Chesterton by Timothy Boudreau

Moorland Cottage Revisited by Paul Steven Bailey
Moorland Cottage Revisited by Paul Steven Bailey |


by Timothy Boudreau

Chesterton was my aunt Lucy’s gentleman friend. “Well, Nicky, I just call him my gentleman friend”—that’s what she used to say to me, with a certain special emphasis that made him sound like a rare creature imported from old-world Europe, the kind of person you might order from the same catalog where you ordered a porcelain English tea set, or a tin of butter cookies baked in Denmark or Holland.

We usually called him Ches. He was short and stooped, with a little belly, his steel-gray hair brushed straight back, fragrant, stiff and sticky, as if he’d just patted it in place with cologne. He had a red flushed face, moist blue eyes and thin pale lips that quivered slightly sometimes when he spoke, as if he might burst into tears if he couldn’t quite think of the right thing to say.

He lived on Main Street up in Pine Knoll, in a white clapboard house with a small barn in back. When we went to pick him up we often found him sitting out back in a wicker chair just inside the barn doors, a glass of wine in his hand, tapping his foot to the big band music playing on a boom box beside him, usually smiling as he saw us approach from across the lawn before finally raising his hand to wave.

Aunt Lucy typically began with a question about one of his Pine Knoll neighbors. “Oh, you won’t hear me saying anything about any of my neighbor friends,” Ches would say with a sudden stout look at the houses up the road. “Or repeating gossip about them, either. That’s one thing I won’t do.” He then sometimes went on to offer a tidbit or two after all, maybe about Sebastian Bell of Tapestry Corner, who had lost his business due to his drinking habits and was carrying on an affair with an ex-secretary from his days as an executive in Boston. “I guess it isn’t a secret if it’s already widely known—and besides, it’s all true,” he’d say, winking, leaning over to pour himself another glass of wine.

While he spoke, Aunt Lucy would sometimes sit beside him with her eyes half-closed, smartly tapping her feet to the music—my favorite was Chick Webb, with Ella Fitzgerald on vocals—but other times she would frown crossly and start to tap her foot a little more impatiently, until finally she pushed aside her glass, stood up and said, “Okay Ches, it’s time to go.”

One thing everyone knew about Ches was that he had money. “I heard he’s sitting on quite a pile over there,” my dad used to say, twinkling a smile at me as he lit his pipe. I pictured Ches in a secret room in the basement, perched on a pile of gold pieces like a chicken on her eggs.

“You need to pay attention to things, Ches,” Aunt Lucy liked to say to him. “That money isn’t going to last forever.” We’d go over at night to play rummy and listen to big band music, or during the day to accompany Ches on his errands to the bank or the insurance agency or dry cleaners, which Lucy believed were impossible for him to manage without us. Lucy often had a few words of advice for him, which she delivered with a hint of sharpness in her voice, as if she couldn’t believe Ches hadn’t thought of it himself. “That family of yours is going to drain you dry.”

Lucy was my favorite aunt, my father’s oldest sister. She was petite, trim and bright-eyed, abrupt, eager and sharp-featured like a bony little bird, quick to jump into action when she found a cause worth fighting for. She had no children of her own, and at some point after her second husband died she started spending more and more time at our house. She taught me pinochle, rummy and cribbage, and told me stories about growing up on a dairy farm as the oldest of nine siblings. I loved to follow along in her wake when she roared into the oil, phone or cable company office and brought someone to justice over some unjust billing or shoddy service.

In those days her number-one cause was Ches. “Well, Linda, we’re off again,” she announced to my mother one afternoon, bursting through the front door into our kitchen and tossing her sun scarf on the counter. “Ches needs help. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to take Nicky.”

“That’s fine, Lucy.” My mom gave a little smile as I pulled on my sneakers. “What is it this time?”

“Ches wants us to go with him to the dry cleaners. They made mistakes last time—they left stains on several garments, and when he complained, they wouldn’t do a thing to help him. You know that place—you can’t find anyone to speak to half the time, and when you do it’s like they just don’t care. But this time Ches is going to have someone there who’s not afraid to speak up for his side.” She tore a paper towel off the roll next to the sink, wet it and dabbed at her forehead. “I’m the evil henchman if you want to know the truth. Nicky is going as extra sweetener. If I come on too strong, Nicky will just lighten the mood with one of her little smiles.”

When we got out to Ches’s place we found him sitting out back in his wicker chair, stiff and straight-backed, with two women fluttering around him like birds around a statue.

