…Choose to put whatever you want into your body, people, but I’m not basing my diet on unscientific rhetoric from those wishing to exploit the ignorance of the population while at the same time padding their own bank accounts. Perhaps you agree. Perhaps that pisses you off. Whatever your take. Your phone calls at the top of the hour. This is Talk 67.1. We’ll be back after… and after an uncomfortable moment of silence the announcer inadvertently asked 450 unsuspecting listeners the question: Am I able to say that on the air? That’s when the Oldsmobile speakers blared static. He turned off the ignition, stepped out of the car and onto the soil of Greensborough, or was it dog shit?
Seth threw a sweaty tissue into the old oil barrel—now trash can—as the family approached. The tissue landing on top of a half-eaten apple discarded earlier by the mute child.
“A real scorcher of a day today,” Seth said. The mother acknowledged with a half smile as they passed by. He turned back when after hearing thud thud, “You gonna need some help with those jars there, Ma’am?”
“No, they’re fine.” a man said from behind, interrupting his wife in midspeech. The children collected the jars off the ground and stuffed them into a bag and hurried away.
“Well, you folks have yourselves a nice day,” Seth replied, while adjusting his collar—something he would do whenever he was nervous or embarrassed. His mother used to say that he played with his collar in an effort to divert the eyes of onlookers away from his red face.
The shopkeeper stood in the corner of the store and appeared to be restocking the shelves with jars of jelly. “Where’s a guy supposed to get a drink in this old town?” Seth said—startling the girl. She swung around causing one of the jars to crash on the ground. Despite her grotesque appearance—tiny beady eyes and yellow teeth, most still visible even with her lips at rest—she spoke softly and eloquently: “I’m very sorry, sir, I should not be here. They will punish me. They say that I will scare the people away!”
“Who’s they? And that’s got to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard today!” he said, placing a bottle of bourbon he found on the counter. “What in good God’s name could a lovely little girl like you possibly do to scare anybody away?” he said, and adjusted his collar.
“She’s coming, I will have to leave now,” she said, and swiftly dropped a jar of jelly into the pouch she had tied around her waist, then vanishing outside.
A woman with horn-rimmed glasses entered from the back and into the storefront. “I’m gone for a minute, only to return to what looks like a mob hit on my nice and clean floor!” Seth began to help the woman pick the shards of glass up. “I’m sorry, I must be tired, I’ve must’ve been driving for hours.”
“Where you headed?”
“Rosedale, on business.”
“Oh, you’d better get some rest, you’ve a long way to Rosedale, sir!” she said. “There’s a Bed and Breakfast just off highway 47 at Wellington. I had just recommended it to a young family just passing through… You can put the glass in the cardboard box beside the register. ”
“I’m quite aware of the Bed and Breakfasts in the area. How much for the bourbon and Jelly? I suppose that’ll be two jars.” he said, pulling out his wallet.
The woman looked at Seth in disbelief and shook her head. “Oh no, you just owe me for what you’re leaving with, sir.”
He turned the dial to the right, then all the way to the left. Still static. His front pocket began vibrating.
“Yes-hello, Seth speaking…”
“Hey stranger… you stormed out of here so fast this morning, you forgot your pain meds on the kitchen counter. Sammy almost flushed ’em down the toilet again. You holding up okay?”
“I’ll be fine—how is Sammy?… How are you?”
“Just a sec, Sammy wants to say something.”
“Hi Daddy. Happy burrrday…”
“Thank you, sweet pea. I’ll be home in a couple of days and we can share some chocolate cake together, alright?”
The girl from the store appeared in the rear view mirror. Her beady eyes; her strawberry coloured lips; her protruding teeth; for a second reminding him of the pain and urgent dental work that’ll be required once he returns home. She vanished before he could see which direction she was heading.
“Honey, put your mom back on the phone.”
She took the phone back from Sammy: “Really Seth? You can’t even take a minute to talk to your daughter? Business must be really boomin’!”
The hiss from the radio was now deafening. He killed the noise and exited the vehicle looking for any sign of the little girl. An unkindness of ravens above the general store diverted his attention. A makeshift sign on store door read: BACK IN 10 MIN
The crying, that awful crying. “Where are you, sweet girl?” I won’t let them harm you anymore, just tell me where you are!” The empty jar lay in the grass, shimmering from the afternoon sun. The sobbing grew louder. Seth could see her white shoes peek out from behind a tree trunk in the distance and ran towards them. A white dove flew overhead…
She tilted her head forward and with a hoarse, phlegm-full scream, the girl said: “Hey fucker, wanna dance?” She leaped to her feet. Her arms grasped at Seth’s torso, just before the woman with the horn-rimmed glasses aimed and fired the shotgun—sending remnants of the girl’s head onto the grass and shimmering glass jar.
“You really aren’t from around here are ya, mister?”