Blockston, Pt. 2

diner

Be sure to catch part one of Blockston.

Mia watched the utility poles speed past her car windows. Suddenly, she saw herself as a child not yet tall enough to see anything out of the Station Wagon window other than lonely sky. She felt the wagon turn and then the poles started whizzing past against the blueness, and she knew they were almost home.

Dread washed over her, and she felt sick to her stomach. She wanted to tell her grandma that she didn’t want to go home… that she was scared. She wanted Grandma to turn around and take her far away, but she couldn’t. Her three year old vocabulary was no match for such strong emotion.

Mia blinked several times to clear the memory from her mind, but the blinking trick could not work its magic on her nausea. She slowed to a complete stop before turning onto the dirt road leading into town. It steeped sharply up to a railroad crossing, then back down again before thrusting its way into the center of Blockston. The red and white guardrails stood tall like two of the Queen’s castle guards, daring her to enter.

With a sigh, she turned the wheel. There was really no going back now. I already woke the sleeping giant, she thought. It’s best to face it head on.

The little Chevy fought with gravity to make it up the steep incline, rattled across the tracks, and then dove back down the steep bank and in to town.

“Good job!” she praised and gave her dashboard a couple of pats. “Now where to, Old Friend?”

Main Street was pretty much empty except for a cluster of three pickup trucks sitting in front of a small diner. Must be the place to hang out, she thought. She pulled up next to the rusty red one, turned off the engine, and pulled the keys from the ignition. Her hands were shaking. She wanted so badly to confront the nagging, elusive memories, and yet she was terrified. What would she find out?

She slowly got out of the car and walked the four feet to the diner door. All five people inside looked up to stare as the bell above the door announced her presence. She smiled and took a seat at the counter, hoping they would ignore her.

They did not. Apparently, she was the most exciting thing in town since the circus came through 100 years ago.

“What can I gicha, Sweets?” Mia looked at the old lady in front of her… short gray curly hair, red and white checkered apron over her plump chest, eyeglasses pushed up onto her head. She wondered how many years it had been since lipstick had touched those wind chapped lips.

“Oh. Uh. Do you have a menu?”

The lady’s gray curls bobbled as she shook her head. “Sorry, Sweets. We ain’t got menus here. Everybody knows we have the best burgers in a hundred mile radius.”

Mia smirked in amusement. “I’ll have one of those ‘best burgers in a hundred mile radius’ then, please.”

As she waited for Ms. Gray Curls to make her burger, she studied the framed photos on the wall. There were photos of this same diner long ago, filled with happy, hungry people. There were photos of Blockston at its economic peak. Cars lined Main Street. Horses were tied to utility poles. Ladies in long coats and hats held the arms of men in starched suits.

“Gayle,” Ms. Gray Curls stated as she placed Mia’s order in front of her.

“Excuse me?”

“Name’s Gayle,” she repeated.

Mia smiled a genuine smile and held out her hand. “It’s so nice to meet you, Gayle.” She looked down at her plate. The thick, juicy hamburger filled a third of the large oval plate and every inch of leftover plate was piled high with fries.

“Well, what’s yours, Sweets?” Gayle prodded.

Mia squirted ketchup on what little plate she could find and wondered whether to give her real name or make something up.

“Mia,” she answered softly.

Gayle pulled her glasses down over her eyes and studied Mia’s face. “What brings you to Blockston, Sweets?”

“An elusive memory, actually. Probably nothing.” Mia picked up her burger and took a bite, hoping Gayle would just let her eat in peace for a while. She needed time to figure out what to say and what not to say.

But Gayle was hooked now. “Like a memory from long ago?”

“Yes,” Mia answered around the bite.

“How long ago?”

Mia held up one finger as she chewed and swallowed. “Long enough for it to be elusive,” Mia smirked.

But Gayle would not be held off by sarcasm. “Is your last name Markell?” she blurted.

“I. Uh. Well… Yes. Yes it is.”

Gayle slammed her fist onto the counter. “I KNEW IT!”

Mia jumped and stared at her in surprise.

A giddy smile danced across Gayle’s face. “Oh Sweets! You’ve grown so much! You’re so beautiful! I can’t believe how time flies!”

Mia frowned, waiting for Gayle to fill her in.

“Well, doncha remember? I’m Gayle. Mrs. Stapleton. Remember? You all lived across the alley form me. You and Mitchell used to help me plant my garden.”

Gayle’s beaming face turned somber, and she grabbed Mia’s hand. “I’ve thought about you and Mitchell a lot over the years. Wishing I could find you. Wishing I would have done a better job protecting you. How are you?”

Mia looked into Gayle’s eyes with confusion. She didn’t know whether to smile or cry. Stay and ask questions or run far away.

Gayle gave her hand a squeeze. “It’s ok, Sweets. You can trust me.”

 

Blockston, Pt. 1

Blockston, Pt. 3

Blockston, Pt. 4

Blockston, Pt. 5

*This story is fiction and does not represent my own childhood.

 

*photo credit

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