Miracle Giver – Chapter 1
by Paul L. Bailey
Copyright 2014 – All Rights Reserved
Hazel knew the town by heart. When she encountered the occasional visitor, she would say, “There are four key businesses; Sam’s Grocery, Wisteria Hardware, Cartwright Gas and Laundry and Lily’s Bake Shop. I shop with Lily and have a conversation with Mr. Sam Brockton each morning.”
Hazel arrived at the bake shop and went inside. “Good morning, Miss Hazel,” Lily Kingman said. Her smile did not quite reach her eyes. There was a dab of flour on the left side of her face.
“Good day, Dear. Did you know that Arizona has more Indian lands than any other state?”
Lily cocked her head. “No, Miss Hazel, I didn’t realize that.”
“Fine, Dear. You know I always like to share bits of trivia. By the way, do you have my favorite doughnuts today?”
Hazel appeared to be the quintessential great grandmother in every way. She insisted on speaking to at least two town merchants and four townspeople every day.
“Of course, Miss Hazel,” Lily said. “I have your two cherry doughnuts right here. We bring in the cherries fresh each week just for you. Did you want tea or milk with them this morning?”
“Tea please,” Hazel accepted the tea and one doughnut on a saucer and took a seat at one of the four overstuffed white chairs to enjoy her morning treat. Her second doughnut was safely wrapped in a take-home bag.
Hazel asked, “Is there any news in town, Lily?”
The question was part of a long observed and repeated conversation between the two women. On an ordinary day, Hazel would have asked and Lily would have replied, “Nothing’s ever new in Wisteria.”
When Hazel finished her morning treats, she would have said, “Thank the good Lord for small favors to smaller towns. I despise change. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The two women would have exchanged a half hug and Hazel would have left the bakeshop and headed toward her second stop of the day at Sam’s Grocery.
This was not an ordinary day.
“A new store is opening up where the old theatre used to be,” Lily said.
Hazel looked shocked enough for Lily to be concerned. “Would you like to sit down for awhile, Miss Hazel?”
“No, I suppose I should go and see what kind of trouble is coming now.”
“It’s just a new store.”
Hazel shook her head, forgot about her tea, took her doughnuts, and left the store. She spotted the change in the old theatre building the moment it came into view. For years a sign had declared, “We’ll always have Paris.” The sign was gone now, as was the aged and yellowing photo of Humphrey Bogart. In its place was a brand new sign, which read, “Trading Post.”
“A Trading Post. My oh my, who in this small town would ever frequent such a place?”
No one heard her question. The town was silent. A large portion of the population were in the place they always were at this hour of the day: Christ Church.
Hazel thought of the church group and remembered what they had done to her. She looked with new pride at the Trading Post. The owner may not know it yet, but he or she had joined the group most town residents called “sinners” simply by not being at attendance at Christ Church this morning. Hazel knew the oversight would not be forgotten.
She stopped, turned around and stared at the one-time theatre. A square box office was in the center of the entryway. Its windows were dusty and what had once been beautiful wood molding was now bleached by the sun and cracking. Portions of the front sign were missing. The place was a mess. By contrast, the new sign shone in its simplicity.
“Too bad,” Hazel said. “The carpenter used a beautiful piece of wood, but the sun here will bring it to ruin in no time at all.”
She walked toward the entryway and found a dark brown door propped open with a large rock. She peaked inside. The cavernous room was empty. The walls that had once separated the foyer from the main theatre were gone and in the center of the room a brand new set of walls had been erected. She took a few more steps and stopped to have a look around.
“May I help you?”
Hazel jumped in surprise at the sound of a man’s voice. She turned to look but saw no one. Then, he stepped out of the new room and pulled the door closed behind him.
He was tall, thin and wearing an old fashioned Victorian three piece suit. It looked as if it might have when it was brand new. Hazel looked him over and he smiled at her. She held tightly to her walker and was about to ask his name when he spoke again.
“Welcome to the Trading Post. If memory serves me correctly, you are Hazel Holtein,” he said.
“How do you know my name?” The question had come unbidden. She seldom spoke with such a tone. She scolded herself for her lack of manners.
“Shall we say I did my homework before relocating here? Allow me to I apologize. Your friends call you Miss Hazel, is that correct? I am Lucient Welkin. You may call me Lou, if you like. I assure you, I will take no affront. I have been called much worse.”
“Did your homework, did you, Mr. Welkin? Did you know that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard were married in Kingman, Arizona?” she asked.
“Yes, Miss Hazel, I did know. It was March 18, 1939, right?”
Hazel stared at the man for a moment. “You’re quite right. I suppose you have done your homework.”
“Alright, Miss Hazel. You may call me Mr. Welkin if you insist.”
“How did you know what I was thinking?”
Welkin laughed. It was a pleasant sound. He waved a hand and as if by magic the empty room was filled with interesting trinkets and historical items.
Hazel’s mind churned. Was it my imagination? Perhaps those things were here all along. My mind skips a beat from time to time.
“Please. Take a look around. If you find something you like, I accept only trades, and I’ll trade for almost anything. Give no thought to perceived monetary value, Miss Hazel. That simply isn’t the way I operate.”
Hazel was ready to leave when she spotted something she hadn’t seen since childhood. It was a white wooden riding horse with a black square patch over its eyes. Its tail was made of real horsehair and it had a red leather bridle. Four round peg legs were mounted onto a red platform that rolled on wooden wheels. A small red seat was mounted on the horse’s back.
“Is that…?” She asked.
“Why, yes, it is a wheel horse. Made by Fischer-Price in 1934 or 1935,” he said.
“My youngest sister had one just like it when she was a toddler,” she said.
“Perhaps you’d like to trade for it?” He sounded hopeful.
“No, no, I don’t have a use for it anymore. I’m too old, now.”
“Perhaps you would prefer to trade for something else?” Welkin’s arms spread to show the wide array of items in the store. “Or perhaps, there’s something that cannot be so easily displayed that you would favor?”
“If it were possible, I would trade these weak old legs for a new set,” she said with a smile.
“Would you now? Well, let’s see what we can do. Come with me, Miss Hazel. I’ve a room for special trades.”
“You are teasing me,” Hazel said. “I do not suspect that you are a miracle worker.”
“I assure you I am not teasing, Miss Hazel. Come with me into my special room. You have nothing to lose. Tell me, if it were possible for you to have stronger legs, what would you trade for them?”
“I’d trade this walker and never look back, but we both know that’s impossible,” she said.
Welkin shook his head. “I don’t believe in the impossible, Miss Hazel.” He led Hazel to the closed wooden door of the brand new room. She took a deep breath and prepared to step inside.