Sugar sprinkled on candy or arsenic mixed with nightshade.
Are you in the know or flying blind?
Delicious seductive power or unpredictable happen-anytime pain.
Who to bring into the inner circle?
Who best left excluded?
Where to extend the intimacy?
An implication of purity that’s non-existent.
Most secrets aren’t.
Obscuring the truth, they rarely reveal.
Rather standing in the way of a conclusion.
Birthing misconceptions, resentment and anger are their twin companions.
Still, this was a secret she knew she’d take to her grave.
What surprised most was her certainty she could carry through with intent.
Her resolve was usually less firm. In this, there were reasons to stay the course.
What she had done turned out so well. She’d rolled the dice and won the treasure.
No more tempting fate. Cash in her winnings. Accept the good and dare not look back. And never, ever share.
Thankfully, she had an advantage, a secret within a secret.
She was the only person who knew what she was hoarding.
Most of the townspeople of Quiet Bay were upset.
The source of the disharmony had been festering for more than a year. At first, it was viewed as a joke, but matters had progressed beyond that stage.
Plenty of meetings had been held on the subject. It was a constant topic of conversation.
Some were holding their emotions in check, hoping that legal action would solve the matter, although so far that had proven ineffective. A victory in the courts one month led, upon appeal, to a setback the next.
The source of the problem was only a five minute walk out of the center of the village along the beachfront.
A certain Mr. Gary Willikers was in the process of building an enormous structure on land that most people had taken for granted was public property.
Mr. Willikers was one of the community’s few celebrities. Not because of anything he’d done to earn the acclaim. Instead, his notoriety derived from his profession.
He was in the real estate business. True to what he’d seen in his travels to southern environs, he’d adopted a simple marketing ploy, blitz advertising.
He’d seen the signs elsewhere. “Live like a Hilton when you Buy with Milton” was his favorite.
He tweaked the message and plastered his picture everywhere with the caption “Sell with me and say, ‘GEE WILLIKERS, THAT WAS EASY!’”
Lately, though, his business had been in a tailspin. He’d pulled some deals judged to be questionable by his neighbors and fellow residents.
Through no fault of his own, some properties he’d helped move were now worth a good deal less than they had been a year or two ago.
Taking advantage of the downturn in the market, he’d also made a purchase for his own use that violated what some thought was fair play.
Exhibit number one, Miss Hook. Shortly before she died in a care facility, Mr. Willikers bought her home down on the lakefront.
The word around town was he’d picked it up for a song. Ms. Hook needed money for medical expenses and he’d stepped in as a sugar daddy, with a hidden motive. Or so the story went.
The reality was he’d struck a fair bargain, what with prices dropping as quickly as they were.
The cost of gasoline was going through the roof and vacation homes were falling out of favor, given the long drive from major cities.
Mr. Willikers had a specific plan in mind for Ms. Hook’s land. His real love, and another reason his real estate business was withering, was astronomy.
He built a permanent wooden deck over the sand in his new backyard from which he could gaze at the stars.
That alone would have been bad enough. The shoreline had always offered a free and open stroll along its entire length.
It was phase two of his project that really set everyone’s ire to jangling.
In keeping with his theme, he was well along in constructing a giant wooden rocket ship on top of his new patio, with a set of stairs ascending to the top. At the summit, he planned a flight deck to serve as his astronomical look-out.
In the earliest stages of his projectile project, the ridicule began. The townspeople turned nasty. They were upset over the disruption to their routines.
They started to speak of Mr. Willikers as a space alien. Maybe he came from the stars, was the joke. He should go back where he came from, was what a lot of them thought and said.
For a certainty, something must be done to stop work on the aberration. Extraordinary measures were justified and needed.
Chester Nails was the owner of the local hardware store.
He ran an independent operation affiliated with a big corporate chain.
The locals weren’t pleased with him either. Whenever he was asked what he thought of the “monstrosity”, his response was always measured.
He wasn’t sure it was so bad. Maybe it would be a case of unintended consequences.
He was aware it might change the town.
A giant wooden spaceship on the water’s edge could be a tourist attraction.
Had anyone thought of that? Not likely. Not among the mental heavyweights who were his staff and customers.
Whenever he talked about the possible benefits, he received looks that suggested he might be the one from Saturn.
That morning had been a perfect example.
