Mom, Pop & WeaselA Story by David L. Nelson
Hometown fiction ispired by real events
Mom, Pop & Weasel
The first thing you might notice as odd, was the shape of the building which housed Zedenko’s grocery on the corner of Grove and Lang streets, was that it was triangular in shape. It was old. Probably constructed during or just after the second world war. A two story, wrapped in reddish faux brick siding, which was manufactured locally and so it was seen on many houses and buildings in our town. Stuck c**k-a-block to east side of the store was a makeshift garage which could house two cars. I had only ever seen one car outside the store, which belonged to the youngest member of the family, a son who was known only as Weasel. The car was a black primered ‘49’ Ford Coupe. It sat low to the ground and when Weasel was driving around town it’s engine made a low rumble. Weasel and the car were one. They were an entity. If any one were to speak of Weasel, they would also immediately make a visual association with his car as well.
I wondered who in their right mind would have the nerve or the abundant courage to give someone a nickname like Weasel. Or someone like Weasel a nickname. Yet everyone addressed him as such, including myself on the few rare occasions which I came into contact with him at the store. Surprisingly enough he did not mind in the least being addressed by his derisive moniker. I think perhaps in his mind, it set him apart from the crowd in a town that was unmarked by even minor celebrity and which existed primarily for housing factory workers and men of skilled trades. It is not surprising to me however that he was named after such a critter, for he did have a very distinctive face in which all his features seemed to be drawn out towards the end of his particularly sharp prominent nose. Weasel was a greaser. His hair was well waxed and combed back tight against his large head. He must have worn shirts and coats at some time during his life but I only remember seeing him in a plain white t-shirt and Levi’s, sans belt with white socks and pointy black loafers, even though we lived in the northeastern part of the country. I was, as a child, always amazed by the walking, talking, visual phenomena which was the Weasel. He was not a small Weasel but a large Weasel.
Weasel’s father was named Milos Zedenko and his mother was Melana. Melana Zedenko was a slight woman while her husband was a man of great height and girth.
Location, location, location. That’s the first thing one hears when there is talk of establishing a new business. I would seem apparent that locating a grocery store in close proximity to a railway stop would be an excellent idea. You open your doors, the train travels to and fro and stops to take in and let off passengers. It is good then to have a business in such a place. For a very long time this situation prevailed and was beneficial to the house of Zedenko. Time however has a way of rearranging small towns as do city planners. What had been the primary stop for the train for so many years was a gravel parking lot directly across from the store, was to be no more. In 1955 the town decided to build a facility for sheltering passengers from the elements and to sell tickets as well. The location for the new station was six blocks north of the store. While the new station was under construction, the train continued to stop across from the grocery and so business went on as usual. As soon as the station was completed, business immediately fell by a substantial eighty percent. The neighborhood homes surrounding the store still shopped at the store but all the rail passengers who picked up lunch-meat, chops, steaks, milk and bread, now went to McCormacks market which offered a larger selection of newer products and was just a block away from the new rail station.
The effect that these events had on the little family that had staked it’s claim on the busy corner some thirty years earlier was both immediate and earthshaking. A loan from the town bank was about to come due. Mrs Zedenko had recently been hospitalized and required some extensive surgery. The roof on the store had been replace six months before the news of the railroads plans became public. Plus the bills continued to arrive in the age old monthly cycle as they always had. The weight of the new circumstance bore down on Mr. Zedenko with an unrelenting pressure. Yet another factor which contributed to undermine the already failing business, was the all to frequent history of collisions between automobiles and the trains that occurred right in front of the store. A substantial number of people had died within yards of the steps leading up to the store. Sometimes a car filled with passengers would tempt fate by speeding down Grove street ignoring the flashing signals in an absurd maneuver to outrun the speeding train. The result would be that every person in the car would be instantly killed and parts of their bodies would be found a block away by some unsuspecting neighbor heading out to feed the dog or take out the trash. The store would have survived the arrival of the new train station but it could not endure the reputation which fell upon it as being located on the most deadly corner in town. Children were told to avoid the tracks and the store, even though the most direct path to the local grade school went right by the grocery, they were made to walk several blocks out of the way to get to their classes.
The loss of income coupled with the diminished activity in and around the store was having a crippling on Mr. and Mrs. Zedenko as well. The were people from the old country and they were used to hard work and plenty of it. Before the railway station was built, their store was a hub of activity. People came in the morning for the paper, hot coffee, pastries and conversation and information. It was a comfortable place, made more so by the love that existed between the family members, which spilled easily out into the local community and was reciprocated by the appreciative customers. With little to do in the store, it became less and less worthwhile to bother opening the doors. Eventually, Mr. Zedenko pulled the shades over the large windows and stopped climbing down the narrow flight of stairs to his wonderful little business. The situation was hopeless. He could not pay the bank. Because of all the accidents, the property was essentially worthless. Weasel’s father had never in all his busy years experienced a deep psychological depression or was even aware that there was a medical term describing such a condition. Now however he fell into a morose personal hell. Weasel attempted to console his loving father with the news that he had landed a good paying job at the local welding shop making metal trusses for large buildings. “Pop, this is good news, I can pay the mortgage now, things will be OK.” The elder Zedenko felt some relief at hearing the good news but it did nothing to stave off the pain he felt at seeing thirty years of his hard work vanish within a few fleeting months. The store was his life, just as people identified Weasel with his 59 Ford, so did Mr. Zedenko now so vividly see himself and the store as one single atom spinning to a halt and spiraling downwards. He was too old to start over and mama’s illness was not improving even after the expensive surgery.
The winter of 1956 brought the passing of Melana Zedenko. She died peacefully in her bed sometime during the night. A week later to the day, Milos Zedenko died of a broken heart at the head of the stairs and tumbled down the steps into his empty store.
Weasel, managed to obtain credit with the local mortuary for the burial of his parents. He was left standing young and strong. His world had gone silent. The breads and cakes and puddings his mother would lavish on him where gone as was her gentle loving manner and soft singing of the old songs her mother and grandmother had taught her those many years ago on a remote farm in Czechoslovakia. His confident father was gone. The man from which he learned to stock the shelves and load the bottles. The father from whom he received his characteristic features had disappeared seemingly without reason.
Weasel, unlocked the front door of the old store and pulled up a few of the blinds to let in some sunlight and warmth. Unconsciously, he took a few steps and stood behind the counter in the place where his father had stood for those thirty long years. He felt the sting of unquestionable loneliness penetrate his soul. At first he fought the insurmountable pain, then he gave into the harsh reality that had befallen his family and he wept. He cried out loud for the first time in his life and his big body shook the whole counter. After the tears came and went, he stood silently and quietly. The whole world knew him as Weasel but he knew in his heart exactly who he was.
He was Mikolas Ondrej Zedenko.
Nicholas Andrew Zedenko
Though, he still likes to be called Weasel.
© David L. Nelson 2005 Focus Fine Arts® & Ironworks Publishing™
© 2013 David L. Nelson
Added on February 8, 2008
Last Updated on February 23, 2013
David L. Nelson
AboutI write poetry, fiction, short stories, essays and novels. Working in varied genres which span the spectrum, from humorous fiction to serious political essays. I am presently composing a book of poetr.. more..