“Do you want me to go get your checkbook for you? I think I might even know where it is—”

Aunt Lucy frowned, tightened her belt and strode across the lawn with me trailing behind. Ches didn’t notice us at first. The women, Ches’s step-niece Cherise and her daughter, saw us, I think, but they kept on with what they were saying, and when we got closer Aunt Lucy held me back and we pretended to look at Ches’s rosebushes while we listened.

“Do you want another cold drink, Uncle?” the daughter asked. Her name was Brigitte, but they called her Biscuit. She was blond and freckled, with a broad nose and a vast sunburned forehead. She had a pitcher in her hand and her mother fluttered around behind with a plate of cookies. “Mom has some snacks for you, too, Uncle. So what do you think about our deal?”

“This is all done on the Internet, Chesterton,” Cherise said. She looked like a miniature version of her daughter, a little shorter and thinner, with died reddish hair and not quite as many freckles. She set down the plate and continued “Biscuit’s kept right up to date with what’s going on. It’s all the latest technology. It’s not just marketing, you know—she has her associate’s in that—but there’s even more to it.”

“We brought you a brochure, Uncle,” Biscuit said. “Look—it’s got everything in it we’re intending to do. Bridget’s Green Marketing Showcase.”

Ches took the brochure and frowned at it, touching his lip with his tongue, and Cherise said, “It’s just a draft version of it really, Chesterton, but I do think she’s onto something here. A lot of the local businesses, you know, farm stands and crafts and whatnot, some of them look like they’re already interested. She just needs a little help getting started.”

“It wouldn’t be much,” Biscuit put in. “If we miss out on this we’re going to look back and wish we hadn’t.”

“And it’s an investment,” Cherise added. “You know investing money is really just like planting seeds. You know it literally is. Then your seeds grow into plants, and there you have your fruit.”

“So what should we do, Uncle? Do you want to help us or should we look somewhere else?” Biscuit took half a step toward the house. “Do you want me to go get your checkbook for you? I think I might even know where it is—”

By this time I guess Lucy had heard enough. We stepped around the rosebush and Chesterton looked up and saw us finally. “Excuse me girls, but Lucille and Nicky are here. Come over and say hello, Dears.”

Aunt Lucy forced a little smile as we came closer, while Cherise frowned briefly before flashing us a fake-looking smile of her own.

“Dears, I think you know Bridget and Cherise,” Ches said. He folded his hands in his lap and fiddled with his fingers. “They were unexpected. They just stopped in to say hello.”

“Nice to see you again,” Aunt Lucy said. She had an expression on her face like having to speak to them at all put a bad taste in her mouth. “We’re here to take Chesterton to the dry cleaners.”

“He can’t get to the dry cleaners on his own?”

“He asked that we come with him.”

“He likes us to!” I threw in.

“Yeah, well, actually we were just getting ready to leave.” Cherise looked at Biscuit and grabbed her pocketbook. “We’ll see you later then, Uncle.”

“Oh—but don’t let us rush you,” Aunt Lucy said.

Cherise and Biscuit went over to Ches and stooped down to give him a hug; Biscuit paused a minute before adding a kiss to his forehead.

“You think about our offer now, Uncle,” Cherise said.

Ches nodded. “Bye bye now girls,” he said softly. “Thanks for coming by.”

“Always nice to see you!” Aunt Lucy called after them, long after they’d pulled out of the driveway.

On the way to the dry cleaners, Ches picked at his fingernails and I sat in back with his dry cleaning across my lap. “You know Ches,” Aunt Lucy said after a minute, “with all this talk about investments, I hope you don’t forget about your own plans.”

“It’ll all turn out okay,” Ches said vaguely.

“Like Quebec City—I think that’s a great idea you had. You’d love it so much.”

Ches lifted his thumb and took a good look at it, then nibbled a bit of dried skin off the tip. “It would be nice to get away.”

“Of course it would, Ches. You deserve at least that. It’s just like Old Europe, they say—cobblestone streets and bakeries—patisseries, I think they call them. And the art, and the culture. You’d love it so much.”

“I guess sometimes I’m not comfortable—spending on myself—when there are so many things my family needs. They try so hard, they really do, but they’ve had so many setbacks—”

“It’s not up to you to do that.”

