Short story

The Fading Corner

Author: Alberto Furlan

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

Jamie and I, we ruled that corner when we were kids. Sure, the adults let us believe it, but we thought we were kings of the entire neighbourhood, selling sweets from the warehouse at a discount. We could see folks come up all the way from the bottom of the hill, and we’d be there with a glass of water, free of course, and some candy – that was 25 cents. Weren’t many that said no.

One day, we was doing the count of the candy that was left, and I thought I got it wrong. Did we sell old man Milligan three or four sweets? What about Miss Charles?

Jamie spoke up: “Buck, I’m pretty sure we sold Milligan two pieces of candy.”

“You sure?”

At that moment Milligan came ambling ’round the corner, on the long way down the hill to his fishing boat. “I bought four sweets son, and don’t let that son of a preacher tell you otherwise.” He walked on down. He was always making crazy comments like that to anyone who’d listen.

The count didn’t add up. Who had sold the candy to Milligan? It’d been Jamie.

“You cheating me out of half a dollar, blondie?” I said to my friend, half joking half not. I didn’t want him to think I was taking this too seriously, but not too lightly either.

“You callin’ me a cheater, shortstuff?” Jamie replied. I guess he did take it too seriously. I could tell from the way he moved towards me, hunched up his shoulders an’ clenched his fist.

“I asked you, I didn’t call you nothin’. Where’s the other dollar from Milligan’s sweets then?”

“I ain’t got it.”

“Well then who does?”

“I have half a mind you do, shortstuff” Jamie said, giving me a nudge on the shoulder.

Now, I do not take well to physical intimidation. Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m a little on the short side, I feel I need to make up for it. I shoved him back.

I saw the fist coming, but I didn’t do nothing to stop it. I took it on the cheek and threw one right back, aimed straight and true for the ribs like Pop taught me. I was bleeding, Jamie was weezing and all the money was on the floor. We punched each other a few more times. Some of the adults were laughing, others came to try break us apart. I remember seeing one adult pick up two bills from the floor. I learnt a lot about people that day. Jamie and I, we didn’t speak so much after that. Still don’t.

“Where’d you get that scar?” Julie asked me. Good Lord she was a pretty girl, her blonde curls down to her shoulders like a creek in the sunshine. You could see her smile from across the street for how bright it was.

“Funny you should ask that, it happened right here.” I’d promised her father to get her home by 10pm. We were just coming up to the corner where Jamie and I had our fight.

“You know Jamie Grant?”

“The son of the preacher up in Whitchurch?”

“That’s the one. Him and I used to be buddies, we’d come here and sell candy we’d get for a discount down the warehouse on the dock. Anyway, one day he tried to cheat me out of some money. We’d sold some candy to the old man, Milligan, remember him?”

“I think I remember his smell more than the person!”

“Yeah, that was Milligan alright. Anyway, he bought four sweets from Jamie, showed ’em to me. Jamie told me he bought two and kept half the money. I called him out on it and we got in a bit of a scruff. Haven’t spoken to him much since then.”

I got Julie home right on time, maybe even a little bit early that night. Her Pop seemed to like that

“Hey daddy! What you looking at the pavement for?”

Lil’ Jonas, he was tugging on my sleeve. We were just going down to the sweet store on the harbour, and it’d been a while since I had the time to come down here, what with work and the new baby and all.

“I was just… thinking about things happened here a long while back Jonas” I said, grabbing his hand again. I began the walk downtown, nice sunny day like this, its a good time to share stories with the kids.

“What were you thinking about Pop?”

“You know that Jamie Grant? Guy who mom pointed out on the television?”

“The guy who shouts at the president? In the calitol?”

“It’s the capitol. And yes, that’s the one. D’you believe I once had a fight with that guy on this street corner?”

“No way! What did you fight about? Were you hurt?”

“Naw, I wasn’t hurt. He was a friend, I didn’t want to punch him. But he tried to steal a dollar that belonged to me.”

“Did you fight over a dollar daddy?”

“Well son, back then a dollar used to getcha lot more than it does now. I’ll show you all the candy we could buy at the store with one dollar. But it wasn’t the dollar, it was the principle.”

“The prince-pal?”

“The principle, Jonas. I’ll explain it to you someday.”

I walked down the road soaking the sunshine, happy to be there with my son. No amount of money or success could make me want to be anywhere else. I went back to the garage the next day, as I had for years, my head a little taller.

“You saying you don’t believe me Steve?”

I was talking to my grandkid, his scruffy brown hair framing his sharp eyes.

“I know President Grant is from this town granps. I just can’t quite believe you two used to sell candy here together. Comeon, that’s a big fat lie!”

“Don’t you tell me what’s a lie and what ain’t! I remember what I did, how things were, how much of a scoundrel Grant was back then.”

I was shakin my walking stick at the corner, that fading corner in my mind, where the fight had taken place. I could no longer say I remembered it like it was yesterday.

I couldn’t remember how Grant had stolen the money – did he sell more sweets than he told me? Or did he change the price? Anyway, I knew it was a dollar that he owed me, that was clear. And when I said he stole from me, he punched me right in the face, no warning. So I hit him back.

“I told your grandma that story the night we went out on our first date” I smiled at Steve. His eyes lit up. He loved to hear stories about grandma almost as much as grandma loved him. When our baby Jonas, Steve’s father, died, he found comfort in her arms.

“And I would never lie to her. That’s how it happened, straight and true.”

We walked on, down to the candy store down by the harbour. I could see Steve was getting impatient now, and my eyes… well, they weren’t so dry anymore. The name of the store down the way had changed, but the old sign atop of it was still visible, fading like this corner of my town, like this corner of my memory. “Grant’s Candy store.”

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