The name of the town isn’t really relevant, it’s like many towns in America. It is a just tiny sprawl of residential urban-ness, claiming a spot in otherwise rugged rural environment. It had the necessities of any town, the community church, the mom and pop convenience store, and the mom and pop grocery store. In fact it had a mom and pop everything. This was unavoidable due to the size of the community. But the greatest source of civic pride came from the one corporate thing in the whole city.
The acquisition of the “golden arches” was a celebrated coup in the town. The little under the table agreement made between the town solicitor and the corporate representative was talked about for months, the way a political scandal, or the acquisition of another town’s pro sports team would be discussed in a larger city.
This is where the story begins.
Paul Tommins, lanky frame cast a tall thin shadow on the gray cement of the fast food place’s parking lot. It was quarter to seven in the morning and he had just exited, tall Styrofoam cup of orange juice and hash browns in his dirty hands. He had washed them just minutes before in the restaurant bathroom, though not too effectively.
He sat down on the curb and looked up the road at the most dominant building in town, the county courthouse. He felt it was out of place, being in such close proximity to a cheesy commercialized edifice of corporate America. But then again, what was America but cheesy commercialism? Maybe it made sense.
He continued looking in that direction, the direction he knew his friend would be coming in. His friend was on his way to work, Paul was going home from his own job, feeling good knowing that the epic war he was waging with the outfield of the town’s Little League baseball field would not have another battle until next week.
The baseball field tended to grow faster than he could mow it down, and if he let it go too long the grass would brush up high against his ankles, suffocating his feet. The town actually was like the field in a way, suffocating its members. The powers of town society greatly outweighed the powers of its actual size and Paul was getting tired of it. How long can a person stay sane, without anything changing, he thought. Maybe, since he was a member of the community, he was helping to suffocate himself.
He often wondered what people thought about his home town while passing through it on their way to bigger and better places. Maybe they would say, “How nice and quaint.” Or comment about the beauty of the natural surroundings. But they would pass through forgetting quickly about any of it. They had better things to do.
Paul rose, tired of waiting, and started walking toward his home, figuring he would see his friend on the way. The warmth of world around him hugged him already at this early hour. A sure sign of the hot day that was before him. The summer had been hellish thus far and it seemed quite content to stay that way.
As he walked off the main road and down an older country one, the smooth pavement became much more rough, with the odd piece of gravel lying about to step on. He looked to the right, and saw the blackened reminsnces of a burned-out barn.
On the side of the barn Catskill Farming Co. was still legible and the logo of a farmer working in what appeared to be a corn field was burned around the edges. The barn had been that way his whole life. The fire that damaged the barn occurring twenty years before his birth. He knew the story though. His grandfather was fond of telling it before his death, and Paul thought about it as he walked by.
The story, or at least the version of the story Paul retained, was an eclectic mash of things he had heard from different people. It was about a conglomerate.
In the late fifties, when his town was more of a farming and mining town that it is now, five farmers got together to form a company. Being the era of McCarthyism, a veil of suspicion was cast over their “communal” business dealings. This terrified the townspeople, and scared them into action. Although to hear his grandfather tell the story.(His grandfather being somewhat impartial since he wasn’t a farmer) The other farmers of the area were more concerned about being put out of business by the larger and more successful operation.
Meetings were held in the church by other farmers to discuss the situation, and tempers flared. Some thought they should turn the others in to the authorities for being communists. However that idea never came to fruition. Several months later the situation came to a head when the new barn (the burn out thing Paul was still staring at) was built.
The beautiful new structure was built near one of the company’s farms and also near another independent farm. Disputes about the boundary of the two farms followed, and early one August morning the building caught fire. The fire department was called, but no one came until an hour later, allowing the barn to burn enough that it was useless to repair it.
Soon afterward, the company disbanded and the farmers moved away due to the pressure of the towns- people. The grand new symbol of the company was destroyed and it seemed logical that the company would follow suit. However, one farmer, Samuel Johnson, refused to move, and he remains a paranoid hermit in his own home.
“How depressing,” thought Paul. In the grand scheme of things how important was one barn in a small town? How important was anything in this town?
He continued on his way home, the heat increasing around him.
Along the path he saw the home of Samuel Johnson, and his body was compelled toward it, as if he had no control over his extremities. He sat down in the grass of Johnson’s front lawn, thinking to himself for several minutes.
He then stood up and reached into his pocket, retrieving the two items in it, a pen and a rubber band. The pen was used for writing in his time arrived and time finished on the sheet in the maintenance shed in the park, and the rubber band was used to hold down the clutch on the broken lawnmower.
Paul ripped open the card board container that once held his breakfast. He then wrote a message on it with the pen. Using the rubber band, he affixed the cardboard the message was on to a rock lying in a pile under a tree. With a mighty heave, us threw it through the an upstairs window, smashing it.
He then saw a light turn on in reaction to the noise. He waited a full minute, long enough he figured, for Johnson to see him before he started running away. Paul didn’t care if he caught him, because in the end, if it wasn’t Johnson or somebody else, it would be he who caught himself.