“So my turnaround and runarounds—”

“It’s not up to you to save everyone.” She picked up speed as she came off the highway. “You’ve got to be careful, Ches. Remember those men Cherise introduced you to last time? The ones with the condos who were looking for investors—supposedly some friends of her boyfriend or something?” She gripped the wheel tighter. “That was all about a corporation, supposedly. ‘Oh, we’re incorporated now, you’ll be part of the corporation.’ All they did was talk about the corporation, but it’s lucky you didn’t buy in, because it wasn’t six months before they all went belly-up and the whole mess was in the papers.”

“Well, I’m sure they tried their best to make it all work out.”

“I can still see them with their little papers and pamphlets, all that line of bull they were trying to sell you, and Cherise all high and mighty, smiling her little smile, and Biscuit with her red little scheming face—”

“They’re my family after all.”

“I’m sorry, Ches, but good Lord. That bunch they were trying to get you involved with that time weren’t anything but out and out sharks.”

When we got to the dry cleaners Aunt Lucy stormed inside like she was hoping someone would try to stop her. I hustled in behind her with a couple of the hangers and Ches brought up the rear lugging the rest of the clothes in his arms. The lady at the counter didn’t even have time to open her mouth before Aunt Lucy lit into her.

“Hello? Is anyone here that can help us? Are you working here—are you a manager?”

The lady looked us over again—she smiled a little when her eyes fell on Ches fussing with his load of jackets. “I’m the morning supervisor. May I help you?”

“I should hope so. If you have the authority to give cash refunds that should do just fine. If not, then I hope there’s a manager handy.”

“I’m sure we’ll be able to help you, Ma’am. May I ask the nature of your problem?”

Aunt Lucy pulled Ches up to the counter by the elbow and motioned for him to haul up his jackets. “Well, take a look at these jackets. Take a look at these spots on the sleeves. Now these are garments Mr. Harris picked up here not two weeks ago, they’re fresh from your shop, you can see they still have your tags on them. And look at these spots. Now Mr. Harris came in here himself last week, but apparently you wouldn’t give him the time of day.”

“Ma’am, if you’d slow down and let me take a look at our records—”

“Your tags are there, you can see that, can’t you, and obviously Mr. Harris’s garments aren’t clean.”


“This was brought to your attention before and nothing was done for it. Now something needs to be done. Who knows if these were ever cleaned at all, or what kind of processes you use back there.”

Now, Lucy, you know better than that.” A tall thin man with a stubbly moustache and slicked down hair came out from the back room. He greeted us with a big slow confident smile that seemed to take its time spreading across his face, as if he liked the way it felt and wanted to make it last as long as he could.

Aunt Lucy leaned forward a couple inches. “All right John, we don’t want to hear any of your act—you just take care of this situation and we’ll be okay.”

“Don’t you worry, Lucy. I’m sure we can resolve this problem for you.” He shrunk the smile down and hardened it a little. “What if we offered you a full refund and a guaranty that we’ll correct any issues with these garments we didn’t get the first time around? Would that satisfy you?”

“Well, I guess that’s a good place to start.” Lucy turned to flash us a killer smile and touched Ches on the arm. “See Ches? I told you we’d get it straightened out for you. You just leave everything to me.”

“Oh, Ches and I go way back,” Aunt Lucy used to say. “You know I always saved him when we played kick-the-can.”

In Lucy’s stories, Ches was a soft shy boy, prone to being pushed around and taken advantage of, constantly getting hit with snowballs and having his lunch stolen, and Lucy was the tiny, strong-willed girl always stomping on bullies’ toes and snatching back Ches’s egg salad. Lucy and Ches went back to their schoolyard days in Westfield—before Ches’s parents died and he was moved to the Cape to live with his elderly aunts—and between then and now there had been several other separations and reunions. About the separations Aunt Lucy would usually say only that there were certain times when “Ches was away,” or they “weren’t quite as close,” or “not quite on the same terms”—though in the end she’d return to how they always managed to reconnect again, usually through a simple act of kindness, like Lucy’s trip to Pine Knoll a few years earlier in her gardening gear, spade and rake in hand, to offer Ches some tulip bulbs.

To me Ches’s house always seemed like a whole different world, with his cranberry juice cocktails, hard flaky bakery crumpets and big band jazz, which it surprised me at first Aunt Lucy seemed to know a lot about.

“There used to be, I remember, a radio show called Syncopation Station,” Ches recalled one evening when we were over for a visit. We were in his living room, me lying on the thick shaggy rug, Lucy on the couch next to Ches, who was in his favorite armchair. “I believe it was on AM 1120. It was a powerful station, you could hear it all over the Cape. And they played the most wonderful mixture of big band things.”

“They don’t make music like that anymore,” Lucy said.