Mr. Nails was as loyal to his wife and family as a steak-and-onions man could be. It didn’t make him a monk, though, did it?
He had no control over where his wanton imaginings might take him. He wasn’t ever going to act on them, but the journey provided most of his daily joy.
At least he could cultivate his pleasant imaginings. And where better to plough a furrow than in Herzinger’s Drug Store, four retail outlets down the street from his own.
That’s where, on any given day, he’d run into Holly Hoody, prettiest girl in town and full-time cashier.
Balding, middle-aged and of average height, Mr. Nails was unaccountably a dandy in one area. He was the proud owner of a dozen pairs of high-end sunglasses.
If he tried on enough “shades” and got the timing just right, Holly, would come over and help him with his choice.
She’d give her opinion about how he looked. It cracked open an opportunity to converse in other areas.
Ah, the sweet delight of talking with an intelligent young woman. Mr. Nails would leave the store ecstatic.
It would be the highlight of his day. He’d often walk back to his own emporium with a secret smile so big it would have been nice to push it in a shopping cart.
He barely acknowledged to himself what he was doing.
If he thought it went unnoticed by everyone else, he was sorely mistaken. Small towns hold few secrets. Few and far between were those who weren’t aware of his silly infatuation.
Holly had a boyfriend, the local leader of the town’s questionable element. All such small ponds have a “bad boy”, someone who finds their own particular niche by being a little wilder than others.
Sex appeal was the desirable spinoff from being on the outs with the law.
Sydney Steeler may have been a renegade, but he was also smart. He knew his charisma was enhanced by dating Holly, the daughter of the police officer who headed up the local constabulary.
Young Mr. Steeler was becoming a problem for Chester Nails. Not only was Holly obviously attracted to Syd, but there were rumors Chester’s own son had become a disciple as well.
Socially-awkward hero-worshipping teenage boys gravitated to Syd like he was a drumstick.
As a consequence, Chester’s son had become increasingly disrespectful while also growing careless about keeping up his studies and other duties.
One inscrutable teenager at a time, Chester thought as he turned his mind back to Holly.
That morning, during another harmless dalliance, Holly brought up a distasteful subject. She’d been talking to Syd and it was his opinion that someone should blow up Gary Williker’s rocket ship.
Chester uncharacteristically went ballistic.
“That’s a ridiculous notion. The man has a right to do with his property whatever he likes. We can’t be taking matters into our own hands.”
He was immediately sorry. The crestfallen look on Holly’s face’s made him feel miserable. He briefly tried to smooth things over, but his efforts fizzled and he soon took his leave.
His mood remained out of sorts long into the workday.
Chester understood where he’d gone wrong. Syd’s “leit motif” was the roar of his Kawasaki motorcycle. Chester’s was the sound of the garage door opening and closing when he drove off and returned in the family van.
He was still distracted at dinner that evening. Even later, as he climbed into bed with his wife, a surprising series of speculations poured out of him.
He explained to her, hypothetically of course, how he would deal with the matter of Mr. Williker’s pet project.
He’d simply do it. It would be risky, maybe a 50-50 proposition, but it was the only way it might work.
He’d find an excuse for being out at night on a regular basis so she would become used to his absences and sleep through them.
He added a playful embellishment. He’d claim he was going for a moonlight skinny dip.
Then one night he’d sneak down the beach through the water and launch a Molotov cocktail.
He’d make sure it was untraceable, something like petrol and a fuse in a large plastic baggie.
There were risks. Somebody might spot him. And he certainly didn’t want to hurt anyone who might be in the vicinity.
He’d have to count on luck.
But if the cards fell right, it was do-able.
Mrs. Nails listened to his story. This wasn’t her husband as she knew him.
She was astonished by his inner resolve.
Most of all, she was surprised to learn he was so upset about the matter. It had never surfaced before.
When she finally coaxed out the reason for his annoyance, she was impressed by the simplicity of his explanation.
“Gary Willikers may not have done anything wrong in a strict legal sense, but the truth of the matter is he’s stolen the town’s peace of mind.”
One tumultuous week after the town’s problem had been fixed, permanently and emphatically, Phoebe Nails, Chester’s wife, was sitting in her living room when her teenage son came in after school.
She knew Benji was simply checking in before stepping out with his buddies. She’d only see him again next morning at breakfast.
