Authors: Jim Power
THE END OF THE LINE
Sweet Cravings Publishing
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Sweet Cravings Publishing Book
The End of the Line
Copyright © 2013 Jim Power
E-book ISBN: 978-1-61885-949-5
First E-book Publication: October 2013
Cover design by Dawné Dominique
Edited by Sue Toth
Proofread by Laurie White
All cover art and logo copyright © 2013
by Sweet Cravings Publishing
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THE END OF THE LINE
Copyright © 2013
yawned, stretched, then walked across the room and folded back the curtain. It
was still dim outside, eerily quiet, and only a few scattered cars headed
toward Halifax. Other than that, as always, everything was ordinary and still
in the small rural community of Beechwood, Nova Scotia. She leaned against the
window frame and looked across the road at the century-old Beechwood Baptist
Church. The first rays of dawn gleamed on the frosty red shingles and reflected
off the chipped silver bell, a bell that had rung every Sunday through the
Great Depression and the two world wars. She heard her cat scratching at the
on, Oprah,” she whispered.
put on a long blue dress and gathered it at the waist with a wide yellow belt.
Though her coal black, shoulder-length hair was braided in tight dreadlocks,
she secured it with a red and yellow handkerchief resplendent with African
designs. Walking barefoot, she quietly tiptoed into the kitchen and saw her cat
waiting, looking up with expectation.
do your business, Oprah,” Latesha whispered, opening the back door.
quickly ran down the back steps. Latesha quietly closed the door and took a box
of Shredded Wheat out of the cupboard. She felt like eating three biscuits but
took only two. As she sat at the table, rubbing her bare feet together, she
gazed at the framed family picture on the wall. In it she was four years old and
dressed like a princess, complete with the long pink gown, plastic tiara and
magic wand. She was smiling happily with a large gap between her front teeth,
while Mr. and Mrs. Thomas stood behind her, leaning forward with their hands on
her shoulders, a look of joy and pride in their eyes.
miss you, Mom,” she muttered with tears in her eyes.
moment later she heard scratching at the door. Latesha opened it and Oprah
scooted past her, leaping onto the couch and licking her paws. She closed her
eyes and purred, a look of intense pleasure on her face. Latesha put a box of
Cheerios on the table and, as if she had done it a thousand times, laid out a
bowl and spoon, then gathered her father’s medications from the cupboard.
glanced at the clock, hurriedly brushed her teeth, and walked down the hall to
her father’s door. Next to it were framed pictures of Malcolm X and sprinters
Tommie Smith and John Carlos showing the black power salute at the 1968 Olympic
Games. Across the hall, fixed to the bathroom door, was a large sign that read—
Latesha said softly, lightly tapping the door, “you have to get up for your
came the sleepy, raspy reply.
your cereal first and then take the pills.”
forget that you have to take two of the blue ones.”
know, honey,” he said with a sigh. “I’ve been doing that for three months.”
forget,” she said sharply, like a mother telling her young son to be careful on
his bicycle. “And don’t forget to let Oprah out at ten and two.”
do,” Mr. Thomas said.
you when I get home, Dad.”
walked down the steps and waved to Oprah as she passed the window. There was a
definite chill in the air, the first hint of another frigid winter, and Latesha
breathed in deeply with childlike exuberance, then exhaled and watched the
steam from her breath fade away in the crisp morning air. She waved to Mrs.
Hill, who was feeding her chickens on the front lawn, and proceeded past the
Beechwood Community Center and the Beechwood General Store. A minute later she
stopped near the bridge and saw the transit bus coming around the corner.
she waited, Latesha looked across the road at a small parking area. Beyond it,
twenty paces into the woods, was a little shack. The structure had not seen
paint in a generation and was obscured by huge beech trees. Its roof sagged,
the windows were broken, and rotten boards lie scattered on the ground. A faded
sign hanging crookedly from a tree read: “The End of the Line.”
bus stopped with a loud braking sound and the door opened to a new male driver.
