That which falls will rot...
The moment that she laid eyes on the rain-soaked, rustic wooden facade--adorned in chipped, faded paint with the words "Appleton General Store"--Marie decided that she did not like this place one bit. The town--if you could call it that--was comprised of the aforementioned store (which doubled as a post office), a few miscellaneous shops, and a collection of run-down houses and shacks with leaning walls and sagging roofs. And then there was the name. Appleton. You couldn't get any less creative than that, seeing as the town--village--was located in the middle of what seemed to be one enormous apple orchard.
Her negative perception of the area was certainly not helped by the fact that it was pouring outside and she was viewing the scene through the lens of the weeping window, trapped in the back seat of the family SUV next to her screeching, stinking baby brother.
Why had her parents chosen to move here of all places?
And what was taking them so long?
She squinted through the water-distorted glass, trying to see them through the window of the General Store. They had been in there for nearly twenty minutes. Seriously, how long did it take to buy a carton of milk and a dozen eggs?
They were probably talking to someone, she decided. They tended to do that, especially her mom. Probably blabbering away in that very moment to the store manager, who was, in Marie's mind, old, toothless, and half-deaf. This town seemed like the type of place that would be entirely populated by the old, the toothless, and the half-deaf, so it was a natural conclusion to draw.
She was a bit surprised, therefore, when her parents emerged onto the store's warped porch followed by a young man with a prominent limp. They were laughing at something, and as he waved her parents goodbye, he caught Marie's eye through the streaming glass. She wasn't sure, but she thought he might have winked.
"Who was that?" she asked her parents after they had loaded the groceries in the back and resumed their seats.
"Oh, that?" replied her mother. "That was Ollie. He runs the place."
As they drove away, she glanced backwards out of the rear window, but Ollie was no longer there. He'd gone back inside, probably.
He wasn't old, deaf and toothless, that seemed for certain, but there was something, well, off about him. Perhaps it was his clothing--like everything else in this awful little town, it had looked like it had come from another century.