what’s that building?
it used to be a store.
people used to go there to buy things.
what kind of things?
clothes. paint. medicine. watches. televisions. tools.
why didn’t they just order it?
it was different then. people wanted to see what they were getting.
i don’t know. something about feeling the heft of a hammer in your hands. seeing how a watch looked on your wrist. or shoes on your feet.
seems like a lot of trouble.
i guess. sometimes they’d sell hot dogs out front. or brownies.
cheerleaders raising money for uniforms. veterans helping veterans.
what’s a veteran?
people who went to war defending our freedom.
war is bad, isn’t it?
yeah. it can get complicated.
why is there so much pavement in front?
people used to drive cars.
you mean ride in cars?
no. they actually drove cars. everybody had a car. they’d keep it at home and drive it to the store.
yes. and they’d leave their cars all over the pavement while they went in the store and shopped.
that’s just crazy.
maybe. but it worked. i met your grandmother in that store.
was she shopping?
no. she was a cashier.
we used to buy things with money. dollar bills. coins. we’d pay the cashier before we left with whatever we bought.
grandma was a cashier?
i went to the store a lot. bought things i really didn’t need just for the chance to talk to her.
why didn’t you use an app?
you can’t flirt with an app.
why do you need to flirt?
you don’t. it’s just part of the dance.
you danced, grandpa?
oh yeah. we danced, all right.
so what’s with the rocket?
beats me. we never did figure that out.
The first photo is the former K-Mart in my small town, closed just a few weeks ago. It’s unsettling how deserted the parking lot is now. To the right, just out of the frame, a Kroger store continues to thrive, so it’s not quite the apocalypse. Not yet. The sign in the second photo is soliciting tenants for the vacant building. In the background, across the highway on the riverbank, is the rocket of St. Albans. I’ve lived here all (most) of my life and have no idea why we have a rocket on the riverbank by the highway.
images and story copyright 2018, joseph e bird