written by James Rada, Jr.

2: Age Old Issues

Stacy Lawrence and her 12-year-old son, Peter, climbed out of the tow truck when it stopped in front of the Super 8 Hotel. They waved to Jack, the driver, who had a friendly smile on his face as he drove away.

Stacy put her arm around her son’s shoulders and said, “Looks like this will be home for a few days.”

Peter shrugged. “It doesn’t look bad.”

It seemed all he needed nowadays was wi-fi to stay connected to his games that he played on his phone or tablet.

Stacy had to agree about the hotel, though. Even though they were next to a highway, it didn’t seem busy or loud. They walked inside the lobby. Stacy paid for a room through Monday morning when she hoped that her car would be repaired, and she could move on.

 “Is there a bus stop nearby?” Stacy asked as she signed the registration card for the room.

The older woman behind the counter laughed. “No need for one. You might find someone who does Uber near here, but I wouldn’t count on it. No need for it. You can pretty much walk from one end of town to the other in an hour if you don’t have a car.”

Their hotel room was on the back side of the building. It was clean and quiet. Stacy flopped back onto one of the queen beds, enjoying the softness of the mattress. It helped ease some of the tension of the day from her body.

They had driven north from Gaithersburg looking for a new life somewhere it was affordable to live and where she could find a job. They hadn’t even gotten out of Maryland before her old car had broken down. Now they were stranded in Thurmont over the weekend.

Peter had the television remote in his hand. He scrolled through the channels available, looking for familiar ones.

“Can we get something to eat?” Peter asked. “I’m hungry.”

Now that her son mentioned it, Stacy realized she was also hungry. Food was one more expense they would have to manage. Between the hotel costs and repair costs, she wouldn’t have a lot of money left to get settled somewhere. They needed to eat, though, especially Peter. He always seemed hungry.

They left their room and found a pizza restaurant at the top of the hill. The aroma of freshly cooked pizza wafted from the kitchen, filling the dining room with a delicious scent that made Stacy’s stomach growl the moment she walked in the door. They ordered a medium Chicago-style pepperoni pizza. Then they found a booth to sit in.

Bobby Hennessey, an older man with some gray hairs, walked into the pizza restaurant and waved at the other patrons. He greeted a couple sitting in a booth and clapped the man on the back. He waved to a family eating at a table, and they waved. Then he saw Stacy and Bobby waved. Stacy and Peter followed him with their eyes as he made his way to their table.

Bobby had helped Stacy and Peter when their car broke down on Catoctin Mountain. He was older than Stacy, although she couldn’t say how much older. He moved like a young man, but his hair had some gray hairs mixed in with his dark brown hair. He also had a lean body with wide shoulders and not the man body Stacy expected to see with older men. His face showed some lines, but she couldn’t tell whether it was because of age, working outside, or from a lifetime of smiling and laughter.

“Did you get checked into the hotel?” Bobby asked.

“Yes, it seems like a nice place.”

“You’ll love it. I promise. What did you order?”

“Chicago-style pepperoni.”

“Good choice.”

Stacy hesitated, then asked, “Would you like to join us? It’s the least I can do for you for helping us.”

Bobby smiled and nodded. “Well, that’s mighty kind of you. Thank you.”

Bobby slid in next to Peter.

“So, have you considered what you’ll do this weekend?” Bobby asked.

“Not really, but whatever we do, we’ll have to walk.”

Bobby shrugged. “Not a problem.” He then rattled off some sites in town that were within a mile or two of the hotel. It was a surprising number of things for a small town.

The waitress brought the pizza and drinks out. Bobby ordered himself a diet cola. Not surprisingly, he knew the waitress. The pepperoni pizza was cheesy, with a tangy tomato sauce and crispy crust.

When she left, Stacy said, “You seem to know everyone here.”

“Small town, and like I told you earlier, I’ve lived here all my life.”

“It looks like a nice town from the little I’ve seen.”

Bobby nodded. “It is. It is. Hopefully, you’ll see for yourself this weekend.”

“You really like it here.”

“Why would I live someplace I didn’t like?”

Stacy had. She had hated the noise and traffic in Gaithersburg. And the crime! She had watched three teens walk into a Wal-Mart, throw as many items as they could into a bag, and then run out of the store without worry they would be stopped.

“I’ve been asking myself that question lately,” she said.

“Where do you live?” Bobby asked.

“We’re… in transition. We were living in Gaithersburg, but we’re heading into Pennsylvania to find someplace new. I was thinking Lancaster.”

She didn’t know much about the city, other than that’s where the Amish were. She figured it had to be a nicer place to live. Amish wouldn’t run into stores on shoplifting sprees.

“You like cities?” Bobby asked.

Stacy shrugged. “I like where I can afford to live and find a job.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I am… was a veterinary technician.”

“Large or small animals?” Bobby asked. Then he bit into his slice of pizza.

“Mostly small pets, although occasionally the vet had to work on horses.”

Bobby swallowed the pizza and smiled. “Not too many farm animals in Gaithersburg. We have a good veterinarian in town, but I don’t think they’re hiring.”

“I’m not looking for a job here.”

“Why not? You said you were looking for something new, and you said you think Thurmont is a nice town, which I can attest to.”

Stacy hesitated. He was right. She had wanted to get away from the bustle of Gaithersburg and Jack, her ex and Peter’s father. Of course, that didn’t stop him from dropping in unannounced when he needed money. She should have said “no,” but Peter loved his father. He got to see Jack so infrequently that Stacy was loath to turn him away when he showed up. And if she was being honest, Stacy enjoyed his visits. Jack could be charming when he wanted, and he brought excitement to her otherwise day-in, day-out life.

“How old are you?” Peter asked Bobby unexpectedly.

Stacy stared at the man, wondering about that herself. Bobby was older than her, but by how many years? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Wow! Could he be twice her age?

Bobby grinned and said, “I’m old enough to know better, as they say.”

“That’s not an answer,” Peter said.

Bobby shrugged. “Well, what does your mother say when you ask her how old she is?”

Peter glanced at her and smiled. “She says she’s old enough to be my mother.”

Bobby chuckled. “Well, there you go.”

“That’s no answer either. She is my mother, so she has to be old enough.”

“Then let’s say I’m old enough to have seen a man on the moon. I still have record albums, which is nice since they are popular again, and I remember what a rotary dial phone is.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “So you’re old.”

“It depends on who’s asking. You think I’m old. My daddy thought I was young up until the day he died. What do you think, Stacy?”

“I think you could teach women a thing or two about avoiding saying their age.”

“And how old are you?”

Stacy hesitated and looked between the two of them. “I’m old enough to be his mother.”

*Read what happens next in our February 2024 issue*  

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