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The Stories These Walls Could Tell

By Benjamin Weinberg

For Made Up Words

He watched the wrecking ball swing ponderously. They’d taken out the plate glass long before and, today, the brick dust rose in a soft haze the color of regret and longing. A gust scattered it, and he thought a smell of old peaches and slightly sour sugar cane and roasted sunflowers went with it.

A couple of bobcats scurried around to scrape up the debris and shove it towards the front end loader. A scatter of kids joined the old men outside Dougie’s Barbershop. The old timers waited their turn to make believe they still had hair enough to cut, and the kids just soaked in the noise and diesel fumes.

Some things never change, he thought. Then the kids hunched back into their gaming and chats and the old timers went back to the tattered hunting and fishing magazines Dougie couldn’t bear to throw out. None of them had been further than down the block for a pack of smokes in years. But a fellow could dream now, couldn’t he, Dougie always said.

When the dream stops they can haul my raggedy ass on outa here, Old Ray always chimed back.

He smiled at that, the dream part. Luigi’s Grocery, now there was a dream and a time. Under the jackhammers now. He remembered ducking and scanning the aisles for the old fart and then the long saunter to the door with a Snickers bar or a pack of Black Jack chewing gum tucked under his shirt. Jeez that shit was nasty but it sounded so good to say, anyone up for a stick of Black Jack. And the way she shifted hers to the side before they kissed. Oh the kisses sweet and tanged with liquorice.

He paused by the door to Dougie’s, the old timers were onto it again. A barbershop quartet, four parts to a long familiar tune. They didn’t hardly need to listen to one another; just sang their parts.

You know, I followed that woman on the Bangor Road clear all the way to the Waldeboro turn off and she never once put that thing down. Glued right on to her ear it was.

Have you been to the new Shop ’n’ Save out there on route 3? Got near about everything you can ‘magine. I stood there in the fruit section only wanted some coupla things. I walked out with nothing, too god damn much for me.

Town’s never been the same since they built that ring road. God damn thing strangled the downtown didn’t it Dougie.

You tried those crocs. I can’t stand to look at the things by the dying eye jeezus but they sure are some easy on the feet.

Dreams and memories,
sunlight in slants through the trees,
wind stirred leaves all a-rustle and a-quiver,
heat in waves off the tar,
and the fine misty rainbows set free by the sprinklers’ busy spin
dreams and memories

The agent adjusted her smile before stepping out of her 4x4. The couple waiting in front of the house watched the kids playing tag in the vacant lot next door.

How do Janet, Ms Worth waved from her rocker on the porch next door.

Why hello, Ms W, she called back.

And, in a softer voice as she led the young couple up the stairs, She’s such an old dear, knows everything that happens on the block. The yard has such potential don’t you think. I mean can’t you just see yourself set up back here for company.

Janet fumbled with the key a moment before working the door open. A group of kids walked across the back of the lot on their way from somewhere to somewhere else. The way kids do.

He followed them or maybe he was there already. It was hard to tell.

It’s so, so open, the woman said.

Don’t you just love small towns, Janet chirped hating herself for apologizing.

And that tree, the woman said and shivered. It’s so, so shady.

We were thinking a pool would be nice, said the husband.

A lot of people are putting in pools these days, said Janet. Maybe it’s that global warming.

We can take the tree out, said the husband, no point in a pool and tree.

You’ll love the light in the kitchen, Janet talked fast. And the kitchen needs some modern touches but the bones are there. And the fireplace in the family room is just to die for.

The husband stood by the back door a moment before hurrying in to follow them inside. I guess we could put up a fence out there honey, he called.

He watched the screen door swing shut behind them. Watched the husband catch it to close with just a careful click, heard the silence return to the yard.

He listened back for the slam of the screen door and her footsteps loud on the old porch boards, Last one to the tree is a rotten tomato, she yelled. Rotten egg, he hollered back. The wind stirred the branches and he saw the rust stain where the nails had held the platform. Remembered the wind in the leaves and boards hard under their backs and her hand in his. Don’t you love the way the stars play peek-a-boo, she said. And he said, I do.

