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I was back home the other day and a couple from away drove up and asked me for directions. “That's easy,” I found myself saying, “you want to take that right where Tink Billings' used car lot used to be.” Now, these people, having never set foot in town before, had no idea who Tink Billings is, and so they'd have less than no idea - whatever that comes out to - of where Tink's used car lot used to be.
Tink liked to wheel and deal. One time he traded a 1953 Chevy Power-Glide to Doc Thomson the dentist for a full set of upper and lower false teeth. Tink loved that beautiful Chevy and hated the thought of parting with it, but he needed the teeth more so he made the trade. I don't know where those teeth are today, but Doc Thomson sold the car to a neighbor who drove it for years until the engine died and was removed, sunk in the cove and used for a boat mooring. The rest of the car sat in the neighbor's dooryard and was stripped for parts until - 10 or 15 years later - there was hardly a bolt, a belt or a clamp left.
Before Tink's used cars came along, there was a small candy and ice cream store on the lot, run by a couple named Shoemaker. They had thick German accents so some in town thought they were spies but nobody knew for sure. Even if they were spies most figured they couldn't do too much spying from that shop where they spent most all of their time.
In summer I'd go to the shop with my sister to buy ice cream cones. Sometimes I'd order a vanilla cone just to hear Mrs. Shoemaker say “Vun Wha-nella, coming up.”
Once we got our cones, we'd go outside and around back where the Shoemakers had a flock of chickens in a pen. We'd eat our cones and stare through the fence at those chickens while the chickens stared back. Even today I think of those chickens whenever I have an ice cream cone.
One night there was a suspicious fire in the shop, and the building burned to the ground. The chickens survived and before the Shoemakers moved away they sold the chickens and the lot to Harold Hupper who eventually sold it to Tink who hauled a trailer onto the lot for an office and opened the used car business that I still find myself referring to in my directions to people from away. Hope they made it to wherever it was they were going.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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