He never seemed to do homework. He was showing up for classes, at least as far as she knew, and for that she was grateful. She hadn’t heard anything to the contrary from the school’s principal, who also performed double-duty as Quiet Bay’s long-serving mayor.
Whenever she saw the village’s top authority figure, she was sure to inquire.
Benji came in through the back door and after a brief violent fridge-raid in the kitchen, walked in to say hello to his mother positioned strategically on his exit route.
He’d have been pleasant enough in appearance save for a scowl that now often skewed his countenance.
At first, Phoebe assumed her son might be having girl trouble, but she was coming to entertain a different conclusion. She switched to worrying that Benji was disappointed by his parental examples. That wasn’t fair. It would have to stop, she decided.
“Hi Ben,” she said. “How was your day?”
“Boring. Same as always,” was his uninspiring response.
“I’m sure it was better than that?” she answered cheerily.
“No. It was really lame. Nothing decent to say about it at all, really,” he said with no enthusiasm.
Phoebe was becoming fed up with her son’s moods. There was being a teenager and then there was immersion in the persona of a surly cur. Maybe they were the same thing. Still, this wasn’t how she’d imagined her family would turn out.
She wasn’t willing to lie down and take it.
Benji had been such a fun-loving and sparkly child. She had no idea where things had gone wrong. She and her husband often talked about it. He had even less of a clue.
Maybe it was TV, or video games, or peer pressure, or something in the local water supply.
Maybe he was simply a “bad seed”. No, his whole generation seemed to be comprised of snarly malcontents. They couldn’t all be rotten. That was too easy an answer.
Had she and Chester been lax as parents? Possibly. She’d known a much harsher discipline in her own upbringing and had resolved not to impose the same on her kids.
Maybe the reality is that children need a firm hand, even if it has other undesirable consequences.
As much as it was hard to endure personally, it was Ben’s lack of respect for his father that grated her most. She knew, by tone of voice and offhand comment, that Benji thought his dad was a stick-in-the-mud.
“Ben, come and sit down. I have something important I want to discuss with you.”
“Not now, Mom, I have to meet Syd and the guys. And I want to be out of the house before dad gets home.”
“I’m mystified, Ben. What’s so great about Syd?”
“Are you kidding? You know what he did about the rocket pad, right? The whole town was in an uproar and he came up with the solution. He’s a hero.”
“The sherrif doesn’t think so,” she offered.
Benji remained firm in his admiration. “Yeah, well Syd told us guys what he did. He’s the man, right?”
“And you don’t suppose he’s lying?” she couldn’t help but ask.
“No way. You adults ‒ dad, the mayor, the sheriff ‒ you all just sat around talking. You didn’t do anything. Syd took action.”
Phoebe nodded her head. She looked at him with a serious expression. “I have a problem with your father I’d like to discuss.”
That spun his attention in another direction. “A problem with dad?” he responded.
For the first time in a long while, Benji looked puzzled. He wasn’t used to his mother having any issues with Chester. They were a team. They presented a united front when it came to dealing with him and his foibles.
In his experience, they didn’t have setbacks of their own.
He did some quick mental math and figured he could spare a minute to listen to what his mother had to say.
He sat next to her on the orchid-patterned couch. It was a plush affair with doilies on the arms, something that would have fit more appropriately in his grandmother’s house.
He’d once come across the word “antimacassar” in a book and looked it up in a dictionary. Sticky-note fashion, he’d attached its meaning to his brain.
It was his proclivity for doing such things that informed him he might be a little smarter than most, as if that would ever get him out of this place.
Benji was one of those kids. There are a million of them. He was sure the people he was living with weren’t his real parents. He must be adopted. There could be no other explanation.
His true lineage was royalty, but he’d been separated from the king and queen at birth, for some reason having to do with palace intrigue.
Someday, an envoy would come and rescue him, but for now he’d have to put up with far less than was his due.
Phoebe studied her son and then began to tell him about a possible alternative explanation for what had occurred seven days before, with Benji’s father as the chief protagonist.
First, she made it clear he was never to mention any of this to anyone.
Especially, he must never let it slip to Chester that he was aware of what had transpired.
Soon, during pauses, she could hear a jaw drop.
A short distance away, Adriana Willikers, Gary’s spouse, was also reflecting on the events of the past week. It had been a discordant seven days.
Alone at her ornate dining room table, she was drinking a second cup of cappuccino.
Adriana was a quiet woman who cherished her dignity. Given that her husband was so flamboyant, most people concluded she was mousy.
