By Karen Lynn
By the time Anna was old enough to remember, there was nothing left. The chicken house had burned down. The factory, the roundhouse, and the hotel had been torn down to make room. Then, the corrugated steel businesses they made room for sputtered and died. Even the churches had trouble drumming up business. Nothing left. Nothing at all. The people who stayed only stayed out of habit. Nothing much left of them, either, except that after a while, there was nowhere else to go.
It was a good town, the old people said. A family town. A town where it was still safe to let your kids play in the streets.
The kids did play in the streets.
There was no where else to go, nothing else to do.
They played, and muttered in childish lisps about leaving the dusty town. Leaving… and not coming back. There wasn’t anything else to mutter about. Even their parents muttered about leaving.
They hung out in front of the movie theater, where the sidewalk was the widest.
The only reason any of them knew the place had ever been a theater was the sign out front. COMING SOON: and then, nothing. The glass was broken. The poster that had once announced exactly what was coming soon was long gone, torn away by the elements, or by thieves, and so the theater was forced to tell the truth.
COMING SOON: Nothing.
Bit by bit, Anna grew up, and more and more, she thought about leaving.
The old people died, and the middle-aged people got old. There was nothing else to do in Newton.
COMING SOON: nothing.
Going soon… Leaving soon…. Anna Joy Simek.
Leaving soon: The grocery store, the dentist, and the Cenex. The town faded. There weren’t any outsiders. Her handful of friends came from families that had always been there, and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. No money, no jobs, no future. The town was as good as dead long before Anna was born.
“Why do people stay?” she asked. What she meant was why do we stay? There were other places they could go. Her parents had their education… a little money saved up. They didn’t own land. They weren’t like the others. They had options. They weren’t even born in Newton.
Her mother looked up from whatever thing she was doing–shelling garden peas or mending clothes–something people closer to stores didn’t do, anyway. “Because of the magic, Anna.” She said it as if staying in a dying town for the magic were the only real choice, and anyone with sense could see it.
“What magic?” Anna asked.
All she could see was peeling paint and grime, and old people who didn’t have any teeth. No bands, no parties, no cable television. Never any movies at the movie theater, just that sign… Coming soon: Nothing.
Her mother chuckled. “We have to stay,” she said.
“Because of the magic?” Anna didn’t understand.
“Because of the magic,” her mother agreed.
The day Anna left Newton, she walked five miles to the bus stop. It wasn’t a bus stop, really… just a dusty corner by where the Cenex used to be. The bus never stopped moving, if nobody was waiting. She’d be waiting.
She turned to look back at the town one last time.
By then, Newton was tiny glow framed in the bus’s rear window. She couldn’t make out the buildings themselves. She’d missed her chance for one last look a few miles back.
In the cloud of dust the bus kicked up, she could see ten thousand tiny lights–so small they might have been nothing more than the bus’s tail lights reflecting on the motes, if they hadn’t been green… if they hadn’t been laughing…. if they hadn’t been following her out of town.
Thank you for visiting my website! If you enjoy stories like this one, please visit the other participants in the StoryTime Blog Hop:
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- Say Hello to Chris Bridges, Supporting Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop
- Tears and Toil, by Barbara Lund
- Coming Soon:, by Karen Lynn
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- Evening Update, by Elizabeth McCleary
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