A Walk Through Town This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 17, 2014
Summer vacation: no homework, no job, nothing I have to do. Some days this freedom feels great, some days it feels like I’m wasting my time with boredom and loneliness. In a few weeks, when I start college, I’ll have all the excitement I can handle, but for now walking to town is good enough for me. Most teenagers I know think there is nothing to do in this small town, but walking around has yet to make me feel bad.

Starting off, I’ll be on the sidewalks because I like walking underneath the trees. But then, since everyone who lives here has a least one dog, I walk on the roads mostly. There is one house I go by with an old-fashion looking black fence and a hedge grown high with it that has two tiny white dogs that run up and down the length by the sidewalk when I walk by. Then there’s another house I usually go by with a big brown dog that scares me the most, with his loud bark and tiny leash, named Cinnamon. Anyway, walking on the roads isn’t terrible, although people do tend to drive faster than they should. When I was a kid, I thought it was amazing that some of the roads are still brick. Also, I never would have thought how good I would be at making it to town now that I’m older. There are two bridges at one end of town and one in the middle. The one at the other end was smaller and a while back they took it down. These bridges are big and concrete, made for cars. The walking bridge, tiny and made of wire, placed between the two big bridges, is a good idea but immensely scary to cross.

But once you’ve crossed a bridge, you are now in downtown. This year they are doing road construction, so it smells like asphalt and you have to find your way around it, but I guess it’s a good thing. The first business in town is a gas station, followed by an antique store, one of many, and then the post office. Past this is where you can see that there are apartments behind the businesses, which I didn’t know about until I moved here. The next building after the post office is the Chamber of Commerce and a bookstore run by a great old man named Charlie. The city hall and a salon are after that, then you see a park where there used to be the Majestic Theatre. When I was a kid, I always dreamed about going there, but right before I moved here it burned down, along with Charlie’s bookstore. If you go through the park, you can visit the old water tower that’s been turned into a museum for it. Moving on from the Majestic Park, there is the Tin Pan restaurant, Signs and Designs with its front store window that looks like a mirror, a store with signs that say “Coming Soon”, and a tiny bank. Next is Shooky’s, a bar that usually has its door open, so people like me who have never been in a bar can look inside and smell the smoke wafting out. Then Houston’s, a drug store I think, and an empty store with an old tile walkway that says “Laurences’”. Next is a doorway labeled as an investment place that leads to a stairway, and then another empty store with a red-orange bench out front and old photos of the town in the windows. A real estate place is next, which has photos of available houses in the windows. Following that is Doug’s Pharmacy, a State Farm office with a big awning over it, a salon, an antique store, a doorway to stairs for anyone in the Masonic Temple, and a prom dress store, empty and out-of-season. As I wait to cross the street, someone says hi to me. I take a double-look and realized he just got a haircut, and I tell him I didn’t recognize him. Once across the street, there is another antique shop and a store called the Gemini Club. On the sidewalk are two free TVs, ancient and covered in girly stickers. On the windows are signs for lessons for just about anything: guitar, pottery, knitting, machine sewing, machine quilting, and piano. There is a sign for Chess Club and a poster with foreign exchange students. Next is a dentist, where a nurse comes out and tells the phone she misses everybody. I don’t miss the dentist at all. The last thing on this side of the street is the clinic, and then you cross the street and go back the other way. My mother likes to say that the houses past the clinic are the bad side of town, the “wrong side of the tracks”.

At the start of every sidewalk in town is a painted yellow square that reads in black letter, “No skateboards, bicycles, roller blades,” although I’ve probably seen all three before. The first place on this side of town is the old railroad station, with an old train beside it, but the railroad now is elsewhere in town, going under the bridges. The next place is a salon, a building labeled as Peterson’s with the only guess to what kind of business it holds is a plaque by the door that reads “Music Studio.” Then another empty store with a poster in the window of the circus that just came to town and beside that yet another antique shop and another salon. Past this are apartments that look like they were built when the railroad station up the street was built. On the window of the Paxton Record (local newspaper) building is a sign of a Pet Amber Alert of a pot-bellied pig, and then a doorway open to a staircase with old mailboxes just inside. Next is the Super-Wok, a Chinese restaurant I almost never see anyone in. Although downtown is one street, there are corners to turn with more businesses to go to. I always want to turn the corner at the Super-Wok because I always see a sign on the wall for Siebert TV, which makes me want to walk by it and look in. The door by the sign is closed, but another one close by is open and I see three stairs leading into a room of junk, the useful looking kind, though. Walking on, I hear sirens and the bell tower ringing out the hour as I pass a building labeled for lawyers. Past this were houses, so I crossed the street again, towards a house that sold antiques, the ERS building, some kind of financial business, the Mexican restaurant, a commercial auto repair store, and past a pile of bricks that leads you back to the main street. First you see the Vineyard Church, then another doorway to stairs, a barber shop that looks just like what you would want an old barber shop to look like, a boutique, a law office, a dentist, and the Arcade. The Arcade is a diner, the only place my mother and I go to eat when we eat out, along with Charlie, who sits in the same booth every day. Next to the Arcade are a printing business, the Market Street Theatre (which I finally got to go in a few weeks ago and watch almost all of my friends put on a play called “Once Upon A Mattress”), Hudson Drug Shop and the Hallmark store, and a bank. Around this corner is a contractor, a place for insurance, our bank that we use, the IGA (local convenience store), a place that sells granite, and a bar and grill. Back to the main street, the building in front of the grill is under construction and you could hear a radio being played from within. Next is another antique store, a pet salon, a local meat store called Central Lean that also sells glass bottled soda (or pop, as everyone here would call it), another insurance place, another barber shop where I hear the conversation from within through an open window, a lesser known bar (I had thought Shooky’s was the only one in town), a store that calls itself a “general store” but seems to just sell antiques, a gas station, a building I’m not quite sure what its purpose is, an antique store, a non-commercial car shop, and finally the library. I am in the library a lot, for books, magazines, and sometimes I like to go to the basement and find the kid’s books that I read so long ago. I think about living in this small town as I sit in there today. I think about how once a year they have Cruising the Strip, when the cars parade up and down the main street, and my mother will tell me how they did that every Friday for fun as teenagers. At Christmas, they put up a huge tree in the middle of town that’s only been knocked over once since I’ve been here. Then I hear a booming sound and look out the window. It’s about to storm, although on my walk it was a perfect summer day. I walk all the way home in the rain, which I don’t mind; it’s the being outside in a lightning storm that makes me sometimes start to sprint until I’m out of breath. The storm is worse the closer I get to my house, but as soon as I make it home and change clothes the storm is gone. Oh well, I thought, this will give me something to write about, since I have only so much summer break left, I might as well enjoy it, however it comes.

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