Edge of Civilization
A freshly painted sign that hung on an old western-style porch read, “Rays of Sun Groceries”. Flowering cacti in pottery decorated the stoop. It was a welcome for the few travelers that stopped by.
Georgina, a tanned leather-skinned woman, exited the front door with a broom in her hand. She swept clean the little dust that accumulated from an hour ago. With the broom handle resting against her shoulder, she lit a cigarette and puffed thoughtfully as she looked straight ahead at the endless desert. The blooming cacti sporadically dotted the landscape, but it did little to beautify the horizon.
Years of sun and smoking made it difficult to distinguish Georgina’s real age, but her mind and spirit were as spry as that of a teenager. Unlike Earl, Georgina knew exactly what brought her to this place—a man.
Nothing hardened a woman faster than a man who had nothing good to offer but Georgina was young, eager and not so naïve. Years ago, when her beauty opened doors, she entered every single one never fearing what was behind them. The one thing Georgina never anticipated was a man getting the better of her and her beauty.
It was the promise of love, money and a large ranch on the outskirts of the city that seduced Georgina. A big talking man with grand dreams was her downfall. The dreams of these men often changed as they yearned for greater opportunities. Georgina’s great detriment was other women often came with a man’s new opportunities. After giving her all for the man, he left her behind.
Georgina dragged heavily on the cigarette bringing it to ashes in almost one inhale. She peered up and down the highway anticipating traffic, but when she saw no one she tossed the butt of her cigarette into a pottery ashtray and stepped back inside with a quiet banging of the screen door.
Inside a ceiling fan kept the store cool—a welcome from the heat. With a pink feather duster and another cigarette dangling from her lips, Georgina dusted away cobwebs gathering on boxes, cans and bottles.
The screen door swung open with the ringing of a bell. “Georgina!”
She loved to hear her name shouted with such passion and exclamation. It made her feel young and desired. Turning around, she beamed a crooked smile and once again she was a twenty-year-old beauty.
“Heya Earl.” Georgina admired his coveralls and aviator cap. “What’s with the getup, Earl? You look like you’re about to fly away.”
Earl swaggered to the counter. “It’s time, Georgina. I’m leaving town.” His eyes shifted around the shelves of dusty cans and tattered boxes. “I’m going to need a few things for the journey.”
Georgina came around the counter and followed his eyes picking out his purchases—can of stew, SPAM, and sardines—before he had a chance to choose. “What do you mean you’re leaving? Where are you going?”
“Home,” he said.
“Where’s home Earl? You’ve been living in that abandoned mine since I knew ya,” replied Georgina. “How can you go back to nowhere?”
Earl grunted. “I don’t know. I just know it’s time to go.” He focused on the whiskey bottles behind the counter. “And a couple of those.”
“Well, hold on a second.” Georgina stepped into a small neatly organized office and retrieved a dusty bottle of fine Scotch from the shelf. She returned and presented it to him accompanied with two glasses. “Let’s drink to your journey and for old time sakes.”
Earl released a boyish grin that Georgina always had difficulty resisting. “Georgina, you are a woman who knows the way to my heart.”
“If only I could get you drunk I might be able to bring you to your senses.”
She opened the back door to her garden oasis of native rocks, several potted plants and a faded awning to keep cool, a beautiful garden tilled by a hardened woman. Earl was a mystery to her. She wondered what brought him to the outskirts of civilization. Did he share a story similar to hers of disappointment and lost love or was it something different entirely? As often as she had tried she was never able to get an answer to Earl’s past.
Forty years later Georgina swung on the same old love seat. She patted the wooden bench as an invitation to Earl. “I always thought you and I would grow gray together.” She glanced at him seated alongside noting both were already gray.
Mindlessly rocking the seat back and forth, Earl sipped his drink. He had always enjoyed Georgina’s company and occasional conversation, but now he found himself uncomfortable and imprisoned. He wanted to leave and embark on his journey, but Georgina was too good a woman to make an abrupt escape.
He shifted his gaze out from under the awning. “Look there. You can see the moon. People think the moon can only be seen at night. But it’s always there, just outshone by the sun’s light.”
Georgina pulled back from Earl and studied his face. “Light’s a light regardless if you can always see it.” She lit a cigarette and puffed. “Why are you leaving? What’s out there for you?”
Earl stared straight forward sipping at his Scotch. “I dunno exactly. I just know I don’t belong here.”
“Earl, no one belongs out here. The only things that belong here are the rattlers and the coyotes.”
He looked down at his boots; everything in his life was a puzzle—clues of what he once was. “It’s time for me to go back. They’re not coming for me, so I must find my own way.”
“Who’s not coming for you and where are you going?”
“The place I belong.”
“There aren’t too many places left for old codgers like you—like us,” replied Georgina.
Earl rocked back and forth staring at the Scotch swirling in his shot glass. He could lose himself just looking at his drink, so he set down the glass. He had enough doubts about leaving; he did not appreciate Georgina’s reluctance to cheer him and his journey onward. “They came by last night and left without me,” he explained soberly.
“Who did?” asked Georgina. “The star people you’re always talking about.”
“Don’t talk to me like I’m crazy. I reached out to them. I called to them and they rejected me,” Earl stated and slumped soberly in his seat.
Georgina looked over his khaki coveralls, boots and leather cap. “You’re right Earl. What was I thinking?”
The bell inside the store rang indicating customers. Georgina extinguished her cigarette in a pottery ashtray. “Wait here will you?” She started toward the door. How do I talk sense into a man who’s lost his senses?