By Timothy C. Jost
We used to rest our bikes along the picket fence,
amid the black-eyed susans and the pink-edged roses.
Our legs, happy to be off the bikes, in welcomed respite,
reoriented themselves to terra firma
now that we were landlubbers.
We unsnapped our helmets with a click
and hung them on the handlebars.
We peeled off our gloves,
reached down to grab our water bottles for a pre-snack sip,
fished around in our bike bags or our jersey pockets
for that cash we stowed away for this occasion.
This was the destination we all relished.
This was a special place.
Then we’d hobble on our cleats
cross the red brick walkway
and up those well-worn wooden steps,
four-foot wide that gestured “Welcome!”
Four to six steps, perhaps? I never counted.
But steps that were old and magical,
the gateway to another world.
We ascended those steps to the covered porch.
On the right tiny bistro tables with their wire chairs.
On the left that rectangular wood-grained formica table
with its booth-bench seating.
You’d step forward to open the old screen door,
held together with screws and turnbuckles,
always wondering if you’d be pulling it off the hinges.
Cautiously swinging it to the side,
you now were greeted by the old wooden door.
It stood there, humble, solid, yet very light
with its beveled plate glass window and wooden panels,
considerably weathered over all these years.
Its lightness of weight defied its appearance.
Perhaps the many years had sucked away its marrow.
You reached for the doorknob.
Not just any doorknob.
You wrapped your hand around an antique metal knob,
long-tarnished over the decades.
Once in your hand, it felt older than the hills surrounding us.
You stepped through the doorway and you stepped back in time.
Wide plank floorboards worn bare of any paint generations ago,
high ceiling cloaked in pressed tin tiles.
lingering aromas of fresh-brewed coffee,
made-to-order sandwiches, and the ethereal muskiness of aged wood.
A built-in bookcase commanded half the wall on the right,
filled with all sorts of knick-knacks,
local crafts for sale, and historic memorabilia.
Next to the shelves were a couple of glass-door stand-up coolers
but they seemed out of place and out of time –
modern appliances superimposed on a space
that was built before electricity.
On the left was the service counter
that ran the entire length of the room.
The only surface that wasn’t occupied
was the small space next to the old cash register,
a space to place the goods that you were buying.
That counter may have been there for a century or more,
as well as the blackboards on the wall behind it
announcing the ‘Specials of the Day’.
Sunlight ducked under porch roof gingerbread
and filtered through the large glass windows
providing light to the front of the store,
maintaining a calm subdued ambience,
a peaceful, restful feel.
And those almond cookies!
Housed in a glass bell jar,
they were a precious treat,
and anyone who ever tried them was hooked for life.
We’d take our drinks, or coffee, or treats, back out on the porch.
We shared stories, fellowship, and laughs.
We savored the experience.
We returned ride after ride, year after year,
to this special place we loved.
One winter night, I open an email with photos attached.
I look in disbelief!
Flames engulf Peacock’s Country Store.
My heart is seared.
It’s been there since the 1800’s.
I’d never thought about the possibility of its demise.
Suddenly it was ripped from the lives of all who loved her.
A few days later, more photos –
Wisps of smoke still rise from smoldering rubble.
There’s talk of rebuilding.
I can’t even listen to any details.
Timothy C. Jost is a curious naturalist, writer, and educator. Holds M.Ed in Creative Thinking and Problem Solving. Writes poetry, essay, nonfiction, memoir, and children’s. Focus in nature appreciation, psychology of fear, personal effectiveness, and social evolution. Avid cyclist and gardener. Enjoys spiraling down rabbit holes of research and etymology.