They had it backwards. She could reach down and find enough resolve to startle anybody.
Maybe it was her Italian background. A heritage of ruling the world, albeit two thousand years before, was coursing through her blood.
She’d met Gary at university. His flame of confidence was too often blanketed by a lack of drive. Her personality was kept to a simmer by a strong will that feared a dangerous burn.
As a couple, their combined thermostat sometimes swung to one extreme or another, but most often it was set at just the right temperature.
In this most recent instance, burdened by the distress her family was experiencing, she’d lanced the boil.
She’d spotted her chance and taken appropriate, if attention-grabbing, action.
A week before, Gary and their son, Bud, had driven fifty kilometers to the one cinema in the vicinity, located in Springdale ‒ that mecca of urbanity ‒ to see another of the horror movies they liked so much, something about the evil dead.
Besides, it was her night to have fun with the ladies. This was a recent departure from her usual reclusive ways.
Phoebe Nails, aware of Adriana’s increasing isolation on account of her husband’s obsession, had invited her into an arts and crafts group and been surprised to receive a speedy “Yes!”
This was the night of her inauguration, when she received the loose-knit violet-hued scarf that all the ladies wore around their necks while they were working together on their projects.
As the “newbie”, it was her turn to supply the food. She’d spent the afternoon preparing shells and cream-filling according to her mother’s impossible-to-botch cannoli recipe.
Halfway through the evening, she retired to the kitchen to arrange her culinary contribution on a tray in an appealing arrangement.
Henceforth, she’d never be sure to what degree she had actually planned what came next or whether it was simply a matter of the stars coming into fortuitous alignment.
Alone in the kitchen, hearing the buzz of conversation in the living room, and knowing the other women would soon be engrossed in gossiping about her husband’s carpentry work, she slipped out of the house.
The Nails’ lived five doors east along the beach from her own abode. She walked quickly along the shoreline and onto her rear grounds. The sound of gentle waves washing in and meeting resistance from the ill-placed deck might have been soothing under other circumstances.
That afternoon, Gary had told her about his newest outside-the-box idea. He’d purchased an old propane barbecue and was keeping it in the shed.
He planned to modify the unit by removing the lid and taking the gas lines out of the casing. He hoped that if he placed the modified contraption under his pet project and turned it on at night, he could simulate a jet-fired launch.
Or maybe spike up the flames for an after-burner effect.
This was all becoming too much for her. Her husband was being ostracized by the rest of the community. Bud’s answer was to escape into the trouble that was sure to arise from hanging around with Sydney Steeler’s gang.
Satisfaction of Gary’s fantasy was costing them dearly.
This latest scheme of his was dangerous to boot.
Better to rid the family of the festering sore in a controlled deliberate manner.
She went to the shed, pulled out the barbecue and rolled it under the looming wooden structure.
She stepped into her home briefly to locate a long-stemmed lighter. She also went to a cupboard where she’d been keeping solidified bacon grease from earlier frying efforts in a large can.
Afterwards, she realized this did indeed indicate a measure of premeditation.
Back outside again, she smeared some of the grease on the lower superstructure. The rest, she spread across the grill of the barbecue.
She turned a valve and pulled the trigger on the lighter. Initial small flames almost immediately roared up ominously.
She stepped back quickly. The flames were angry. In no time, Gary’s pet project began to burn.
She wheeled the barbecue back to the shed and sped back to her social gathering.
Re-entering the living room with a tray full of goodies, no-one appeared to have noticed her slightly extended absence.
As for subsequent speculation about who had done the shocking deed that night, Sydney Steeler provided a convenient diversion.
To embellish his own villainous image, he’d insisted on stealing the spotlight.
Adriana could never admit to her husband what she’d done. It was important for him to believe his ambitions had been thwarted by at least one member of an angry mob.
How let down would he feel to discover it was his wife who had perpetrated the crime?
Just the same, she knew it was time to make important changes in her life. Mix in with the other members of the community with a firmer commitment.
The quilting bee was the obvious entry point. She’d already established a beachhead.
She was sure their undeclared leader, Phoebe Nails, was a woman of substance.
Her fanciful designs stepped outside the norm. Most people were oblivious to their quirkiness.
Phoebe’s pictures were fraught with subliminal messages.
She specialized in barnyard scenes. If one looked carefully, one could see that different species were giving each other “come hither” looks.
