a perfect life (unfinished)

August 14, 2006

there’s an old man in an old town. he is a good man. a kind man. a gentle man. a wise man. a boring man. his smiling, happy wife died four years ago. he is also a lonely man. every day when walking down mainstreet he greets everyone as they pass, deciding who’s day it will be today.

if it’s your day he will stop you for a chat. he will tell you a story. he is not a natural storyteller. his stories go on too long. he get’s bogged down in meaningless detail. he goes off on irrelevant tangents but never forgets to go back to the exact point in the story and continue. he gets there in the end. you listen attentively. there is value to the story, if not the telling. you listen, nod, smile, absorb.

he is a kind man. you give him your time, your ear. time is the most valuable thing anyone has and you give yours to him because he needs it and he deserves it.

i arrive at my breakfast meeting 20 minutes late but not flustered. the others are waiting, having some early morning banter with the waitress and cook. i apologise and explain why i am late and they get it. the subject is closed.

(paragraph missing- race)

after the meeting i go to the supermarket and off-license. it is owned by a local couple. they have two children, a boy and a girl. smart and decent looking teenagers with just the right amount of healthy disrespect for authority. the boy pushed it a little far last summer and took a drunk joyride in a car belonging to a local. his parents made him repaint the courthouse and the sports club. the sheriff overlooked it since no-one got hurt and the boy got disciplined.

the supermarket is 15% more expensive than the corporate one in the next town over. everyone knows this. none more than the owners. they make sure you are looked after. they remember your name. they ask gentle questions about your life. they remember your favourites. they sell so well you always walk out broke and happy. when they realised some people were getting jittery about going in just for milk or a paper rather than change their approach they organised a milk and paper round and saved everyone the trouble. so everyone knows: when you go there, beware! take cash only and a limited amount. happy and broke, everytime.

no-one bothers to go to the shop the next town over. better broke and happy than thrifty and irritable. the supermarket opens at 10 and close at 5.30. last year on my birthday i was disorganised and arrived, late, at 6, at the doors. everyone was gone. i went around to their house and begged them to help me out. if they came and opened up for me i would pay double. they looked at me like i was mad. double indeed. they gave me the spare keys and told me to scan the items through the front till so i knew the cost. i could drop off the money the following day.

there’s very little for the local kids to do in a small town. around once a month one of the parents give up their home and go to friends for the evening. the kids have a party and get up to no good. if it’s going to happen it may as well happen in plain sight. if something in the house is broken or damaged all the kids have to chip in to pay for it. if anyone gets hurt there’s usually neighbors on either side. the kids know that in a small town there are no secrets. solve the problem, don’t conceal anything, pay for your mistakes and everyone will move on.

a few years ago there was a strange face hanging around town. late 20s, blond hair, dark complection, ragged clothes. he was caught shoplifting and handed over to the sheriff. he was made to clean the police station from top to bottom, spotless. he was given a decent dinner and held over-night. the following morning 3 families came by and offered garden work. one of them had a granny flat and said for one day a week of work he could stay there. he stayed 6 weeks. stole a car from the family he was staying with and made off. he was caught by the sherrif in the next town and dragged back.

the judge gave him a week in a cell, made him clean out the town sewers for a further week and fined him an amount equal to the fuel missing from the car. after sentancing, once the stenographer had packed away her equipment, after the editor of our local paper had left the room and it was just him, the sheriff and the stranger the judge had a word with him.

he had been given a chance. it was his only one. if he was seen in our town again he would be arrested and thrown in a cell. charges would be fabricated, the trial would be quick and he would find himself in a jail cell for 5 years. everyone in town knows what was said, even if there were no witnesses.

(paragraph missing- neighbour)

small towns occur everywhere. in the middle of open plains. in the middle of big, cosmopolitan cities. homes occur in mansions, hovels, internment camps, under bridges.

there are as many different perfect lives as there are people. probably more.

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One Response to “a perfect life (unfinished)”


  1. Very interesting site… I wish I could build one like yours!nancy


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