This is one of those small towns…
One of those small towns that has a Main Street nestled between two mountains.
A Main Street outlined with stringed lights slowed by one stop light, three stop signs, and four intersections.
Stop signs where people actually take the time to stop, even when there is nobody else around… And rarely is there…
One of those small towns that has one homeless person. A lady, Claire, who wheels a yellow suitcase up and down the streets at all hours of the night. Everyone hears the clacking of the wheels on the empty sidewalk echoing in the quiet darkness.
She appears to be in her Sunday best until she’s close by, and then one can see the tears and stains on her dress, her unwashed hair pulled back under a Parisian hat. A face aged beyond her years and teeth that expose her addiction.
One of those small towns where the town council can argue politics the night before, then share family pictures the next day at the cafe over glasses of orange juice and pancakes.
A cafe where at the lunch counter, the round mayor’s latest complaint about his wife is her inviting that one homeless woman, Claire, over for dinner the week before.
One of those small towns where the mayor wants to run Claire out to prove to his constituents, he’s tough on crime. Being homeless isn’t illegal, but when they have nothing else to complain about, it becomes a topic.
A Mayor who preaches about family values yet doesn’t speak to his daughter who is now his son and lives far away.
One of those small towns that celebrates flag day with a parade and makes a big deal about the little league opening day.
A place where people walk along the shops and wave to the volunteer firefighters as their shiny red truck passesby.
One of those small towns where the people gossip and whisper about the mayor’s wife who has been missing, and yet still welcome him into their homes for a cup of coffee.
The mayor explains his wife is visiting his daughter as he heavily pours the sugar and milk into his cup.
One of those small towns where the local kids ride their bikes, but after dark they avoid the street with the historic city hall building because they swear it’s haunted.
Claire hears those children who perpetuate the urban legend about how she worked in that city hall until she was driven mad by the evil spirits inside. The clacking of her suitcase scares them off.
After dinner at the mayor’s a few weeks earlier, the clacking seemed to slow down as the suitcase got suddenly heavier for her and took more effort to jump the sidewalk cracks. The years may be wearing on her.
One of those small towns where the police finally take a break from their usual worn stools along the lunch counter at the café and put Claire in the back of a patrol car because re-election day is coming. The officer does apologize for it.
Claire’s smell is so strong, the officer has to pull the car over. Not the smell of years surviving on the street, but something more deviant. A smell that’s not coming from her but her suitcase in the trunk.
One of those small towns where the officer opens the suitcase and the mayor’s wife is found in pieces. The whispers of gossip from the locals have now become open lunch counter conversation at the cafe.
Conversations about Claire being questioned by police. Her story of being greeted by the mayor’s wife when she arrived for dinner. Then the woman feeling ill and heading to bed early before Claire left but strangely never saying goodbye. She does recall a thud on the other side of the house just before the mayor returned to refill her coffee. If those walls could talk – that night, and every night for the last 20 years.
One of those small towns where nothing was ever proven but the mayor soon disappeared. The homeless woman Claire wandered her way back and life went on…Those small plastic wheels click-clacked one more along the concrete.
But miles and miles away was…
One of those towns that soon had a round homeless man who wandered the streets at all hours of the night, and who kids on their bikes avoided after dark… Whispering… “That’s the man who supposedly killed his wife…”
Sometimes his son, accompanied by his own kids, would bring him a sandwich and a cup of coffee…