Woolworths

I pointed out the headline to the older woman behind me;
Our city would have a new pharmacy downtown.
This is something that makes living in our city good.
You can talk to a stranger about the new pharmacy
And she might know how long it’s been since we had one,
How hard it is to take a bus or a car
If all you want is toothpaste, cotton balls or nail polish remover.

She said, “When it was a Woolworths”—

{She meant the empty building where the pharmacy’ll go.} WE KNOW THIS
For now it’s the stop where every city bus arrives and leaves full,
But for a little pause,
Like the emptiness between the in and out breath.
{Live here long enough and you’ll hear how}
The Woolworths was half the library {now}
And half the empty building {she} called “the depot.”

“It had a long lunch counter, a clean bathroom, and a phone booth with a bench.
All the poor older people would come and spend the afternoon
After the lunch rush was over.
A waitress told me she could tell when they—
The poor older people—
Ran out of money as the month went on
Because they switched from coffee to tea.
You couldn’t get a free refill on your coffee,
But you could get a few cups of tea out of a bag.
Sometimes the old folks bought a roll,
But as the month went on the waitress
Left out cracker packets to munch.
They made all their phone calls from the pay phone.
And talked to each other all afternoon.
I wonder where they go now.
Pastry shops are so expensive,
And there are hardly any pay phones any more.
Woolworth’s, God bless, I bought all my children’s clothes there.”

The number 10 sighed, knelt and let her on.

Honourable Mention, Fingerlakes Environmental Film Festival “Checkpoints
Story Contest”

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