I served my apprenticeship at the A&P. The butcher came to me one day and told me that his bacon-stretchers had broken and he sent me to Garrison’s grocery to borrow theirs. The Garrison’s butcher said his were in the shop and sent me to Nolen’s Grocery. Nolen’s butcher sent me to Harry Harder’s store, and Harry swore that our butcher already had his.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
On Saturdays, most of the day was bagging groceries and carrying them to people’s cars. However, there was a lady, call her Madame X, who came walking to the store. She had a little cart, and her groceries went into the cart.
Her life had stopped one day, though she went on.
She was elderly, and wore a black dress, and a long black coat from the 30s. Her hat was large, with a veil, from the same era. She was the owner of a clothing store that, fully stocked and doing business, had been closed one day in the 30’s. The window displays remained exactly as they were, the counters inside displaying the same stylish fashions of the 30’s. Just no people, after that particular day.
As far as I know, she left her house, a once-grand two-story home on a quarter-block, only on Saturday. Summer, Winter made no difference in her clothing. Once a week to buy groceries.
She could have driven instead of walked, but the new Packard locked in her garage — you could see it through the dusty window — had not been moved since that day.
The house had seen no paint nor maintenance. The grasses were never cut.
One day, the store was opened up, and townfolk went in and purchased things. From whom, I now wonder. I bought a pair of those pants that end beneath your knees. I had the oportunity to wear them years later when I drove a Morgan Motor Car. These pants, aside from being thirty years dusty, were new.
The woman eventually died. I was grown and lived far away. A friend still living near, hearing the news, spoke to the attorney in charge, claiming that he had an interest in purchasing the property. He smooth-talked his way to see the inside of that house. We knew of no person who had set foot inside during all those years.
He said that the kitchen, the bath, and the woman’s bedroom were the only rooms showing habitation. All others had a thick coating of dust, and nothing in those rooms had been touched for many years. A single trail ran between the bedroom, kitchen, and bath.
Meals had been made from cans, apparently. The bathroom, dishevelled. In her bedroom, everything was spotless. There was her bed, there was a radio. The clothes in the closet, all from the 30’s, were identical, black. On a bureau of drawers, there was a japanese doll in a glass case.
Here’s what happened:
Once upon the time, this woman was young. She had inherited the store and the house, but she herself was interested in society, in going to dances and parties. She often drove the Packard to Wichita Falls, and even to Dallas. She had met a nice boy, a society boy, and it was announced that they would marry.
But something went wrong. The marriage was called off.
She put on black. She garaged the Packard. She laid-off all the store employees, and closed the doors. She went into her house, and, in one sense, she never came out again.
One Fall day, a Saturday — I no longer worked at the grocery store — I loitered in our back yard. I saw her walking on the next street over, in her long black coat and hat, with her cart. That day I had been reading the book ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker; it was spooky.
I thought, as I watched her walking, how like a ghost she seemed.