— The Drugstore on the Corner

The Drugstore on the Corner (continued)

…the kind of folks who eat breakfast at the corner drugstore, but she wasn’t expecting the fun she was going to have as she walked through the door and saw a couple of old workmates busily sprucing up the store for the day’s business, like Maizy, the tall lean woman over there wearing an apron as she goes about with her dust cloth, tidying up the shelves and displays, or Janice, that always chatty friendly waitress over there behind the lunch counter, pouring coffee for the work crew from City Hall who frequent the place for their breaks, or someone like Rose, who always has a smile on her rosy cheeks and good words for everyone she meets, even the cranks who sometimes are nuts enough to complain about something that a natural human person would never think of complaining about, and over there in front of the grill stands Wanda, that pretty little creature who can cook up in just a couple of minutes a fried egg sandwich you wouldn’t believe, a sandwich you’d remember all day long because she makes it with a handful of chives and a dollop of sour cream, delicately mixed and fried all together with the best sourdough bread you’ve ever tasted, but that wasn’t what Junie came for that day because it was so special, that day that she decided to have a lovely piece of Wanda’s melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake with double-fudge frosting for breakfast, along with a cup or two of the wonderfully aromatic coffee that the best drugstores pour for their customers, and she expected to sit back, savor the moment, josh a bit with her friends, and make it a day that she’d always remember, that special day… but that was about to be quashed by a bunch of little girls, the kind Junie used to be when she grew up in this great little town on the Koshkonong River, so many, many… well maybe not that many years ago… because little girls on summer vacation behave like little girls on summer vacation, dressing up in their best pair of shorts and tee shirts, combing out the curls they set with old socks in their hair the night before after sneaking into Mom’s room to “borrow” a tinge of lipstick, just enough to brighten up their faces, but not enough for Mom to notice and make her remove, and when Junie walked into the drugstore, there they were, over in the corner at the magazine counter, a passel of them giggling as they huddled around the latest copy of Esquire with its glossy photos of young women strung all the way through the pages, little girls knowing that one day they would look like that — maybe if they paid attention to brushing their hair and drinking the milk that produced lovely finger- and toe-nails — and not even looking up as the store manager, Mr. Bruce, approached, stood over them, and uttered an “Ahem” that startled them as well as scattered them momentarily, which caused Junie to smile a bit, remembering her own moments as she walked up to the counter to place her breakfast order, which she managed to do rather quickly since Janice was ever alert to new customers as she quickly placed a cup on the counter and poured the blissfully aromatic first cup of the day for Junie, who smiled knowingly as she told Jan about her special day and special decision for her breakfast meal, which was reacted to with one of Janice’s best smiles and a song that sounded like “This Is Your Day” but came out more like “Homer Jones’ Bones” because her sweet trilling good-morning voice couldn’t carry a tune if she put it in a pail, but Jan had tried and that made Junie even happier as she carried the cup over to the booths to await her chocolate cake with double-fudge frosting, hopeful as she was, however she came to a stop to peruse the situation that she found ahead of her, that was not the blissful day she had planned but a rather peculiar obstacle she must overcome before she could enjoy herself, because what she saw when she approached the booth section of the corner drugstore was a few of those little girls occupying each of the booths provided by the luncheonette section for its customers, one little girl on each side of each table, poring over the menu, looking for something cheap to buy to accompany her soda, as the store had a policy of insisting on customers buying food when they occupied the booths, and the little girls were raptly occupying the booths as they sought to enjoy their first days of summer with daring actions that could set the course for the entire summer, which Junie could understand because she had “been there, done that” herself, and that was when Maizy walked by with her handy dust cloth in hand, sauntering up to each booth and one by one dusting the dividers and the legs of the tables and even the tables themselves with her trusty dusty cloth, action that didn’t perturb the girls at all, even as Maizy looked at Junie and shrugged her shoulders, but that was when Junie decided there was a better way to clear the booths of the interlopers, to send them to a single booth, the counters, or maybe even out of the store, for Mr. Bruce was not keen on them as customers since they usually messed up those expensive Esquire magazines with their grubby fingers and they rimmed his soda glasses with their mothers’ lipstick, with a plan that Junie put into action as she casually walked up to the booth in the back corner and plunked herself down, along with the coffee cup, and asked the girls, “Isn’t this a lovely day to enjoy a cuppa at the corner drugstore?” which met with blank stares of disbelief from the two girls, one of whom was scrunched up between the wall and Junie’s fulsome body, but which brought no remarks from the girls who looked back and forth from each other and to Junie and back again, suddenly drawing attention from the other girls in the other booths who craned their little necks around the sides to see what was going on in the back booth, hearing Junie’s voice as she began to regale the girls about “when I was young…” stories of her misbegotten youth at the very same corner drugstore all those years ago, until with one gigantic motion, as if a whistle had been blown or a siren sounded, the girls, every single one of them — except the poor thing who was caught between Junie and the wall — jumped up, tugged at their tee shirts and shook their curls with a show of disgust and began slowly to walk out of the corner drugstore, causing the little scrunched-up girl to call out in desperation, then slowly slide under the booth table, only once catching her hair on the bubble gum stuck there as she crawled out from the booth, mussing her otherwise cutesy self, and she ran to catch up with her friends, a moment that mercifully coincided with the crew from the drugstore on the corner to march up to Junie who sat smiling at herself in the booth raising her arms in victory and then stretching them out to receive the royal plate of chocolate cake with double-fudge frosting, a victorious moment that caused the crew — Maizy, Janice, Wanda, Rose, and even Mr. Bruce — to belt out a chorus of “Happy Birthday, dear Junie” as she settled back in the booth, raised her fork to direct the choir, then bring it down, plunging it into the lovely chocolate cake with double-fudge frosting and taking her first bite of her new birth year, joining in the last chorus with “Happy Birthday to me!” (1448)