Upstate – a Short Story

The phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but because it was from my father’s area code I decided to answer. It was the hospital. He had had a heart attack.

I drove up north to see him. I was afraid of what I’d find. That town, it grinds you down. My father, he runs a liquor store there. They sell mostly beer and cheap whiskey.

When I saw my father he didn’t even bother to turn and look at me. His stubbled face sat staring at the ceiling as he spoke. He blamed me for my mothers death.

I asked how he was feeling. He said he wanted me to take over the store. I told him I have a life back in the city. He said I have a dog. I told him I wasn’t doing it.

UpstateI’ve been running the store now for five weeks. The worst part about it is not the ugly drunks that come in and spend their son’s lunch money on boos. The worse part is that there’s nothing better than that in this town. Nothing better except Charlotte.

She grew up three houses down from me and every once in a while, from behind the counter I can see her curly black hair driving that red pickup truck through our dull gray town. My waive turns into a reach as I begin to lean into the counter and then she is gone.

My dad loves his new dog. He named my dog Frank and feeds him hot dogs and ketchup. By the time I get back from the store its all I can do to make microwave-able macaroni and cheese.

I sit down to watch the game and just then I hear a knock on the door. Before I could look up from the handle, Charlotte pries her way into my door frame. She’s going on about being chased by some drunk boyfriend. I knew who it was but I played dumb. I told her she could take my car to stay at a hotel. She thanked me and that’s how I lost my dog and my car.