Jack and Jill, 222

The train that winds
through our fine little
town has nothing more
to give us but its smoke.

It took out of here a
couple we had named
king and queen of the
prom, and who, as a
town we had planned to
have crowned mayor
and first lady someday.

Since first grade we all
knew, as most in a
small town do, who had
a future in power and
who, like the rest of us,
would work in the mill
and the factory, who
would run the local
market and who could
be seen wandering
down main street in a
drunk stupor shouting
the name of someone
who left our school in
the first grade.

Somehow I think the
salary paid to the
guidance counselor,
who tried with each of
us to find a career that
suited our skills and our
level of aptitude on
certain state wide exams,
who supposedly earned
his chips by properly
placing the smart and
muscular in the correct
classes to fulfill some
destiny. We could have
save the school lots of
money with a simple
survey that stated us
each pick a career for
ourselves and our
classmate. We know
each other best and
have each other
pegged, and none of us
showed any interest in
bucking the system of
perks and generations
that permeated the
fabric of life in our town.

So that’s why it came
as such a surprise to
see the train pulling out
of town with our future,
our supposed
permanant family
structure rolling down
with it. We could wish
that what happened had
to do with some silly
crime or a stupid
embarrassment that
would get any one
removed from a town
such as ours, we would
love it if the high and
mighty had to leave due
to an intrepid
encounter we could not
talk about, that would
live in the whispers on
infamy for a lifetime,
and yet, it was none of
this. We would love it to
be a brief stop, four
years in college or the
army for our former
hometown heros to
return, better for a taste
of the great big world
and ready to settle back
down in the bosom of
our small burb, to bring
a whiff of worldliness
and a desire to never
leave. Unfortunately,
that is not what has
come to be. The train
today pulls out of town
with two people of
complete free will
leaving for the city, just
after their in town
ceremony, a
honeymoon on some
island far away and
then a life of prosperity
and amnesia. Later,
in interviews they will
simply state they are
from the rural part of the
state, never speak the
name of our town or
mention the people who
made them. What’s left
of our town can not be
understated. Sure, the
river still runs along the
main road in and out of
town and we still get up
every morning like a
family of ants to dig
tunnels out to the
picnics of our life. No one
says anything about the
two leaving. We just go
on this way, working
and at lunch eating.

The current mayor gets
in a small scuffle with
his wife that plays a little
too loud to be ignored,
and no one really talks
about the next few
elections. They go off
without a hitch. But,
what’s left is a slowly
aging culture. The other
children, whom we
know would have never
wanted to leave town
suddenly see that the
old are not growing old
at the same rate of
those who used to,
and they non-aging
corpses take up too much
space on the town rolls,
voting registration, list of
taxpayers, list of
currently employed
veterans. Suddenly, a
good paying job is out
of the question and the
holler, which had seen
its share of bad times
has a real dilemma.

How to honor the living
and honor those who
wished to move up into
their positions. The
children moved out in
droves. Some to the
city, some just down the
road. What is left
behind are the edges
with no center. A strong
social structure just
waiting to flounder and
fall to pieces. Waiting
for the stubborn to die.

The train is a rusted out
shell that hasn’t moved
in years, it adheres to
the old tenants and
offers the tenants of this
town a false image of a
way out. This town is
going no where but into
the ground, slowly now.

But twenty years from
now, when
anthropologists and
government surveyors
cross the hilltop to look
down into this valley,
they will find a series of
graveyards and
abandoned dying
properties, houses
falling to pieces. In their
quick desire for a quick
buck they will not
investigate if this is
indeed the land of their
ancestors, but will see
only a chance to build a
six flags or golf
complex, a retreat for
businesses to use,
vacation escape for out
of towners. We will be
kicked down like the ant
hill and by this time
tomorrow barely, if at
all, recognizable.

The couple, our king and
queen who left could be
labeled visionaries,
instead, I would call
them kings to the cause
and allow them to admit
one free to the ride on
which I am not working,
one free night in the
lodge, one free ride
down the water flume
created on the side of
the hill. But they would
not walk back up the
hill. Jack and Jill.

No, they are gone
for good, for their
own good and not
returning for us,
to save the place
that gave them life,
not ever returning.

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A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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