Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Journey's End

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

Journey's End

Article excerpt

We went as far as the car would take us. White barricades with flashing lights and a stocky man topped by a yellow hard hat left no doubt. I dared not glance at my passenger as I turned right into a familiar parking lot and killed the engine.

"Now what?" She made no effort to hide her annoyance.

We'd been climbing steadily through Beaver Creek, our cozy town that was busy without being big. The new development of a few businesses rose on our right, and the tree-lined broad expanse of the steely blue Illinois River cut through the low valley on our left. In a couple of months, nature would turn the foliage into a blazing panorama of oranges, browns, reds and yellows-a free gift for all to enjoy.

"Be right back," I said as I unsnapped my seat belt and hopped out in one swift motion before my sister could question me further. Asphalt fumes burned my nose as I hurried into the drug store and dodged customers in my path to the back counter.

"Hi, Mr. Bogard. Is it okay if I park here overnight? Looks like others have the same idea."

A wide smile nearly concealed by a bushy, gray moustache reassured me. "Sure, Annie. Say, this new pavement sure will be great for your enterprise. No more potholes and such. What does Helen think about it?"

I looked at my pseudo-dad. Your pharmacist is a lot like your mailman. If you live in one place long enough, your life becomes an open book. The Bogards had seen me through band-aid toddler years, grade school sniffles and flu, a broken arm in junior high, and late night headaches as I studied and crammed my way to conquering grad school. I dreaded the day when all loyal Bogard customers wouldn't see those two familiar faces in the pharmacy.

"You haven't told her?" Mrs. B. asked, her eyes wide with concern.

I smiled and shrugged to comfort myself as much as them.

Back outside, I gasped. Helen leaned against the car in deep conversation with Irene Steadman. The human village telegraph. I was doomed. I practically ran to the car, tripping over unseen objects. Sweat trickled down my back and my front.

Helen frowned and said, "Irene was just telling me Bogards are retiring. And when did that bookstore open up? She said two different sandwich shops serve our neighborhood." She gazed up the gentle gradient and pursed her lips. "Tell me the house is still around the bend. I can't take too many more surprises."

"Well, dear, you have been gone at least two years." Was Mrs. Steadman accusing someone of something? "A national chain is moving in here. We'll miss the Bogards but they are getting on in years."

My hands and feet had minds of their own and I practically danced in the parking lot as I dug in my bag for the keys. "Need anything from the car, Sis?" I popped the trunk as she retrieved a few items from the back seat. Perhaps if we ignored her, Irene would move on to intrude in someone else's life.

With a grunt, a click, and a beep, we were locked up and ready to proceed. "C'mon, Helen. Let's go. Bye, Mrs. Steadman."

"Great. We have to lug my suitcase up the hill."

I laughed. "It's hardly a hill, Sis. Remember when we skateboarded down old Glenridge? You were fearless."

Helen sighed. "I'm not so brave now, kiddo" We each reached behind us to grasp the handle of her pull along, me with my right hand and my sister with her left. We looked both ways and crossed the side street to begin our journey together. I peeked over my shoulder. We had to leave the car behind, but I prayed this wouldn't become the end of the road for us.

The road crew looked us over as we trudged along in the August sunshine. At thirty-five, I knew I was old enough to...

"Wow! The closer we get to the house, the better the river view. It really is something." As if to prove her observation, sailboats played tag in the breeze.

I smiled at Helen's high spirits. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all.

Her steps faltered as we completed the curve. …

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