StoryRhyme After Dark: Around the Fire
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Around the Fire
By Harry Buschman
When December comes it brings with it the long cold shadows of winter. The main street of Old Town is deserted and Louise Lassiter’s General Store is about the only place you’ll find a live person to talk to.
You can be pretty sure that person will be sitting around the fire in the wood stove that sits in the middle of her cluttered store.
Circling the stove there are four high-backed wooden chairs with crocheted cushions that Louise’s mother made when Louise was little.
The chairs are not comfortable. This assures a steady turnover of customers. They are usually occupied, but if you wait a few moments somebody is bound to turn around and look at the spring driven clock on the wall, (it is set fifteen minutes fast) and then announce that it’s time for him to move along.
A new face around the fire is always welcome.
While waiting for a seat, the newcomer will shake down the stove, take out the ashes and bring in an armload of wood––then, and only then, will he feel free to sit, put his feet up and pass the time of day. Yes, I said “him,” and “he,” and “his,” didn’t I?
Well, It’s almost always a man, and a man can’t just walk in and sit down. Not in Old Town anyway.
Each of the men has his own field of expertise and Louise has heard all sides of every issue. Creeping socialism, the disastrous season of the Boston Red Sox and the two-headed calf discovered by a dairy farmer in Lynn last week.
It is rare to hear a contentious moment in the circle around the stove and it only occurs if two men with similar interests are present, in which case Louise steps in and shows both of them the door. Bearing in mind January can be bitter cold in Old town, the contentious pair will quickly shake hands and the conversation will take a new turn.
If you are a woman shopper, you might expect a wink, a whistle or a sly remark from the circle of men around the fire. That might happen in some towns ... but never in Old Town. It is not because women are honored more highly here than elsewhere, it is mainly because the men are terrified to face the righteous wrath of Louise Lassiter.
(c) 2014 Harry Buschman