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Thurland Alley sat on his front porch enjoying the deep quiet that had settled in around his town after Labor Day when all the summer complaints packed up and headed south to where they came from. September was finally here.
Thurland would never spoil this special calm with some foolish thing like an iPod since he didn't even own one and had no plans to acquire one. He'd once owned a peapod rowboat, which is nothing like an iPod, but probably as close to an iPod as Thurland would ever get in this lifetime.
It was so quiet Thurland could hear customers talking to each other in the parking lot of the Stop-n-Pay at the corner. He couldn't hear everything but heard enough select nouns, verbs and adjectives to know that the topic was last night's Selectmen's Meeting on the question of where to put a new town boat ramp.
Thurland had just read the write-up in that morning's newspaper about all the shouting, arguing and name-calling that had gone on at the contentious meeting. He was comforted to see that things in town were getting back to normal with his neighbors arguing about important things like boat ramps, instead of fighting with tourists over parking spaces down at the grocery store. But at the same time, Thurland felt just a tad melancholy. He couldn't really explain why.
On this particular morning things were so quiet that he could hear Thelma Beal down the street as she came out of her house and down her steps and across her new crushed stone driveway. There was no mistaking the unique sound of brittle crushed stone being stepped on at 6:40 in the morning.
That driveway had caused a stir in town when it was installed. Folks said she had gotten the idea from those people from New York who had bought the old Nelson place on the Ridge Road in June. The first thing those New Yorkers did was have the Dow Brothers come and replace the long gravel driveway with crushed stone. Then Thelma followed suit. A bit high and mighty, if you asked some of the folks.
Sitting there, Thurland wondered what Thelma was doing heading out so early. Then he remembered that school was back in session and Thelma had a new job at the school and had to be there by seven.
Once Thelma had gotten in her car and started it up and her car had rolled out over the crushed stone everything around Thurland returned to that deep quiet that he had been enjoying. Soon all he heard was the sound of birds in nearby trees. Way off, he could hear a chainsaw.
At some point Thurland realized what was really going on here. Summer was over and Maine was getting back to normal. Days were getting shorter and winter would be here before he knew it and things wouldn't change for many months to come.
It was only then that Thurland figured out what upset him most about this time of year. Despite the deep quiet and despite all the parking places at the supermarket and despite the fact that townspeople had finally gotten back to the neighborly activity of arguing among themselves instead of yelling at people from away, Thurland realized that it would be several months before he would get back to doing what he enjoyed doing more than anything else.
Giving directions to tourists.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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