AGONIZED: The Store Closes By Beverly Jones

Word Count: 498

By Beverly Jones

Frank agonized over the closing of the store. He eased into the rocking chair bracing his arms on the chair's arms as he lowered himself and arranged his leg. The accident on the railroad had given him the settlement used as down payment on the store, but left him with a shattered knee that wouldn't bend. That leg was now shorter than the other and needed the built up heavy boot he put on every morning upon getting out of bed. 
Maggie, one of the store cats along with Albert, pounced into his lap and curled into a ball. Albert sat Sphinx-like near the cash register on the counter.
"Oh, yes, Maggie, we all need comfort at this time, don't we?" he murmured stroking the warm fur. "It's a tough time for everyone. And now I can't help."
Setting her gently on the floor, he heaved himself to his feet. He wandered the few aisles, stroking the edges of the shelves. He stopped and smiled as he remembered his children Eddie and Elizabeth playfully bickering as they stocked the shelves.
His favorite memory, of course, was Elizabeth rolling down the incline in an old pickle barrel. How his wife Grace was furious over that escapade!
Eddie worked at the bank and Elizabeth taught in a one room schoolhouse in addition to helping at the store. And now they would not need to help at the store. Frank's cousin offered him a position at his business. It was one of the few that survived after the crash of '29. 
He carefully lowered Albert and Maggie into a basket, and limping, balancing the basket, he walked through and softly closed the door behind him. The "Closed" sign swinging on its chain slowly slid to a halt.
What Frank could never have foreseen happened forty years later. Grace had died; Elizabeth and Eddie moved away with their families. He no longer had cats but a blue parakeet and a dime store turtle.
Past his house and up the hill loomed the regional high school. Frank enjoyed sitting in his rocker at the window and watching the enthusiasm of the young people. They always waved as they jounced along the sidewalk.
Frank was surprised by the knock at the door.
"Hi, Mr. Williams! You okay?"
Frank nodded.
"You don't remember me, do you? I'm Jenny Taylor's grandson."
"Of course I remember Jenny." Frank smiled at the memory.
She was a tiny girl with red pigtails and freckles. Her faded overalls were carefully patched at the knee where she caught them on barbed wire while chasing a cow. He always sent home whatever was on the week's grocery list whether he got paid or not.
"Grandma said I was to stop in every now and then and see how you are. She never forgot what you did for all the families during the Depression."
"None of us have."
Several more teens climbed the porch stairs.
"We will take care of you, Mr. Williams."    

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