He eyed the scatter of broken glass and crumpled cans, the careful pile of ground-out butts, and one lone shoe. He heard them though they walked softly, like he knew they were coming. He watched them walk down, arms swinging, soft as shadows in the moonlight. Close as friends who have come to0 far but not close enough to be lovers, a couple of two, too close to the edge.

He told me it would never happen again, she whispered.

The boy didn’t reply.

They said I have to go away, she whispered. I’m too young.

She cried on the boy’s shoulder but only just for a moment, then pushed away and kissed him. It was good-bye cause she didn’t look back.

He knew the boy cried. Heard the tear fall silver and knew the shatter of its fall. Saw the anguish etched on the boy’s face as he turned, silver and black the mask of sorrow, welded to a face so young. And long past the boy’s leaving he watched the river’s twined patterns go silver and black and silver and black, washing sorrow and joy in equal measure far and away to the sea.

The little boy stopped where he always did. The fourth sidewalk block from the corner with his toes just on the crack but never over it. Stopped and even though his mother must know, always brought her up short with her arm stretched behind her and him like an anchor, right rooted to the spot.

Is that the church mommy, asked the boy. The same question. The same spot. Every Tuesday on the way home from the library.

Yes darling, she told him without turning to look.

But why did they leave it, its all ugly.

To remember darling, she told him.

He remembered. Remembered the anger that bloomed in the night. The white hot rage that shimmered and billowed and made every shadow harsh and stark and sharp without mercy. And the scream of the sirens and the scream of the timbers’ surrender and fall. Oh the screams sharper than fire, the screams.

Oh, we don’t have much call for the place these days. Not since the State put in the new facility for the County. You know I been thinking we ought to write a grant. That credit card company’s just about handing money out they say. Someone ought take care of places like this. You know the stories these walls could tell. Not like that new place. Facility. Jeez, just the word. FA-CIL-I-TY. Not like this old place. Town used to have character back in the day. I tell you the stories these four walls could tell. Now I heard old Johnny Cash stopped by here when he was on tour, back in the day. That’s right, the man in black. Godfrey, they don’t make em like they used to. Now he could write you a song for this old place.

You know
I feel a song a comin
Comin round the bend
And I know they ain’t been a song written
Not since I don’t know when

OK.
OK, hows about:

There’s stories written with pencil and pen
Stories of hatred and hard-hearted men
Stories of lovers cast into hell
And if these old walls could talk
What a story they’d tell

Well hell yes just call me Johnny, why don’t you

He and the old man watched the night fade until the brown paper bag and the bottle slipped out of the old man’s fingers.

Sometimes, the old man said, some days, I swear I can hear the stories.

Shit buddy, don’t mind me, the old man muttered before he passed out leaning against the old stone walls.

He watched the stories slip down and cover the old man like a blanket.

The meadow was long overgrown with bramble. The stone walls slumped shaggy with mosses and lichen. But the old log walls stood square and proud though the roofline sagged. The lock hung loose in the hasp. He heard her say it was easier that way. If they want to get in, they’re gonna come on, she said. Might as well not have to break anything. The rooms were bare except for the sunlight pooled on the floors and the small drifts of dust.

Sometimes her boys drove her out this way and he watched her sit in the car while they checked the doors and windows. I dunno why you come out with us, they grumbled. Alls you do is set in the car.

She danced alone. Arms raised. Turning and stepping, just her and the night. Then her arms opened wide and wide her eyes in joy and he stepped forward then and reached for her. And like the mist she stepped through him and left. Through him and gone down the street on her own. She stopped for a moment, called by her reflection in a store front and he saw her brush back her fine white hair, saw her trace the wrinkles and brush back her tears.

He watched as he did and does on so many a night. Walking through dreams and memories. Walking and waiting in his dreams of memories. Watching and waiting.

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Copyright 2016 | Editor Allan Rae

Writer, walker, poet, educator. Commercial fisherman, builder, donut maker, organic grower. Boston, U. City, Maine, South Africa, Madrid.

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