Misty, Water-Colored

by Tom Swift

Today is 7-11. When I wrote those numbers at the top of a fresh page in my notebook this morning I heard the sound they made in my mind and my mind sent me back to a day more summers ago than I care to count when we rode our bikes what seemed like a really long way from home but which was probably about 10 blocks so that we could get a Slurpee at 7-Eleven. I am recalling not a usual act but a specific day when buddies around our age had the idea and, surprisingly, I was allowed to go that far. I recall one of their older brothers showed up, too, and I think he could drive a car by then, not just a dirt bike like us suburban scrappers, and he bought a Big Gulp — a soda poured into a container that in my memory was as large as a tub of popcorn at the Apache movie theater. And not the small tub of popcorn, either.

The closer convenience store — the one that was not the seeming day trip of 7-Eleven — was called Brooks. I remember the name because there was a girl in school named Brooks and I was almost as sweet on her (though I would have denied it to your face had you asked me at the time) as I was on the dental-destroying slabs of hard, bright, colored candy I bought at Brooks when I was given the money to go. Another memory just joined this collage of crazy scenes and this one is especially hazy: did one of us steal from Brooks? Was the one of us in question me? As a kid, I was very much the good boy. I did not engage in even the most of the usual adolescent misbehaviors. If I thieved something, it was extremely rare. My conscience would have been weighed down as though I carried rather than road my bike. Thinking … I don’t think I did. I think a buddy did. This was almost as bad.

In any event, Brooks the store did not remain open long and, more sadly, Brooks the girl went away even sooner than my last placed memory of being in the store. Her family moved out of the district before we reached middle school.

If I am not mistaken, the Brooks clan moved because her father got a new job. I remember sweet-talker me once asking the comely and bright brunette Ms. Brooks on the school bus whether her father worked at the store where I got my slabs of candy. I mean given the name of the store. I recall when she told me “no” that she did so without taking the very real opportunity she had at that moment to laugh at me.