At Your Service: June 24, 2009
She rises early, a little earlier each day than she used to. There was a time when she would send up an occasional prayer in times of trouble. Now it has become routine as she gives thanks for what the day will bring, extending her day by precious minutes. Let this day be better than yesterday.
Her car drives itself to the store she opened so many years ago with her husband. The route she has followed for what seems like forever has fewer cars than it once did. Her mind goes back to a time when this road was the highway that routinely brought new customers to the area on these summer days. Now it is just enough off the beaten path for the world to forget that her little store is here.
She is slammed back to the present as a doe skips along the roadside. A fawn, small rosettes sprinkled across its back, follows closely on legs that wander on and off the road. “Stay where you are, little one,” she murmurs as she crawls past the two. They dart across the road safely behind her.
The small clapboard building that is home to her enterprise shimmers in the morning light. A “for sale by owner” sign in the window catches her eye as she opens the doors. Stepping across the worn threshold her nostrils fill with the smells of the pungent herbs that fill a shelf along the far wall. The garden in the back where she grows that portion of her inventory will need tending today. She carries a tent sign pointing to her treasures back to junction of the highway.
Turning the sign in the window to “open,” she picks up the newspapers that her regulars will come for later in the day. Those who are the mainstay of her business have not forgotten she is here and she is grateful for their regularity. She sweeps the floor and dusts the shelves until everything around her says “Welcome.”
The bell tinkles as a young woman she has never seen before steps into the store. “Good morning,” she smiles. The woman wanders about as if in a trance as she looks over the wares that seem to come from a distant time. Picking up packets of thyme and pennyroyal, she stops and asks about the bolts of cloth on display behind the counter.
After what seems like hours, the young woman departs with a bag full of unusual “finds” and the directions she stopped for written in a precise script across her receipt. Henry holds the door for her as he saunters in for his paper and morning chat. His wife’s health is improving and the cup of coffee hits the same spot it has hit for the years he has been stopping by.
The FedEx truck brings the day’s delivery of fresh inventory and she adds the new items to those that have been standing in place for months, if not years. A dozen customers come and go, taking with them the goods they have come to depend upon from her.
Adding lunch service was a smart decision that keeps a flow of people coming through the doors. Another real estate agent stops by to inquire about her listing the property with them. She knows that it is more likely to sell with representation; maybe she will try it this time. He leaves without a commitment from her.
Retracing her morning steps, she retrieves the sign from the roadside and locks the doors for the night. The day’s sales were almost $100 over her expenses; she smiles to herself after countless smiles to others. Tonight her favorite show comes on TV, which she watches over supper. Later, she reaches out to the place where her husband once lay and is glad that he went before their nest egg evaporated. Tomorrow’s morning routine looks like it will be a little longer than today’s.