“Good morning,” he said in the way a man does when impressed by the woman
standing before him.
morning,” Latesha answered shyly.
deposited her coins, then walked to the middle of the bus and sat down. At the
back were two teenage boys, one sporting a Mohawk and the other with his hair
dyed blue. They were surrounded by people with glum looks, from middle-aged
women in housecleaning uniforms, to big men wearing plaid and carrying silver
lunch boxes. At the next stop a young white woman boarded and sat next to
Latesha. She was carrying a brochure from the university.
year?” Latesha asked.
answered the woman with an overwhelmed look. “I’m a little nervous. First day
jitters, I guess.”
won’t have any trouble.”
you go to university?”
are you taking?”
I’ll earn my teaching degree this year.”
good,” the woman replied enthusiastically. “I’m going to major in chemistry,
and I hope to do some teaching, too. Maybe we’ll end up at the same school.”
would be nice.”
other woman smiled, then put on a pair of oversized headphones and turned on
her iPod. Latesha could hear the song,
, by The Verve. She bit her lip and turned slightly away, opening
her carrying bag and extracting three letters.
was from the university, informing her that she was paid in full for the first
term, but could leave the program at any time within the next five days for a
full refund. The letter also noted the cost of her second term. She looked it
over, then opened her bank book and saw that her balance was substantially
short of that amount. The second two letters were both addressed to her father.
One was from the insurance company and stated that the policy renewal depended
on Mr. Thomas fixing problems discovered during the home inspection done
several weeks earlier. The required upgrades included new shingles and roof
repairs, the replacement of some faulty wiring, and some masonry work on the
chimney. He was given six weeks to complete the repairs. The other letter was a
tax bill from the municipality. Latesha knew her father had saved for the
taxes, but was still three hundred dollars short.
took out a pen and paper, and wrote,
in—Mrs. Henry, tutoring, $90 per week. Money Out—Groceries, $80 per week.
Transportation, $20 per week. Need to buy books
. Latesha sighed and also
Need to help Dad with taxes,
maintenance, insurance, prescriptions
rubbed her forehead, looked up, and then gathered her things. The bus passed
the stadium and the rink, slowed in front of the concert hall, and stopped near
the library. Latesha wished the chemistry student good luck and exited the bus
just as she had done hundreds of times.
black men her age, both wearing leather jackets, stared at her. “I’d look good
on that,” said the taller one, his eyes gleaming.
glared at him and walked past. They continued talking behind her back, but she
hurried around a corner and everything settled into familiar regularity.
Freshmen were huddled in groups to discuss their courses and professors, people
scurried about in all directions, and lovers sat on the rock wall. Latesha
hardly noticed any of them as she walked to the Student Union Building,
sunlight flickering on it through the changing leaves of towering maples. She
stopped at a bulletin board covered in tattered papers, took a homemade poster
from her bag, and taped it next to a similar poster advertising a Shakespearean
play. At the top of the bulletin board was a notice regarding a talent show on
the fifteenth of September. Anyone could enter and first prize was two hundred
dollars. Latesha jotted down the information and then sat on a wooden bench,
laying her carrying bag on the seat beside her.
leaned back, took
Romeo and Juliet
of her purse, and was just about to start reading when a white man in his
mid-twenties suddenly walked around the corner. Tall and blond, he was
strikingly handsome, the kind of man who stands out in any crowd. Much to her
surprise, Latesha did a double take. She was instantly captivated by the
stranger and could feel his presence as if an electric field was emanating off
his body. Though she had never before been attracted to a white man, Latesha
thought he was the nicest-looking man she had ever seen. He was athletic and
muscular, but he also had a gentlemanly gait, and his beautiful blue eyes
seemed to ignite something long dormant in her soul.
stared at him for a split second and the man smiled. It was a smile like none
she had ever seen. He had perfect teeth and his whole face lit up. His smile
was disarming; it made her feel at ease, but she quickly turned away. Hoping he
would soon pass, Latesha resumed reading the tragedy. She would not look at him
again. He was just a ship passing in the night. The man’s mobile phone rang and
he abruptly stopped. Latesha surreptitiously peeked at him as he stood sideways
at the north side of the Student Union Building,” he told the caller, unaware
that Latesha was studying his every move. “Yes, I can wait.” He put away the phone
and unexpectedly turned to Latesha. “May I sit here, please?”
glanced at him, making eye contact for a fleeting moment. She wanted to tell
him he was not welcome, but instead she moved the bag, laying it at her feet.
