To Be Where You Are(4)

By: Jan Karon


She breathed out.

Yes. Good. She would write herself a warning.


• • •

Coot Hendrick was feeling entirely cured. Upper respiratory somethin’ or other—he could not recall exactly what had made him so sick. All he knew was, he had never smoked, so his conscience was clear. He stood at the big window in his upstairs apartment over Happy Endings bookstore and worked out his list for the day.

He would finally be able to do everything that needed doin’: Vacuum the store, wash the front windows, haul off the recycling, dust the books, an’ whatever else Miz Murphy and Sister Louise wanted him to do, or even Grace, who sometimes asked him to catch her a frog or a housefly or a turtle so she could draw it.

Get stamps, he needed to get stamps for their mail-order business. An’ put his bedclothes in th’ washer in the basement. It would be nice to have clean bedclothes to look forward to when he finished his book tonight, and Lord knows, he hated to finish it. He’d got so used to that book, it was like he was livin’ in a whole other place.

He remembered there was a piece of Miz Bolick’s Orange Marmalade Cake still in the freezer. He would set that out to thaw and eat it tonight after he finished his book. He got a shiver of joy rememberin’ how that cake looked settin’ on his little table and how it was just for him, to help him get well. Miz Bolick had brought it up to the store and said to Miz Murphy, ‘This is for Coot, who is one of Mitford’s town fixtures.’ It was a solemn honor to be called a town fixture.

He was turning away from the window when he saw the patrol car run the red light. He wondered if police had some kind of special permission to run a red light if nobody was comin’ from a side street, which nobody was.


• • •

Grace Murphy was writing a book.

It was a teachers’ workday at Mitford School, and she had come really early to Happy Endings with her mom, who was unpacking a huge box with Aunt Louise and getting ready for the O for October sale. Usually she helped her mom, but her mom had said go write your book and we will call you if we need you. So she was lying on the new rug in the poetry section with her book bag and her notebook and pencils and writing at the top of page 4.

The news today is not good said Samantha. Yesterday the news was good but today it is not very good.

Is it sad news said Mrs. Ogleby?

Not exactly said Samantha.

Her bifocals slipped down her nose; she pushed them back.

Because I will go inside and close the shudders if it is sad said Mrs. Ogleby.

She wasn’t using lined paper because that was for really young children, and she was six, almost seven.

Being six was neat. When you are five, you go to kindergarten and help the teacher with the children. But when you are six, you get to start first grade and dress yourself every morning and meet your friends at the corner and walk to school together.

Six was different from five in a lots of ways. When you are five, you like bugs, but when you are six, you do not like bugs because of the things they can do, like get in your hair and sometimes up your nose.

When you are five, you ride a bike with sixteen-inch wheels, but when you are six you get twenty-inch wheels because she was tall like her dad. She had wanted an even bigger bike, but the man said it was dangerous to have a bike too big for the kid and it was not safe to buy a bike for a kid to grow into. So that is why she had twenty-inch wheels, which were just right for now. Plus at five she had played with dolls, and now at six almost seven, she wanted to write books like in her mother’s bookstore.

A million books were in their store and she had read a lots of them, at least fifty or two hundred, including Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, and The Boxcar Children. Her new teacher said Grace you’re reading ahead of yourself! But she didn’t know how anybody could read ahead of themselves or behind of themselves. She had just finished reading Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott, and that is why she was writing a book of her own. Not on her iPad like at school, but with a pencil like Louisa. She was up to four pages in cursive, which her mother had taught her how to do when she was five.

Her book was about a girl who lived in a tiny town where only her family had TV and so she learned the news from her TV and went around in the town and told the news to people. She went out in rain and even snow and her puppy Morris went with her. As the writer of the book, she was mostly doing what her mom said to do, which is write about what you know, which was living in a tiny town even though other people had TV in Mitford.

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