_THAT’S THE HIGHWAY_

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* 17 … SHOPKEEPER (06/10/2011)

At first, the retired shopkeeper’s statement didn’t quite register with the eldest sibling. A puzzled look swept across his face, and the old man took the opportunity to say more.

“Apparently, yer brother woke up to find you and the Caprice Classic gone with no note whatsoever. So, despite the early hour, he started calling people. Lucky for him, most of us old folks still git up fairly early. Anyway, I was just sitting down to the bacon and eggs my wife made fer breakfast, when yer brother called me. I told ’em you was probably down here and not to worry. But, I figered I’d come down fer myself and check it out. And, sure enough, here ya are!”

The eldest chuckled a bit, then replied. “Yeah, I probably should’ve left a note, but in that moment I just wanted to get down here, and didn’t think of it.” He shrugged. “I don’t know…I just wanted to watch the train roll through like I used to do all the time.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figered,” the retired shopkeeper said, slapping the eldest sibling on the back and laughing heartily. “I remember you did that often as a kid. Didn’t worry your folks none, though, as I recall. If it did, they didn’t show it none. And, if it did, it probably worried yer mama more than yer Daddy.”

The eldest smiled and glanced around a bit more.

“I still miss that place, too,” the old man said wistfully, noticing the eldest’s glance towards where the old train depot used to stand. “Sure would’ve been nice for this town to still have it. But, that’s the way things go, son. Nothing stays the same, and sometimes, all we’re left with are memories. Course, some of us don’t have much of a memory anymore….”

The retired shopkeeper’s voice trailed off, but he laughed. His memory, while spotty at times, was still sharp as a tack when it came to the old days.

“I suppose you should get back on home to enjoy that breakfast your wife made for you,” the eldest sibling said, breaking the brief silence. “Tell her I say hi, and I’m sorry I caused such a stir this morning.”

“Ah,” the old man replied, “it’s no fuss. You know we’re all family here. That breakfast will be just as good when I get back home in a few minutes as it would’ve been had I eaten it then and there.” He paused a bit, then added, “You know…yer parents will never be forgotten around here. And I think ya know I speak for many people ’round here when I tell you that we’re awfully glad you didn’t sell yer folk’s business and decided to stay.”

The eldest nodded.

“Welp, I best be gittin’ back home. I’ll see ya ’round, maybe even stop by yer business sometime later today. Take care, and tell that brother of yers not to worry so much. Life’s too short!” With that, the old man turned and climbed back into the cab of his old pickup, started it, steered it around the eldest’s Caprice Classic, and hit the gas pedal.

The eldest took another glance around, got into the Caprice Classic, and drove home.

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