While there was nothing overt taking place, Adriana knew there was a sub-text.
She was dying to ask Phoebe if her suspicion was correct.
But that wasn’t the sort of thing one could do cold.
There had to be a build-up of familiarity.
It was all very intriguing to say the least.
Two weeks had passed since the notorious event and Phoebe Nails was taking her usual afternoon break from her household chores.
Incapable of sitting idly, she was sketching a pattern for another blanket project to go in the spare room. Or maybe she’d sell it at the upcoming church bazaar, as she often did.
It was a cozy thought, speculating on how the various outputs from her nimble fingers were warming people all over time. Especially since so few of her friends and neighbors seemed aware of what was really captivating about her craftsmanship.
As it always did these days, her mind bounced back to a more potent wellspring of interest.
What she’d done in telling Benji that fanciful story was far outside her comfort zone.
It had required a measure of imagination and even a level of acting skill she’d previously not known she possessed.
The look of incredulity on her son’s face as the narrative unfolded was worth everything.
It was good that he begin to see things differently. For his own survival, he had to realize the world isn’t as straightforward as he might suppose.
There were nooks and crannies of truth that one could spend a lifetime spelunking without ever reaching the back of the cave.
Look at her. Who would ever figure she’d know the meaning of the word spelunking? She and Benji shared affection for vocabulary.
Maybe that’s what would eventually convey him from their sleepy stream to a swifter-flowing river.
He could be an English teacher or a reporter somewhere south in one of the large cities.
She chuckled about the skinny-dipping reference. What had inspired Chester to add that pinch of spice? It had been years since he’d actually done anything so bold.
When they were kids, the chemistry between them had been sufficient to strip away inhibitions. A moonlit naked romp in refreshing waters had been one of the adventures that bound them together when they started dating.
As for her husband’s role in taking care of the town’s problem, she really had no idea whether he’d set fire to the spaceship or not.
Nor did she care. Non-fiction or false, the imagery had apparently ignited a spark under Benji.
Both she and Chester were incredulous when he’d descended the stairs for breakfast that morning and said he’d like to spend more time helping out around the store after school and on weekends.
He graced them with a shy smile.
His essence was more assured, as if warmed by an incredible secret.
“Will wonders never cease?” she whispered to herself.
Now if she could just get the goat in her latest barnyard scene to look at the sprightly young cow in a lascivious manner, her day would be complete.
It wouldn’t do to make the randy intent too obvious.
Nor the returning leer too welcoming.
“Barely discernible” was her guiding credo.
It was the sort of challenge she really enjoyed.
Her mother-earth face glowed.
Towards the end of the business day, Gary Willikers came into Chester Nail’s hardware store.
Unsure how his approach would be received, but driven by innate decency, Chester went up to Gary and said, “Too bad about your building project. I thought maybe you had something there.”
Gary was mildly surprised to be openly addressed on the subject. “Yes, well dreams rarely come true, but I do regret the way things turned out.”
Chester was puzzled by Gary’s calm. “You don’t seem too upset.”
Gary gave Chester a cock-eyed look. His expression turned reflective. “You know what, you’re right. I thought I’d be horribly upset. Before there are momentous changes in our lives, we imagine them with all kinds of reservations.
Then they happen and you realize it was the build-up that was so stressful. The aftermath might be anything. It’s almost certain not to be what you expect.
How do any of us cope with life? What a struggle. I just wanted to do something different. It was the kind of thing my father would have done. He liked grand gestures.
But clearly, it was upsetting a lot of people. I tried my hardest. Now it’s been taken out of my hands.”
Chester jumped in, “In effect, you’ve been provided with an excuse.”
“You’re a wise man, Chester. In short, yes”.
“So what can I help you with today?” said the shopkeeper.
“Well, I want to spend more time with Bud. He says he’d like to go camping with me. Sounds like an excellent idea. What can you show me in the way of equipment?
Chester’s response to such a question was always near at hand. “We have everything you’ll ever need to have a great time. Where are you thinking of going?”
Gary didn’t hesitate. “No place special in mind. I don’t suppose it has to be very far. We’re pretty remote right where we are. Savage, one might even say.” A grim smile captured his face.
“True.” Chester chuckled.
“I just want to find a clearing where Bud and I can set up away from any artificial light. Then we can get out the telescope and look at the stars.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that’s a hobby of yours,” said Chester.