“Oh—oh, but they do,” Ches said. “Cherise says that they do. In the Boston area, in the summer, there are these performances—open air festivals—with all kinds of music, and these very good big bands who come to play. And there are places she knows there too where you can talk to experts about—well, you know, how to invest your money wisely.”

Cherise,” Lucy scoffed. “She’s prone to exaggeration, don’t you think?”

“Most younger people are.”

“She tells a good story, I’ll give her that.”

“She does—she does,” Ches said. “But she is knowledgeable. For a girl her age, she does know her stuff.”

“She has a few tricks. We’ll see how far they take her.”

“It’s actually quite surprising.”

“And young?” Aunt Lucy went on. “She must be forty-five at least. It’s time she grew up, Ches. You’re not helping her, coddling her the way you do. It’s time she learned to be self-reliant.”

“Oh I’m sure you’re right about that Lucy,” Ches said softly, almost to himself. “I’m sure you are.”

Lucy looked up suddenly from the pile of Ches’s mail on her lap. “Oh!—my land Ches, what are all these? You’re not saying you’ve donated to all of these charities at some point or another…”

“Well, some of them—the United Way and Red Cross and those—but no, not some of those others…”

“And you’ve got some of Sebastian Bell’s mail in here too—your postman must be slipping up again.”

“I guess I didn’t notice.”

“Don’t you worry, Ches, we’ll sort it all out for you.” She took a sip of her tea and looked over at me lying in front of the stereo. “Nicky, why don’t you find us a record to play.”

“Okay. How about Nat Cole, Ches?”

“Yes, yes, that’s fine,” Lucy said. “Just nothing too distracting now, we need to concentrate.”

I found a Nat King Cole record with a cover photo I always liked—Nat in a beige sweater with a twinkly-eyed smile that made him seem like a kindly older uncle. I put it on and settled back into a rocking chair as the music began, Nat’s smooth caramel voice floating on a swirl of violins, and after a minute I saw Ches looking over at Lucy with soft warm eyes. Partway through the first song he pulled himself out of his recliner, crossed the room and put his hand on her shoulder. He paused just for a second as she went on reading furiously—her lips moved sometimes when she was in a hurry—then continued on his way to the kitchen.

“My dear old Ches,” Lucy said after he’d left the room, just loud enough so I could hear. “What would we do without each other?

A week or so later Aunt Lucy and I were at Darryl’s Farmstand, sitting in the snack bar with blueberry frappes, looking out the window at the picnic tables between the pick-your-own blueberry patches. Two women in sundresses, each with a small container of berries, walked out of one of the patches toward the tables. After a minute a stooped older man shuffled up behind them and collapsed onto a bench.

“My land, it’s them. It’s Ches and—those nieces!” Aunt Lucy pushed her frappe aside and leapt up from her seat. “Don’t they know he shouldn’t be out there as hot as it is—his blood pressure will never take it.”

I followed her out the back door. When we got up to their table, the nieces were in full swing. “See, it’s good for you to see this, Uncle,” Cherise was saying as she fanned herself with one of Biscuit’s brochures. “Here they’re doing it all organically, which is fine enough, but it’ll need to be someone who’s really serious about making money that Biscuit wants as a client. And that’ll work out just fine for you too, and for your investment.”

“Excuse me,” Aunt Lucy said, stepping between the nieces and Ches and folding her little arms across her chest, “but can you tell me why you have that poor man out here in this heat? Look at him, he’s red as a tomato.”

“I don’t see how it’s really any of your concern.”

“And how in the world is he supposed to afford all that—all that plan you’re feeding him? With everything else he’s got himself doing for you?”

Cherise looked at me. “Why do you always have to bring her with you everywhere?”

“I’m not bothering anybody,” I muttered under my breath. “I’m just here helping out.”

“She helps me,” Aunt Lucy explained. “She’s my niece.”

“Well, anyway, this is really not your care,” Cherise said.

“But someone needs to look out for what’s best for Ches.”

“And isn’t that what I’m doing? And looking out for my daughter? My family? Ches is her family, too, and not yours, and maybe you ought to remember that.”

“Doesn’t look like that’s what you’re doing from where I sit.”

“Now, now, ladies,” Ches said quietly, still slumped over on the bench, dabbing at his face with a handkerchief.

Anyway.” Aunt Lucy pushed back a step. “I’m sorry Ches, but I can’t stand to listen to any more of their guff.”