The man thanked her and sat down. He seemed agitated, as if he wanted to speak
to her, but she made it obvious that she was absorbed in her book. He seemed on
the verge of talking, yet said nothing. Latesha sensed his desire to converse,
but leaned away and stared hard at the book.
man suddenly noticed the poster Latesha had just taped to the bulletin board.
He stood up and started reading it. Latesha pretended to be engrossed in the
book, but she secretly watched him, searching his face for any kind of
couple minutes later a university employee approached. “Hey, Peter!” he called.
at this, Ron,” Peter returned, gesturing at Latesha’s poster with its clip art
picture of a man in a tuxedo and a woman in a red dress. “It’s what you were
talking about the other day.”
read the ad. “Forevermore Matchmaking Service,” he said. “That’s perfect. They
could find you a date.”
wouldn’t need any help finding a date, Latesha thought as she stole another
look at the man with movie star good looks.
don’t think so,” Peter said flatly. “It’s always a disaster.”
because you leave too much to chance, old buddy.” Ron pointed at the ad. “These
guys are real pros. Look at this. Twenty-four years experience. Specially
programmed supercomputer. Team of experts.”
on!” Ron encouraged. “The perfect woman could be closer than you think.” Ron
read the text in its entirety. “Apparently they take calls between six and nine
every evening, Monday to Friday.” He nodded. “Go for it.”
casually glanced back at Latesha, saw that she was preoccupied by her book,
then turned to Ron and lowered his voice. “I don’t think so.”
took out a notepad and pen and wrote down the contact information. He tore out
the page and stuffed it into Peter’s pocket. “Call tonight. Ask for Latesha.”
she heard her name, Latesha felt a thrill of excitement.
me,” Ron insisted.
right,” Peter surrendered. “I’ll call when I get home.”
Ron asked skeptically.
promise,” Peter said with a smirk. Then he laughed. “You make it sound like
this Latesha woman holds a magic key for me.”
got to get out more, buddy. Live a little. Have some fun. Take a chance once in
phone tonight,” Peter assured his friend. He suddenly seemed to recall
something. “Oh, did you remember to register us for the talent show?”
Ron said. He looked at his watch. “Today is the third, so that gives us twelve
days to work on our song. I’ve already got commitments from the boys. If we
win, we split the money evenly.”
wouldn’t be spending it yet,” Peter said, laughing. “If they don’t throw
tomatoes at us, it’ll be a success.”
listened to every word the men spoke and begrudgingly smiled at Peter’s
modesty. She could tell he was the kind of man who was good at everything, but
also someone with a self-effacing charm.
women would think you’re a catch, she thought, sneaking another peek at him.
No doubt about that.
and Ron talked for a couple more minutes then turned to walk toward the
library. Latesha flipped the page of her book, but spontaneously watched the
white man, her gaze on his long golden locks and broad shoulders. He unexpectedly
turned back and looked at her. Their eyes met for a brief instant, but she cast
him a cold glance. It was really quite malicious. He looked surprised and
Latesha quickly turned away. When she looked back a moment later, he was
walking around the corner with his friend.
put up more posters for her matchmaking service and then went to her morning
classes. Near noon she walked toward the cafeteria, where she found an old,
emaciated white man in ragged clothes sitting on a curb with a garbage bag at
his side. He had a dirty, gray beard, was balding on top, and his few remaining
teeth were yellow and rotten.