No doubt about it, Gary was warming to Chester. He’d always thought of him as just another fixture around town. Maybe he’d been hasty in his judgment. And hadn’t Adriana spoken highly of Phoebe Nails lately.
He’d share some humor with him. “Actually, I have an ulterior motive.”
“Yes?” Chester intuitively picked up that a punch line was coming. He was prepared to smile.
Gary rose to the occasion. “I want to point out the quadrant of the sky where Bud’s grandfather was born.”
Three weeks after the shocking event that had his tiny community back on a more serene keel, Sheriff Hoody was on pedestrian patrol past the shops and cafes along Main Street.
He was well aware everyone in town was awaiting an arrest in the mysterious case of the rocket-ship fire at the Willikers’ place.
Okay, maybe he wasn’t the smartest man hereabouts, but there were certain things he couldn’t do.
Before he’d lost his hair, he’d been a good-looking guy. His formidable size made him a local high school sports hero.
He’d been grateful for the advantage when he was younger. It helped him woo and win his ex-wife.
Their union had produced the extraordinary creature that was on display every day at the local pharmacy.
He wasn’t at all happy that every self-deluded stud in town circled her like she was a candy bar.
That was life. He presumed it would ever be thus, a male-female dynamic that even crossed genders and always set the agenda.
Thursday night, three weeks prior, the former Mrs. Hoody contacted him and asked him to check on their daughter in what had once been their marriage bastion.
He generally didn’t like going over there, since it reminded him of his reduced circumstances, living in a mobile home on the edge of town.
But he couldn’t ignore his duty when it came to his darling child.
He arrived at 29 Shady Lane at 9:30 p.m. and used his old key to let himself in.
There was no evidence of Holly in the front rooms. He walked down the hallway that connected to the bedrooms and pushed open her door. Big mistake!
There were two figures uncovered and entwined on the bed. The one on top was startled by the movement behind him and looked up in mid-thrust.
A naked Sydney Steeler stared into the shocked eyes of Sherrif Hoody. Fistfuls of crap were about to overload the shredder.
Holly, still in the throes of pleasure, was at first oblivious to what was transpiring.
Harlan Hoody’s frame shook with rage, but before his anger took wing with harsh words, a call came over his walkie-talkie. All three occupants of the room could hear the distress message.
“There’s a fire at the Willikers’ place. You’d better get over there right away, Sheriff.”
Harlan looked at the pair and knew a great divide had been crossed. Relations with his little girl would never be the same again.
He rushed out of the house to do his duty, but his thoughts were preoccupied.
Worse, in the days that followed, he realized he shared a secret with the devil.
Syd was never boastful about his sexual conquest. He did, however, have immunity when it came to talking up his role in the great conflagration.
Harlan’s hands were tied. He couldn’t arrest the individual who was apparently the prime suspect in the case. He was well aware “said individual” had an iron-clad alibi.
Whenever anyone asked why he hadn’t taken legal action against Syd, given the rumors that were circulating, Harlan would say he didn’t have enough proof, but he was keeping an eye on the boy.
Besides, in his own mind he was conflicted. Where was the crime?
He knew Adriana Willikers was the culprit. She’d burned down her own property, a misdemeanor at best, since she didn’t have a fire permit. He’d checked already.
He’d deduced Adriana’s culpability on account of her carelessness. Fibers from her purple scarf had caught on some railing that escaped the blaze.
Being aware of the inner practices of all the social gatherings in his preserve was part of his job description.
If he arrested her, he’d only be tearing a family apart, one that was attempting reconciliation.
He knew what it was to live through a breakup. Best to be avoided if there were smoldering remnants of affection.
For the sake of his community, this was a case that should remain unsolved on the official blotter.
The townsfolk had a better Sheriff in Harlan Hoody than they would ever know.
“What a life,” Harlan thought for the thousandth time that day. He paused in his walk through the beautiful little village where he’d always resided.
A lesson from the yoga class he sometimes watched on television surfaced unbidden.
“Oh well, on the plus side, it’s great to breathe deeply and be here in this special space.”
Harlan was becoming almost “new age” in his spirituality.
“That’s a joke,” he thought. “Wasn’t it ‘space’ that got us into this mess in the first place.”
The perils of small-town retail transactions also make an appearance in I Got Robbed by a Liquor Store.