She stormed off and I followed her back inside. A minute later we saw the nieces help Ches up and around the picnic tables toward the parking lot. We went out ourselves just in time to see their car pull away. Aunt Lucy watched them drive out of sight with a hopeless look on her face, finally turning to squeeze my shoulder. “Poor Ches—he’s got so many things on his mind that no one else knows about.” She shook her head. “I just hope he has a chance to let his own dreams shine through for once before it’s too late.”

When we arrived at Ches’s later that summer, he was sitting at his kitchen table with his checkbook and bank statements scattered around him, tapping numbers into an adding machine.

“What’s the matter, Ches?” Aunt Lucy asked. “Aren’t you ready for your shopping?”

“Yes—well—no, I guess not.” Ches looked up from his papers. “I’m working on my checkbook.” He scowled at the adding machine. “There seems to be a discrepancy.”

“What do you mean, Ches? Is the bank doing something with your account?”

“No, no. There were several checks.”

“Don’t you keep track of your account, Ches? You balance your book every month, don’t you?”

“There were,” he made a face, “there was a discrepancy, that’s all I know for right now. I wanted to go down and get to the bottom of it. So I guess we’ll have to postpone our shopping trip. You can just go on without me.”

“That’s nonsense, Ches. Our only plan today is to spend time with you—right, Nicky? Let’s go get this taken care of.”

When we got back to the bank, Aunt Lucy charged right through the front doors into the lobby.

On the way to Prescott, Ches sat in the passenger’s seat without saying a word. When we pulled into the bank parking lot and Aunt Lucy started to get out, Ches shook his head finally and said, “No, Lucille, I think I’d like to handle this on my own.”

“But we could just go in and—”

“No, no, thank you anyway. I’ll just be a minute.”

“Okay—well, if that’s what you want.” She turned to me in the back seat. “Nicky and I will just browse the main street while you take care of things.” She unfastened her seat belt. “You know we’re more than willing to go in with you if you need it.”

“No, I’ll be fine.”

“Well—if you’re sure.” Ches pulled himself out of his seat suddenly and was halfway across the parking lot to the bank before we had time to get out ourselves. We watched him disappear through the front doors with a jerk, a manila folder stuffed with receipts and adding machine tapes under his arm.

Aunt Lucy and I made a quick tour of Main Street, but we barely took time to look in the windows. When we got back to the bank, Aunt Lucy charged right through the front doors into the lobby.

Ches was at a desk beyond the receptionist’s station, nodding carefully as the customer service lady said something to him and pointed at one of the documents on the desk. Aunt Lucy surged past the receptionist and into Ches’s cubicle, clearing her throat as she stood beside him and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Excuse me, Ma’am?” The customer service lady looked up with a sudden alarmed look that she quickly corrected into a bland firm smile. “Please—I’m working with another customer right now, but if you see our receptionist, Bonnie—”

“I know this gentleman,” Aunt Lucy said. “We’re with Ches.” She looked away from the lady as if this settled the matter and said to Ches, “What seems to be the issue, Ches? Miss—are you clearing this up for him? You’ll have to excuse him. Sometimes he doesn’t speak very directly. I believe there were some bank errors.”

“There seems to be a discrepancy,” Ches ventured.

“Ma’am, I’m not sure if Chesterton wants to go into this issue in front of a third party.”

“There seems to be some improper activity,” Ches said wearily. “Yes, yes, she’s all right to talk to.”

Aunt Lucy sat in the chair next to Ches and I sat beside her. The lady shifted a couple of the papers and said, “Well, as I said, Chesterton, we’ll need you to complete these forgery affidavits—we’ll need one form for each transaction. We do also need to know that you’ve reported this to the Prescott Police Department. They’ll provide you with a case number, which goes right here.”

“Well, obviously, if there’s a fraud we need to take care of it right away,” Aunt Lucy cut in, with a glance at one of the pages on the desk. “We’ll go to the police station on the way out to Saint Jay.”

“We’ll have to talk about it,” Ches said quickly, sweeping the papers into his folder as he stood. “I think I’d rather go home now.” He offered his hand to the lady. “I think you’ve answered my questions, Miss. Thank you very much.”

“Please let us know if there’s anything else we can do for you, Chesterton.”

“Thank you very much.”

“But what about our plans, Ches? What about our plans? Don’t they mean anything to you at all?”

In the car Ches fussed with his folder in the passenger seat while Aunt Lucy started the engine and got us headed back to Pine Knoll. After a while she sighed and said, “Ches, I hope you’re going to do the right thing here.” She tapped the steering wheel while we waited at the light. “I guess I don’t have to ask you who we’re talking about. I hope you’re finally going to put your foot down.”

