I’ve been hard at work creating my town of Meadowood cast of characters. My heroine, Merry Gardner, is a homemaker who volunteers her time on food drives and scouting or classroom assistant at the local school. She’s got a curious mind and instinct for what’s happening in her beloved community. Here’s an excerpt from a chapter of Scarecrows and Corpses – you can see Merry getting involved.
Scarecrows & Corpses
“… How are you today, Mr. Cooper? How’s that knee feeling in this cooler weather?”
“Not too bad. Nice of you to ask, Mrs. Gardner.”
“Please, call me Merry. I’ve known you too long to stand on formality.”
He nodded and said, “Best I get back to work before I get sacked.”
“The school couldn’t do without you, Mr. Cooper. You keep things in order around here,” I said.
“Joseph Cooper is such a kind old gentleman,” I reflected, as I entered the washroom to scrub away the finger paint. “He always has a friendly smile and word for the children. Such a shame that a man in his seventies can’t retire with security but is obligated to continue working to make ends meet.”
Mr. Cooper had been employed for thirty years by the Dickson Tire and Rubber plant in nearby Pottstown when the plant declared bankruptcy and closed its doors. He was lucky he could claim retirement, unlike others who were simply shown the gate. Unfortunately, the company slashed pensions by forty percent due to the bankruptcy, leaving their retired employees with only a portion of their promised retirement income. People like Joseph Cooper had to find part-time jobs to make up for the loss of income and struggled to get by in today’s economy. A sad story that was happening all too often.
Meadowood School was lucky to get him. His tall gangly frame and balding head could be spotted sweeping floors or wiping up spills in the hallways and classrooms. The children knew that he always carried mint candies as a treat for them, tucked away in the pockets of his khaki colored work clothes and clamored to gain his attention or hug him hello. In the mornings before the bell rang, he stood outside acting as crossing guard and assumed his sentry post in the afternoon when the dismissal bell sounded. The children loved him and so did the teachers.
As soon as the kindergarten class dismissed for the day at twelve-thirty, I jumped into my mini-van and drove downtown to run errands. I found a parking spot along the curb on Park Avenue, intending to pop into the butcher shop to buy a nice pork roast for Friday’s dinner party. As I walked toward the store, I saw Fred Granger standing in the doorway; he gestured wildly and shook a clenched fist. He appeared to be in a heated altercation with Sam Tilley, the owner of the butcher shop. Their loud voices carried on the wind, but I could only make out snatches of conversation as I neared.
“You heard me!”
“Is that a threat? You’ll be sorry.”
“… the sheriff can decide…”
I watched as Fred stormed down the street and climbed into a battered pickup truck. Sam Tilley slammed the door shut just as I approached; I paused wondering if I should go into the shop or not. He must have seen me through the glass door and waved me to come in.
“Ah, hello Sam. Open for business?” I asked, as I hesitated to step into the empty shop.
“Everything okay?” I inquired.