Thursday, December 03, 2009

“The Finch: Part One”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a work of fantasy. In the immortal words of Foghorn Leghorn – “It’s a joke, son.”

It was a few minutes after sunrise.

Peaceful visions ruled the household, as everyone enjoyed a weekend opportunity to sleep in late. But I was restless.

In my head, words were alive with purposeful intensity. I dreamed of being at the computer… doing research for an upcoming newspaper feature.

Suddenly, my cell phone began to ring.

I looked at the bedside clock with disbelief, then fumbled on our nightstand. The lamp fell sideways, starting a cascade of books that covered the floor.

“Hello?” I groaned.

“Rodney!” the caller cheered. “This is Ezekiel! Are you still lounging in bed?”

It was E. Byler-Gregg, Editor-In-Chief of The Burton Daily Bugle.

“Good morning, Zeke,” I mumbled.

“Early to bed, early to rise!” he exclaimed.

I yawned forcefully. “Yeah, yeah, that works great for some people. But not me.”

“There are stories to be told, Rodney,” he said. “A writer’s work is never done!”

“Okay,” I snorted. “Thanks for the platitudes. Now, can I go back to sleep?”

My friend was insulted. “Did you want a tip on breaking news, or should I just pass it along to your competitors?”

I rubbed my eyes. “Zeke, your riddle-speak doesn’t work when the rooster is still crowing. Could you be more specific?”

A silent pause elapsed.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” he whispered.

I coughed. “Until about two minutes ago.”

“Rodney!” he thundered.

“Alright, Zeke,” I moaned. “Give me the ball and I’ll run with it.”

My friend cleared his throat. “There is an old store in your neck of the woods. One that has been closed for many years.”

“A store?” I stammered.

“The Thompson Center Market,” he reflected. “I think it used to be an IGA.”

My face was burning. “Okay… so where’s the breaking news in that?”

“A local advocacy group is going to recommend that leaders of the township seek out a new owner,” he explained. “Someone to purchase and reopen the store.”

“Wow,” I replied. “Well, thanks for the news flash. Now can I go back to sleep?”

“Rodney!” he shouted. “Are you even listening to me?”

“Unfortunately yes,” I said.

“The Ledge-Geauga Leadership Council has decided that local citizens need a food merchant nearby,” he continued. “One that would bring back the sort of friendly service that past generations enjoyed in their part of the county.”

“Do they own the store?” I said inquisitively.

“Umm, no,” he admitted. “But that’s a minor detail.”

My eyes still wouldn’t focus. “Thompson Market has been closed forever.”

“Yes it has,” he said. “But L-GLC wants to change that.”

I was beginning to emerge from the haze. “So… where is the big story?”

“In a preliminary meeting, the council was asked to submit a short list of possible candidates from the township to make this happen. The first name on their list was yours!”

I was stunned. “What??”

“Rodney,” he growled. “Is that really a surprise?”

My pulse quickened while pondering his words. “Well… yes!”

“Everyone knows about your retail experience,” he laughed.

“Maybe,” I said. “But that was a long time ago. My supermarket career just provided a stepping stone to greater things as a professional scribe.”

Ezekiel lowered his voice. “You know the industry. And you’ve got a rapport with customers from around the county. L-GLC thinks that would make you a successful hometown entrepreneur.”

I scoffed at his confidence. “After working twenty-seven years to develop my journalistic routine, why would I want to be in a grocery store again?”

“Not just be in one,” he huffed. “You’d own the store. And make it a unique part of the local community.”

By now, returning to my bed had become impossible. I started a pot of coffee as our conversation continued.

“So, how did you hear about this?” I wondered out loud.

“Backroom chatter,” he explained. “I know lots of people around Geauga.”

“Well, setting up a small food emporium isn’t easy,” I said. “Location is key. Plus, you need dependable suppliers that will provide goods at a reasonable cost.”

“Details, details!” he fumed.

I took a deep breath. “Think about the convenience stores already in Claridon, Hambden, Leroy, Madison, Geneva, Trumbull, Rock Creek, and Hartsgrove.”

“Excuses!” he whined. “You’re getting off track.”

“Not at all,” I said. “Consider that your potential patrons might also shop at businesses in any of those places. Or, at full-size markets in the area.”

“So give them an alternative!” he exclaimed. “Instead of trying to be a big food outlet, make it tiny. And friendly!”

“Sure,” I said. “Not a big bird. Tiny, like a Finch.”

Ezekiel was turning crabby. “Don’t you appreciate the faith L-GLC members have in you?”

“Of course,” I said, apologetically. “But opening a new business on the Thompson square would require more than good intentions.”

“I understand,” he wheezed. “You aren’t really interested in helping the township.”

“Not true!” I replied. “But it would take serious planning and strategic thinking. You can’t just put an ‘OPEN’ sign in the front window!”

My friend from The Bugle had reached his limit. “So, I should tell the council that you have no interest in their proposal?”

“Zeke,” I said. “We are journalists. Isn’t this blurring the lines between politics, capitalism, and our wordsmithing profession?”

Now, he was embarrassed. “Just trying to help, Rodney. Everything I’ve said is off the record. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I answered quietly.

“Good day then,” he chortled. “See you at the next writer’s roundtable!”

The line went dead before I could reply.

While drinking more coffee, I researched the market location. There was little to discover, except for a few one-line entries that listed the store address and an old phone number.

Finally, I abandoned the hunt. Other assignments were waiting for attention.
But first, I needed more coffee!

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