July 18, 2010 by David Gillaspie
Most places have a ‘corner’ store. It’s best if it’s within walking distance, but still good if you don’t want to fill a shopping cart.
You eventually start feeling like it’s your store.
The Roadside Grocery was my store.
Where I grew up your dad could write a permission note for cigarettes and send you to the corner store for a pack of Reds when you were eight years old.
It was a Saturday morning ritual. Out the door at nine, walk or bike past the Helms’ place, turn left at mean old Mr. Snow’s place on the corner. The Hugills lived on the opposite corner, a band of toughs equally skilled in a rock fight or tearing down a tree fort.
Before the road was paved you’d take a downhill slide to the left past the McCracken’s and end up at The Roadside for a pack of Marlboroughs where Jess and Marie put the smokes in a bag.
They owned The Roadside Grocery and lived in the back.
On the way out of the store you could cruise the skin magazines displayed next to Tiger Beat and Teen.
One day I stopped in for comics and saw a local hood jamming soft porn magazines down his pants. He gave me the shush sign, then drew his finger across his neck.
I got my comic book, Silver Surfer #1, and left.
Sorry Jess. Sorry Marie.
I didn’t stand up for my store, but Gary Mitts did go to prison when he grew up. He could have gone earlier, but not much happened when he brought a pistol to school and held Wendy and I on the back porch of Bangor. Wendy was the most beautiful sixth grader ever and Gary wanted to see more of her.
Everybody wanted to see more of Wendy, and this guy had a gun? Why didn’t anyone else do that? Turned out to be a starter’s pistol, but who knew? Wendy stood up to him and kept her shirt on. I realized the limitations of force.
A block from The Roadside Grocery stood another corner store called Log Cabin Grocery. It was the location, location, location store sitting kitty-corner from the A&W at the intersection of Broadway and the Old County Road. The road went up hill to a left turn at the top that screamed Dead Man’s Curve.
Besides the drive-by traffic advantage, The Log Cabin was a little nicer than The Roadside with its updated cold-storage. A couple of guys lived up Old County and they always stopped at the Log Cabin for licorice. In grade school they’d walk up Broadway from Virginia, grab a red rope, and head up the hill.
From Jr. High, they’d just cross the street and head inside to mix it up with Mr. Davidson. He was lively and onto every trick in the teen book. He had his own kids and learned from them.
His oldest son got drafted, sent to Vietnam, and came back with a dented head. The word was an artillery shell grooved his head. The medical opinion marked him all done.
Mr. Davidson didn’t see it that way.
He brought his boy back as far as the kid could come. He ran the store by the time the neighborhood kids were in high school. Now, instead of a red rope, they’d go into the store for a half rack of Blitz Beer. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. It never seemed like he thought we were twenty-one.
We saw him with his skull caved on one side and figured he knew all of our clocks were ticking and it wouldn’t hurt to let a few small town kids slide by in their eyebrow pencil moustaches, hair-sprayed sideburns, and tough guy sneers.
How did he keep from laughing?