– Excerpt from Bill’s General Store –
The old man and his dog walked slowly along the edge of the road; the man being watchful of strangers who might drive too close to them. He waved at neighbors passing by as he stolidly traversed the quarter mile home. Most days he walked it without much pain in his knees and few complaints, for he was glad he was still able to manage his walk every day. But lately, his arthritis had been flaring up more, making his daily trek painful.
The roadside didn’t add any allure to his walk; at best it was boring, at worse, plain ugly. Weeds overgrew the field that stretched from Bob’s house to the general store.
Many years ago, his neighbor, Thurman, had a fine garden. But he’d let nature take its course when he got too old to till and plant his own fields. A sprinkling of green sprouts struggled to survive between the hardy weeds which had quickly taken over.
Not even one scraggly pine tree grew along his route. One had to head toward Petit Jean to see the picturesque landscape. Farms with rolling hills and cows gracing their emerald carpet drew travelers along the fifteen miles to the mountains.
At least Bob’s house was surrounded by groups of thickly limbed pines, giving him welcome shade and keeping his cooling bill down.
Once he reached the Centerville sign, he started counting his steps. Bob knew it was exactly one hundred to his front door. He counted on those days his legs gave him the most problems.
“You know Red,” he addressed his black and tan hound after they’d both made it to the porch, “it’s been near bout a month that my knees have been paining me so.” The dog’s head never lifted from his paws, his eyes drooped heavily.
He filled a jar with water, drank half and then set the rest next to his chair. “Yessir,” he rocked backwards until the back rested against the house. “Been about a month since Bill’s new store opened up for business.”
Bob took out a chew of tobacco and stuck it in one cheek. “What do you think about that dog?”
He chuckled at Red’s closed eyes. “You’re about as interested as the rest of ‘em round here.” Bob shook his head then shot a stream of dark brown juice off the side of the porch. “I guess I’m the only one who misses the old store.”
Laying his head against the hard back, he sighed. “Guess folks were ready for something new-fangled. Me,” he pointed to his bony chest, “I prefer the old to the new.”
The old dog groaned in his sleep, feet moving softly against the weathered boards.
“Spec you’re dreaming about the deer hunts we use to go on.” Bob smiled fondly at the hound. “I don’t dream much anymore, not since Emily passed on.” His eyes took on a softer look as silence reigned in the hot shadows for a brief spell.
“The only pleasure I used to get after Emily passed was walking to Bill’s General Store every day for my coke. Got to talk with my friends and get the exercise young doc Taylor recommended.”
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