In one major respect, life in a small town differs from its counterpart in the big city. In a small town there are fewer places to hide.
Not only are there fewer hiding places - but no matter where you go, everyone knows who you are.
That is what has been hardest about my move to a small town. I still do not know everyone - yet everyone knows me.
In the Super-Value or at the Quickie-Mart, someone will call my name and I will struggle to recall theirs. But try as I might, I usually end up bruising their egos by failing to recognize them.
I really should know these people.
Seriously, I should.
It is not that I don’t spend time with them.
Almost once a month we all get together in the basement of a church or an American Legion hall to attend a fund-raiser for some family burdened by medical bills. It is a staple of small-town life and it speaks well of the people who life here.
But these social occasions also follow the same script.
Here is the one from last week.
As soon as we walked into the Legion Hall, I made a bee-line for the two-dollar beer while my wife joined the crowd at the silent auction. An hour later, she slid onto the stool next to me and began fidgeting like a little girl. She wanted to tell me something so bad she couldn't keep still - but she didn't want to just come out and say what it was. She wanted me to bring it up.
I put it off for as long as I could but finally my conscious got the best of me, so I asked, “What did you bid on?”
(An audible groan from me)
“Do we really need another? You have a closet full of quilts.”
“Not like this..”
“Honey, we have too much stuff and too tiny of a house... If you are going to bid on something, bid on something small.”
Then she got even more excited.
“Did you bid on anything else?”
“You really want me to ask you what it is, don’t you?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Okay, I won’t ask.”
“I bid on a maid.”
“A day of house-cleaning services!!!! You are always complaining about the mess, we can get it organized!!”
This is when I went into full hypocrisy mode. First I told her that it was the best idea she ever had. Next, I excused myself and located the bid sheet.
I considered out-bidding her using a bogus name but dismissed the idea because everyone in a small town knows everyone else and everyone would know it was me.
So I looked at the bid above my wife’s name.
A few minutes later, I pulled aside the brother of the spouse of one of my wife’s cousin’s.
“Hi Greg,” he said.
Only knowing his last name from the bid sheet, I said, “Johnson, we got ourselves a problem.”
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Your wife and my wife are bidding against each other on a day of Sheryl’s House-Cleaning Services.”
“You know what that means, don’t you?” I said.
“I dunno,” he said, “Sheryl does a good job and she always needs the work.”
“That ain't what I’m getting at,” I told him, “Let me spell it out for you. What does your wife do before strangers come over?”
“Uh, she cleans the house.”
“Nuh-uh,” I told him, “you both clean the house. If your wife is like my wife, she'll work your tail off, cleaning all weekend because an electrician is scheduled to come by on Monday morning. Now think about it. Is she going to let herself be embarrassed by having Sheryl see how messy her house is?”
“Good Grief!!” he said, suddenly realizing his predicament.
“So what are we going to do about it?” I asked.
“Let me think...,” he said.
“You know anyone who actually needs their house cleaned?”
He looked down the length of the bar. A couple of stools down, two college kids with dirty t-shirts, torn jeans and eyes hidden by the lid of their caps, sullenly suckled beer.
“Hey Tommy,” Johnson called, “You want your apartment cleaned?”
“We’re sending Sheryl over to clean your rat’s nest.”
“Say thank-you, dumb-ass.”
“Thank you, dumb-ass,” the youths echoed.
“Okay Greg,” he said turning to me, “Use his name to double the bid and I’ll cover you for half.”
“Sure, only one problem though,” I said.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I don’t know his name.”
Johnson looked shocked.
This week's challenge: write about community.
- Write about your community. Tell us about your neighborhood, your friends and your family.
- Tell us what's good about it.
- Tell us what's not good about it.
Post your article to Gather Writing Essentials.
BE SURE TO TAG your submission with MWE. Note: I search for articles using the tag "MWE" If you don't tag it right, I will not find it.
Include "Monday Writing Essential" in your title.
- Try to post by next Monday but don't worry if you don't finish in time. I will be glad to include your post the next week.
Last week's challenge was to write about a Dilbert experience. Here are the responses. As always, if I missed your response, please let me know.
Weekly reminder: don't forget to recommend an article that you like (to learn why, read Ann Marcaida's article Attract More Writers and Artists to Gather!).. Also try to place a comment on at least one article and say more than you liked the piece. Tell the author what worked and what needs work.