Another Day in a small New York town

It's 5:30, and time for Shelly's second smoke break. She pushes open the kitchen's back door, stands by the dumpster, and lights her Chesterfield. It's been a rough day, but its nearly over. The sun is setting, and she watches the traffic drive by. The dumpsters smells are overpowering, but she doesn't mind. It's been three hours since her last break, and she intends to use every minute of it out here, in the sun.

She looks around, pondering the passing cars. There's not many today, only twelve so far. She often counts the cars that pass through her small New York town, but only on her smoke breaks. Twelve isn't very many. Three less than yesterday.

With no cars to count, she soon turns her attention elsewhere. A hundred yards down the road, the green sign catches her eye. Wilmer, New York, the sign tells her. Population: 1900. Wilmer, she thinks, has never been a good name for a town.

The wind picks up, and her cigarette smoke is blown into her face. There hasn't been another car for nearly five minutes. This shouldn't surprise her. Wilmer is dying. Slowly. It doesn't know it's dying yet. The businesses are leaving, the factories shutting down. The people are moving away. She knows it. The owners of the restaurant know it. Even that asshole shoe salesman who owns the corner store knows it.

She thinks back on the years, back to when she was younger. Back when she didn't take smoke breaks, and when her blue blouse wasn't stained by the air of the diner. She had dreams, back then. She did. She'd be an actress, a singer. She'd be a household name. Shelly. She would be gorgeous, she would be fabulous. Not a waitress in a dying New York town.

But that was a long time ago, and those dreams had been dead for years. A baby she had never wanted had been the cause of that. And when He left her after the news, that was ok, too. She didn't need Him. She didn't need anybody. All she needed was a cigarette and a dozen cars to count as they drove by.

The sun sets lower on the horizon. It's almost time to go back inside, back to the heat and the grease and noise and the truckers who stare when they think you're not looking. It's time to go in, she thinks, and knows she should. Instead, she stares at the orange sun, puffs on her cigarette, and wonders those two words that have haunted her all these years.

What if?

It's just another day in a small New York town.

Uploaded 02/05/2011
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