The Grocer

The Grocer

A Story by Carol Cashes
"

This is the narrator of the Shillers Pond tales. It is the beginning piece of the anthology named The Grocer

"

The Grocer

 

Come in, come in! How was your trip? Have you eaten? Are you hungry? No? Let me have that coat and you have a seat there, on the sofa. Would you like some brandy? It’s the medicinal brand I keep in the store, but ole lady Westfield swears it’s not bad, and, if her rosy cheeks and red nose are any indication, it’s not bad. She is surely approaching a hundred years, but continues to raise prize pigs and roses, side by side, and has never missed a meeting of the Baptist Ladies Social Club. I believe she was a founding mother of that fine organization and still wields the gavel on ceremonial occasions. But I’m ramblin’.

 

Let’s discuss our business in a civilized manner, as gentlemen, over generous brandies and fine cigars. I order these special for myself and have never sold them in the mercantile. Ahem! As I stated in my letter, I am dying and have no heir. Please don’t be alarmed, I’ve a few years yet, but death comes to me in small doses each night as I sleep and my dreams of heaven become clearer and more detailed. That it’s just a cruel joke Death reserves for ole hypocrites like me may be true, but I welcome it with open arms and agree to be deceived. My wife? She died some ten years ago. I miss her terribly, although I sense her presence more each day. She’s waiting for me to finish here, and I have only a few tasks left before I can go. You, young man, are going to help me with the most important one. I will sell you my business. Begin your family here, but you must also understand your responsibility to preserve the town’s history. This unofficial duty comes with the deed to the building, and if you cannot agree, then I must find one who will.

 

Yes? Fine, then, fine. I will begin my tale, or tales, as it were, for some are only connected to the others by geography. It’s not true that everyone knows everyone else in a small town. Another may know your name, but do they know you? Or your story? There are many in this town who, if it should occur to them, are praying as we speak that no one does.

 

How do I know them? I am the Grocer. I am as privy to their financial affairs as Mr. Dodding, the banker. Now, the connection between money and happiness is obvious to most, but there are those who have never understood this, and have lived their lives in blissful ignorance and resolute defiance of the rule.

 

I have watched some grow and radiate health and some deteriorate before grieving eyes. I have eavesdropped on whispered conversations behind bolts of fabric and heard secrets meant for others’ ears as I stood on porches with bags of groceries. I have watched their homes grow and glow with manic maintenance and fall into disrepair from neglect and misplaced priorities. I have listened to gossip with its kernels of truth and have been told eye witness accounts through sobs and gasps. As a business man in the community, I have sat on the Town Council in secret and in open meetings. I am the Grocer, respected and trusted. And keeper of the stories of Shiller’s Pond.

 

Let’s have another brandy and I’ll begin where all good stories should " at the beginning, as told to my father and as my father told me.

 

* * *

 

Shillers Pond was first settled by four families headed west to Oregon. The women and children were tired and the men discouraged, and when they camped beside the scenic pond, Mr. Shiller declared that he was done with the trail and would go no farther. I suspect that Mrs. Shiller had more to do with that decision, having four young children and one due within the month. It’s always easier to follow than to lead, and with the decision made by another, the others were quick to agree.

 

The town has never been any bigger than it is today, and is all the better for it, I say. It was not a popular route west; only the occasional traveler passed through and even fewer stayed. My father’s father and his spirited young wife arrived with goods to trade having been written by her cousin of the need, and promptly established the town’s only mercantile.  My memories of them are vague, like dreams only half-remembered upon awakening. They both died when I was quite young, and I have a sense of them more than specific memories. My parents were younger versions of them; my father ever solemn and reserved, my mother brisk and busy. It has been my experience that busy women get more done than do busy men and have never been able to pin down the why of it. Although in my case, I would guess the fact I’ve spent time pondering that very question is proof enough of its truth.

 

As an only child, I should have been lonely, but I was blessed with friendships from early childhood that are as steadfast and strong now as they were when we shared our childish secrets and faced common enemies. Only the content of our secrets and the nature of our common enemies changed, and I know myself fortunate. However, more of them wait by my wife’s side for me than are with me now, and I’m eager to join them.

 

My grandfather realized that the history of our little town was slipping away as the generations began to die off. He began to collect stories " for what is history, after all, but a collection of stories in chronological order. And a small town such as ours would have no wars, great leaders, no events that would influence others beyond its narrow borders. No, Shillers Pond is destined to stay as humble as its beginnings and its history is the people’s stories. He began to listen at community gatherings, in the mercantile as they shopped; small talk when delivering groceries could also give up its stories if the listener is listening. You will see what I mean when I begin to tell you the stories. Now my grandfather kept these stories in his head, and told them to my father before he handed over the mercantile. By the time my father was ready to pass both the business and the stories, I proved more than adequate for this commission--much to my mother’s chagrin and my wife’s amusement, I was a shameless gossip and always had time to listen to even the most long-winded accounts of nondescript and, for the most part, pointless stories. After my father passed the torch, so to speak, I realized that I would have to be more discerning about what stories were worthy and learned to piece together a more truthful account by listening to everyone tell it.

 

How do I remember them all? I want to. It’s really as simple as that. I, too, am a part of Shillers Pond and over the years, I have learned to, literally, love my neighbor--saints and sinners, alike. Having no children, I discovered that I am protective and concerned for each one as an essential figure in the on-going saga of Shiller's Pond…

 

What? I’m sorry, I was wool-gathering, as the old-timers say. I am beginning to tire, young man, and can feel the pull of my slippers and my goose down pillow. Come ‘round tomorrow evening and we’ll have a bite to eat, maybe some more brandy and I will regale you with villains and heroes, courage and cowardice, and dreams both realized and dashed beyond all hope.

 


© 2017 Carol Cashes



Author's Note

Carol Cashes
The Grocer makes his first appearance as the narrator of the Shillers Pond tales.

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Reviews

Yes indeed, the hub of the town presided over by a affable, paternal character who is eager to pass on his legacy in every sense!
https://youtu.be/4Jan2Io7r1Q

A most cordial read indeed!

Posted 3 Months Ago


What a great storyteller you are Carol! The monologue/narration by the Grocer is effective, realistic and draws the reader into the story. He expounds and we wait with baited breath for his stories to begin...Excellent

Posted 3 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

3 Months Ago

Thank you for reading. I'll be reworking his "tales" as some POV issues have been pointed out by so.. read more
Annette Pisano Higley

3 Months Ago

I look forward to reading all Carol. Have a great day!

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Added on June 23, 2017
Last Updated on June 23, 2017
Tags: fiction

Author

Carol Cashes
Carol Cashes

Biloxi, MS



About
I'm very cynical, jaded, just this side of bitter and the only reason I haven't crossed that line is a good man loves me. I am extremely empathetic, but seldom sympathetic. I can be a ferociously lo.. more..

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