copyright 2021 Jason Crager. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Mr Watson

Loved the description of the what was then looming election and how all the old businesses lost out to the larger conglomerate in the future years.
perhaps we may all get one final bite of the cherry, before it truly happens, sod the valentine's
it's too commercialised for my liking, she knows I love her everyday of the year not just one.
Heres to the future Ronin.

Fri, December 2nd, 2016 12:46pm


Yes, it may be that the future turns out to be a rather scary place indeed. May it find you just as well as I hope it finds me, Mr. Watson. Although I fully agree with your assessment of Valentines Day being far too commercialized, it seems that the day will be working towards the benefit of this particular character. A happy ending, maybe? Thank you for commenting.

Fri, December 16th, 2016 10:41am

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