A text comes through at 6:35. It is Swifty. “Dad, what are you doing for breakfast?” “I dunno.”
“Lets go to the Peterborough diner.” For those not in the (603) 924-XXXX area, its one of those shiny old rail cars joints with lots of choices on the menu, paneled veneer walls, lots of stainless steel and a counter with slick vinyl covered stools. There are booths too. Some times when the light is just right that it takes on the look of an Edward Hopper painting. And you can get right into that mood.
But it isn’t like that today. As usual, its morning so at least one of us is full of beans. That one would be my boy Swifty.
We peruse the menu. The waitress comes over. We order.
After a few minutes of Swifty talking about the cool tree work projects he is working on, “dad, dad, dad, you should have seen it, it was so amazing, I had this tree rigged up so it would fall just so and it just slipped into the chipper like nothin’. The machine was barely working…, and it was such a transformation on the land … and I made up 2 cords of firewood in an hour.. yep, that’s the way to do it…”
Our breakfast comes.
The conversation shifts to my blog. “dad, dad, dad, you really need to go negative on some of these places” “I can’t do that, I don’t want to go there” then I add “but I was in a convenience store a few days ago that was really something. You should have seen it. It was a big place on the side of a main NH highway. It was raining hard and I walked in and shook off. There was no other person in the store except the cashier. There were no cars in the parking lot. I was thinking of some tea and snack crackers. I looked around. The store was a bit of a jumble and the lighting was flickering fluorescent in the front of the store and almost no light in the back. I could hear a leak in the roof dripping at a quick drip, drip, drip pace with drops smacking on some laid out loose plastic sheet on the floor. It felt like a zombie movie or post disaster.
One wall was entirely cheap wine. MD 20 20, Red Rooster, boxed stuff. It stretched back it the darkness like it was reaching the vanishing point. I searched around for snack crackers. Nothing. I saw a few cans of Dinty Moore Stew and some Brillow Pads. There were no potato chips in bags. In this food desert, this was the Empty Quarter. I did finally find some Sour Cream and Onion Pringles and some crappy off brand ice tea. I was reasonably sure the canned chips would be ok even if they were old. They probably were. Pringles have so much oddball artificial stuff in them they would be fine. But it was shocking to be in a place like this and have to search for a snack. Then, I went to check out. Around the cashier was a rack of lottery tickets, a rack of cigarettes, and laid out in front of him like someone had come in with a bucket and tipped it out were a bunch of colorful shiny cheap pocket knives. While the store flickered with dim fluorescent light there was a bit more light shining on these knives. I had to think that this store was in a last gasp effort to be open. But I won’t say where this place is, maybe it was a dream– every where can’t be the Dublin General or the Harrisville Store the two best kinds do country stores around. It’s the spectrum of the quality of these places that makes things interesting. It’s the fabric of the countryside.”
Swifty says, “yeah right, dad.” And we gobble up our breakfast while the weather lady on the big TV on the dinner wall tells about spring coming to New Hampshire. And outside the sun is shining on a forsythia, all bright yellow.