Mayberry is a small town by the sea. It sits peacefully on the east coast and boasts of a founding that occurred 250 years ago. The people are prideful, celebrating each anniversary with parties, parades, and feasts. April 17th is a holiday to all; all businesses are closed and every individual is expected to be at some sort of town event.
Despite appearances though, the town can’t seem to get anything right. Oh they’ve tried, and continued to try despite every set back. Businesses closed, people came and went, buildings burned. There were rumors that the small town was cursed by one of its original inhabitants.
Discussions of the curse were usually frowned upon; there had been no actual evidence of the individual that had set the curse even existing. The story was that Lynn Howard cursed the town shortly after her child died. Lynn Howard wasn’t born ‘Lynn Howard though’; her real name was Dyani Hush, but she was kidnapped and forced to marry one of the settlers. The legend goes, if I remember correctly, that Dyani (or Lynn) was so unhappy after her first child died from an English illness that she not only killed her husband, but set a curse over the entire settlement before taking her own life. The only way to reverse the curse would have been to spill her blood, or a relative’s blood, into the river that splits Mayberry in half.
The only evidence of Dyani’s existence is the Howard family’s possession of a 250 year old drawing they have on a piece of parchment in the basement of their home (which has been rebuilt more than ten times since its original construction due to fire).
Despite this, when things go wrong, Dyani and her curse are blamed.
Grinnings Market had been open for fifty-seven years. Honestly, it was a staple in Mayberry. At least, as far as I was concerned. My family had been going there forever and even once I got my license I found myself there pretty often. Most of their products came from local farms and bakeries scattered around our town and neighboring cities. I thought they were untouchable. Most of us did.
But then the Vaughn Farm went under-AKA the main source of all of their produce. Turns out, Farmer Vaughn had a gambling problem and as a result of his gambling debt he lost the family farm that had been in his family for generations. Grinnings couldn’t afford to buy from anywhere else. They went under and took with them jobs as well as a large customer base for the smaller businesses in the area. (Thankfully Duke & Duke Candies is still doing well).
A grocery store closing doesn’t seem all that bad, but when other things are taken into account, it marks the beginning of the end. People, teenagers that worked there especially, had more free time than before. Their jobs vanished; for some of them it was the only structure in their life. In Mayberry, free time is a dangerous thing.
The first incident occurred shortly after the close.
“I just don’t understand why you have to go.”
Darla tilted her head to the side as she stuffed a few more things into an already overflowing suitcase. Her bedroom-- one that I had first seen painted pink, then tan, and now white-- was suddenly uncomfortably empty. It was as though Darla had never been there-- honestly, as though I had never been there. And that was the part that bothered me the most.
“I have no money, you have no money. Our generation is doomed by the economic status quo. I go where they go.”
By they she of course meant her parents. Dependent was an understatement.
“What about our basement? My parents just finished furnishing it.”
Darla snorted, sitting on one of the many boxes still waiting to be loaded into the moving truck. “We tried that years ago. You got caught bringing sandwiches to me.”
“And my parents thought I was hiding a dog, I know. But I’ve gotten much better at being sneaky, I promise.”
“We both know that’s a lie, but nice try.”
We both laughed and then sat in silence for a moment, looking everywhere, but at each other. The space, though I had known it since Darla moved to Mayberry, had become foreign territory.
It was no longer hers or mine.
“I won’t be that far.”
“Only an hour,” I nodded, clasping my hands together in my lap.
An hour was a really long time by Mayberry standards. Even though Mayberry wasn’t her hometown, she knew that as well as I did.
“I’ll come visit whenever I can.”
I believed her; of course I also believed that I would visit her as well and that the economic problem she mentioned would be fixed before I turned thirty.
Her father had been a manager at Grinnings; he had secured the job shortly after moving to town and now it was gone. They were moving to be closer to her mother’s parents. Darla’s grandmother had bought them a house and her uncle had jobs lined up for both of her parents.
Things would be okay for them; I had hope.
A few days after Darla and her family moved, another moving truck arrived. It was followed by two other vehicles that pulled directly into the driveway instead of idling against the curb out front. I was riding my bike home from the Dunnen Cafe when I saw the group. I paused beneath the tree at the end of my driveway and watched as a mom and dad climbed from the moving vehicle. A boy that looked as though he had just turned eighteen leaned against the blue sedan in the drive, staring at the front door. The boy in the black pick up hadn’t gotten out yet. He was leaning out of the driver’s window- staring up at what was Darla’s home.
“What’s that?” His voice carried easily to me, though he hadn’t even noticed me. He was talking to his parents and pointing to something on the side of the house that I couldn’t see. I leaned my bike against the tree and pretended to be checking the mail, coffee still in hand. My curiosity peaked. There had never been anything on that side of Darla’s house. The kitchen window was there and beneath it I knew was a rose bush that had been planted for Floppy the bunny ten years ago. Nothing out of the ordinary was there, nothing that should capture anyone’s attention.
I was still unnoticed,...Continue Reading