She left a space for him to answer her in. “I’m not going to do it, Lucille,” he said finally, his face tightening a little, as if a cold wind had started to blow and he was bracing for it to get stronger. “She’s family.”

“She’s only your—step-grandniece,” Aunt Lucy said. “I guess that’s what you’d call her. After all, Ches.”

“She’s family.”

“Only in the loosest sense of the word. It’s not up to you to save everyone, Ches. It’s not up to you to pay everyone’s way.”

He dropped the folder to the floor by his feet. “I have to think it over first.”

We were out on I-93 by this time, and Aunt Lucy was up to seventy-five, when normally she never went any faster than sixty. “But how much was there, Ches?” she blurted out after a minute. “Ches—how much was there?”

“I don’t really want to talk about it.”


“I don’t want to talk about it now.”

Aunt Lucy drove the rest of the way with her teeth clenched, gripping the wheel with both hands. When we got to Ches’s place we followed him into the kitchen and waited while he fumbled around in the cupboards, at last pulling out a bottle of wine and pouring himself a glass. After he took a sip he set the glass on the counter and sighed.

“I wish I could make you see the true situation, Ches,” Aunt Lucy said.

“I’ll just have to readjust some things, I suppose.”

“I just wish I could…” Lucy turned and took a half-step toward the sink, then spun back around suddenly and burst out, “But what about our plans, Ches? What about our plans? Don’t they mean anything to you at all?” There was a fierce bright blaze in her eyes I’d never seen before. “With everything you already have going out to all these others.” She watched him as he fiddled with his fingers. “Why can’t you see that we’re the ones who are really trying to help you?”

Ches reached for his glass of wine, lifted it, looked at it for a second and then put it back on the counter.

“These girls—these people. It’s obvious you’re not thinking of yourself, or of anyone else—of your trip! It’s just too bad to let yourself be taken advantage of like that.” She shook her head. “To be taken advantage of, to not even try to stand up for yourself. To just sit back and let yourself be walked on.”

Ches fumbled his hands together and turned away, mumbling something toward the wall. When he turned back he said something else, which at first sounded like, “Well, really it’s just a shame.” It took me a second to understand that what he’d really said was, “Well, really you’re just the same.”

What did you say?” Aunt Lucy took two quick steps toward him and struck him across the face with all her weight, then stood there glaring at him as if to see how he liked it.

“I see,” Ches said softly, biting his lip and lowering his head, shuffling over to the counter to pick up his wine glass.

“Let’s go Nicky,” Aunt Lucy said, snatching up her purse as Ches brought his glass over to the table without looking up. “We’re leaving.” She reached for me like she hardly knew what she was doing, grabbed my hand and led me out, down the driveway and into the car, then drove off without a word and didn’t say another thing all the way home.

Aunt Lucy didn’t mention Ches to me again. Somehow I don’t recall telling my mom about what happened, though I must have. A few months later Aunt Lucy moved to Arizona and began sending us letters describing her adventures volunteering at the local senior center, her reforming crusades in the rec room and cafeteria, and her efforts to take a few of the lonelier residents under her wing.

I saw Ches during spring break in my sophomore year at UNH, many years after the incident with Aunt Lucy. I was walking up Main Street in Prescott and Ches was coming out of Don’s Smoke Shop with a box of cigars in his hand. He seemed smaller and more frail, his face flushed and damp, his hands trembling as he carried the box to his car. I wasn’t very far up the sidewalk; a few years earlier I might’ve waved or called to him to get his attention, but this time I didn’t say anything. I don’t think he even noticed me, or maybe he wouldn’t have recognized me even if he had. I was much taller than he would’ve remembered, my hair was shorter; he probably would have only recognized a tiny freckled ten-ear-old with ponytails and Band-Aids on her elbows.

So I just slowed up my walk a little and kept watching while he buckled his seatbelt, adjusted his mirrors, checked his blind spot. Once he was ready he seemed to sigh and say a few words to himself, as if he needed encouragement before pulling back out into the Prescott Main Street traffic. Then he licked his lips with a little nervous smile and started the engine. He put the car in gear and drove away. ■

Timothy Boudreau has published fiction in various journals and anthologies. Saturday Night, his first full-length collection, was published by Hobblebush Books in 2017.  He lives in northern New Hampshire with his wife, Judy.

To learn more about Timothy Boudreau, visit his website

and Hobblebush Books.

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