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This is the corner store, years gone now, where Mae, her left leg an inch and quarter shorter than the right, would hobble up the narrow and uneven wood floor aisles. She’d fill an order for a kid with mismatched shoes sent, note in hand, on a mother’s errand. Then another for the Camerons, old folks from across the street too infirm to make the seven-block trek uptown to the supermarket. The Stroehmann’s bread push bar, tacked to the wood-framed screen door back before Mae ran the place, is faded from years and use. A lighted Hershey’s Ice Cream sign, turned on in the dusk hours, hangs in the right-side window. On the left are the week’s advertisements printed on rectangles of thin white cardboard: Lebanon bologna, butter, and heads of lettuce are all on special. Just inside the left window, partially hidden by the rack of chips and pretzels, sits the old dark blue metal floor cooler. Once, when you were four, maybe five, your great-grandfather gave you a coin and let you walk a half block down the alley to the store. Your great-grandfather is old, older than Mae, older than the Camerons. You know his name is Jesse, but everyone calls him Poppy. He is the last German speaker in your family, and sometimes says things you do not understand, but when he talks to you, he leans in, like it is a secret, and you understand well enough. After you reach the store, you slide open the hefty lid of the cooler, rummage in its chill and dampness until you find a tall bottle with ridges and a red and white symbol: RC Cola. You give Mae the coin and walk back up the alley, the bottle cold and substantial in your hands. Poppy uncaps it for you, and you sit in a chair next to his in the front yard, feet dangling in the air, while you drink. And now, with all that has come to pass, you understand that those frozen moments are luxury.

Jerry Wemple published three poetry collections and has a new collection forthcoming. He is currently at work on a nonfiction book about his ancestors who include a “free mulatto” born in the mountains of the western Carolinas in the 1700’s, as well as many German, Swiss, Irish, and Scots immigrants. His poems and nonfiction work appear in numerous journals and anthologies. He teaches in the Creative Writing program at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN