THROWBACK THURSDAY: Lucille in Line

On Throwback Thursdays we at Literary Labors will feature reprints of previously published blog posts and creative work. This piece of flash fiction first appeared in the February 1, 2015 issue of Indiana Voice Journal.

Lucille in Line

Who is that woman? I know that face from somewhere. Lucille’s eyes narrowed as she stared at the attendant behind the bakery counter. Did we go to school together? It’s got to be at least 40 years since I saw her. The woman had just boxed up a dozen glazed donuts and was making change for the man at the head of the line. Two more people, and then Lucille would place her order. She needed to make up her mind and decide on either the chocolate éclairs or the butter cream cupcakes. But Lucille still couldn’t place the face. What was her name? Sharon? Susan? My but she’s aged. Lucille smiled, happy that she had always taken such good care of herself. Oil of Olay every night and a trip to the beauty salon once a week.

The man with the donuts left and a teenage girl stepped up to ask for an assortment of danish and a lemon meringue pie. As the girl shifted her weight back and forth, Lucille studied the teen’s plump thighs and pursed her lips in disapproval. Well I sure hope that isn’t all for her. That girl could stand to lose a few pounds, if you ask me. The woman behind the counter pushed the pie and pastries across and then handed the credit card receipt to the waiting customer. After saying good-bye, the heavyset girl walked to the door and made her exit, the dainty tinkling of a bell trailing behind. The woman behind the counter pushed a strand of brassy hair behind her ear and smiled at the next customer.

Now, what was her name? It’s right on the tip of my tongue. Lucille thought hard but nothing came to her. Whoever she was, Lucille felt sorry for her. Waiting on people at a bakery wasn’t a job to be proud of. All the girls in her class had married well or gone on to college, so Lucille started to doubt if the woman behind the counter had gone to school with them. The old man in front was chatting up a storm, and Lucille eavesdropped as he went on about his grandchildren and their upcoming trip to the beach. Enjoying the conversation, the woman behind the counter snapped open a white paper bag and used a tong to fill it with cookies. When he left, the old man waved and said “See you next week, Sylvia.”

Sylvia Johnson! That was it. Oh my goodness. It’s all coming back to me now. Lucille suppressed a grin as she stepped forward and placed her order. She had decided on the chocolate éclairs. Sylvia Johnson! She and Sylvia Johnson had been at the same camp one summer when they were ten years old, and they had been inseparable. They loved making fun of the counselors, all of them old maid teachers from the girls’ school over in Holcomb who came to the camp to make a little extra money during their summers off. The dried-up old prunes. Old Camp Hiawatha, way out there, off of Highway 42. They closed that place down 20 years ago after two campers drowned in the lake one night.

As Sylvia used dainty sheets of waxed paper to arrange the éclairs in a flat box, Lucille looked around the bakery. On the wall was a framed restaurant article about the bakery, with Sylvia and a handsome man smiling in the photo. Oh, so Sylvia owns this place. Well, isn’t that nice. Apparently, she has done well for herself. Today was the first day Lucille had come to this place, but she would be coming back. She had always gone down to Main Street, to Hansen’s where they had the best cinnamon swirl coffee cakes, but last month Larry and his wife had boarded the place up and moved to Florida.

Lucille paid and debated whether or not to say anything while waiting for the change. Surely, she will remember me, won’t she? But my, how the years have taken their toll! Lucille was just about to turn and leave when she stopped and fixed her gaze on the woman behind the counter. “Sylvia? Sylvia Johnson?”

“Actually, Johnson was my maiden name.” Sylvia squinted and smiled in a friendly way. “Yes? Do I know you from somewhere?”

Lucille nodded her head and forced a tight-lipped smile. “Yes, I believe you do. Do you remember Camp Hiawatha?”

The other woman’s eyes lit up. “Camp Hiawatha? Do I know you from Camp Hiawatha?” She narrowed her gaze and studied Lucille for a moment. “Oh dear, I don’t recall your name, but your face is very familiar. Were you one of the counselors?”

— David Dominé

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