By: Robert Walicki
Acre didn’t have much going for it as towns go, but it was as good a place as any for starting over. At least it’s how Dave reasoned being there on the third floor in a shack of an apartment building across from the train tracks and Mooney’s bar. Dave learned in the ten minute wait to get a package mailed at the post office that according to Gladys, if you’ve on one side of the tracks you’re good people. The other side where Dave lived was apparently reserved for drug addicts and losers and that he should stay away from that side at all costs. Gladys ended every long conversation she started with customers with a loud NEXT, like she was a prison guard and you were waiting to be handed your clothes and your bible after getting a firehose shower and deloused..
By the time it was Dave’s turn, he learned that Gladys’ daughter is working as a dance instructor now after getting a degree in business and her piece of shit ex just got fired for showing up at the juice plant drunk. “Never seen you before pal”
“I’m new here,” Dave said, studying Gladys’ face.
She had a hard beauty to her. Probably beautiful at one time he thought, but life had taken its toll.
“So what side of the tracks you on, hon?”
“The good side.”
Gladys smiled, but only one side of her mouth moved.
“First class or certified for this?”
“Oh I don’t care when it gets there.”
“First class then.”
“Hit yes or no on the screen. Any liquids, chemicals dangerous materials inside”?
“Uh no, just paper”
“I grew up there,” Gladys added. “Beautiful little town. Not like this hole.”
Gladys looked again at the envelope.
“Ok Dave from the good side of the tracks, you’re good to go. That’ll be $4.50.”
Dave handed her over the exact amount and walked out. He thought about Vermont too as he stood on the side of the street waiting to cross and thought for a second if he should have gotten it certified. He wondered if he made the right move coming here.
When the light changed, he started to cross, looking up at the Go Raiders banner hanging on a telephone pole by a thread, the wood dotted by hundreds of staples from flyers for past concerts and strawberry festivals sponsored by the Third Presbyterian Church.
His apartment was right on the bus line, so it made sense from that perspective, and the bus let him off right in front of Aldi’s where he just got a job again, happy that a place took a chance on him even after seeing the three DUI’s. Dave walked past his car deciding to explore Acre a little to see what was going on. He had heard about Blaine’s, the sad little hardware store on the corner that was getting run out of town because One Value Hardware just built a superstore down the road and had better hours. Blaine was a good guy, but apparently when he ran out of a screw or a part. He never restocked. That was it. His famous reply to any inquiry was usually we don’t have that but we can get it for you.
There was a motorbike shop, which is great if you had a motorbike and a NAPA auto parts store that sat next to a barber shop which had a sign in the window
Walkens welcome, with a big photograph of Christopher Walken. At the end of the street sat a nameless storefront with only one sign that said Coming Soon.
It was obviously a pizza shop at one time, because you could see the massive pizza oven up front, right next to the grease splattered windows. But it didn’t look like anything was coming soon. The only light on was from an empty Pepsi cooler with the door propped open. He imagined someone putting a little love into the place. firing the oven back up, which needed a little work to get it going. There was enough room to put a small cafe table in the corner where he and Gladys would be eating a couple slices after a long day slinging pies, making small talk about everything they were going to do that weekend.
Dave started back towards his car, and drove around the corner, crossing the tracks to his apartment. He could see the back of the post office from his bedroom window where he sat on the corner of his bed watching the mail trucks pull out. He cracked a beer and thought about Vermont and what Gladys said about his letter, if it would really take till Wednesday to get there.