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A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

6: A Job Offer

Bobby Hennessey and Peter Lawrence entered the bustling Thurmont tavern, their boots tapping against the wooden floorboards. The warm, inviting scent of freshly cooked food filled the air, mingling with the sound of glasses clinking and people chatting. Behind the bar stood Stacy, Peter’s mother. She smiled a wide smile when she spotted them and made her way over.

“What brings you two in here this evening?” she asked.

“Dinner and discussion,” Bobby replied, taking a seat at the bar.

Stacy raised an eyebrow playfully. “Oh? What’s on the menu for conversation tonight?”

“A Cherry Sprite for me,” Bobby ordered confidently.

Peter cleared his throat and straightened his back, trying to look more mature than his years. “I’ll have a beer,” he said confidently. Stacy raised an eyebrow at him, causing him to quickly add, “Root beer!” before bursting into laughter.

“Always the jokester,” Bobby remarked with an eye roll. “He’s been working on that one all the way down the mountain.”

Stacy shook her head with a fond smile and went to fetch their drinks. As she returned, she asked, “So what’s the discussion going to be about?”

“Do you enjoy working here?” Bobby asked earnestly.

“I’m grateful for the job and Kevin treats us well,” Stacy responded. Kevin Poland was the owner of the tavern and the building it occupied.

Bobby nodded thoughtfully. “Kevin’s a great guy, and he runs a friendly business, but do you truly enjoy your work? People have jobs they do for necessity and jobs they do because they love it. For example, Peter loves working on the farm while I… not so much. I mostly do it to remember my parents.”

Stacy ruffled her son’s unruly brown hair affectionately and smiled at him. “I’m glad he loves it.”

Bobby chuckled. “So, is this your ‘Bobby’ job or your ‘Peter’ job?”

Stacy shrugged, thinking. “I guess it’s my Bobby job. I don’t mind it, but it’s not my passion or what I see myself doing for years. Why are you asking?”

“You did a fantastic job with Hershey last week,” Bobby complimented her.

“How is he doing, by the way?” Stacy asked with concern.

“He’s fine,” Peter assured her. “But you were in your element helping him. You had complete control of the situation.”

“I told you I was a vet tech in Gaithersburg and grew up on a farm,” Stacy said modestly, though a hint of pride shone through.

Bobby’s face lit up with a smile, his eyes sparkling with excitement. “Oh, I remember. That’s why I have an offer for you.” He leaned in closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. “I want you to come manage and work my farm. Turn it into something more than it is.”

Stacy’s heart skipped a beat as she processed Bobby’s words. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had left Gaithersburg for a chance to start anew, but she hadn’t imagined that chance would be on a farm. It sounded like a dream.

“There’s even a charming cottage on the back end of the property where you and Pete can live,” Bobby added with a knowing grin.

Stacy turned to look at her son, who was beaming and nodding in agreement.

“Is this another one of your jokes?” Stacy asked incredulously, looking back at Bobby.

He shook his head earnestly. “No, it’s a serious offer.”

Stacy stepped back from the bar in disbelief, her mind racing with all the possibilities that this new opportunity presented.

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” she admitted.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t,” Bobby reassured her.

“And I can help you, Mom,” Peter chimed in eagerly.

Stacy hadn’t even thought about that aspect: being able to spend more time with her son while also pursuing a new endeavor. Ever since they moved from Gaithersburg, she had wanted a fresh start for both of them… together. But with her job at the tavern taking up most of her time, they hadn’t been able to truly bond like she had hoped.

She turned to look at Peter, his excitement infectious.

“What would you need me to do?” she asked Bobby, curiosity getting the better of her.

“Just take care of the animals and the property,” he replied. “Start getting it generating some income, even if it’s just by selling eggs at the farmer’s market in town. And maybe we could also board a few more horses or sell some crops. I am open to any ideas you might have.”

“That sounds like a lot,” Stacy pointed out, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the responsibility.

“You can take it one step at a time,” Bobby reassured her. “I just want to see the place productive again. I’ll help out whenever I can, but farming and ranching aren’t exactly my strengths.”

Stacy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This offer seemed too good to be true. “Why are you doing this? Really?” she asked, searching for any ulterior motives.

“Just like I said,” Bobby replied with a genuine smile. “I’ve owned this place for years and could have done this a long time ago, but I think it’s meant for someone like you to bring it back to life. I could have taken care of things on my own, but having Pete around showed me that having help could give me some much-needed free time.” He rested his hand on Peter’s shoulder, a gesture of appreciation and pride. “And let me tell you, this one is a hard worker.” Bobby’s tone was filled with admiration.

Stacy watched the exchange between the man and boy, wondering what kind of bond they had formed since Peter had started working for Bobby. What stories did they share? What lessons had they learned together? She couldn’t help but feel a sense of curiosity and admiration for their relationship.

“By the way,” Bobby continued, “my hard-working years are past. I want to enjoy things now.”

“You talk like you’re dying,” Stacy blurted out before she could stop herself.

Bobby chuckled, a deep rumble in his chest. “Aren’t we all?” He paused, his expression turning serious. “But no, I’m not. I just want to savor my remaining years. That’s part of the reason why I worked so hard all the years up until now.” His voice held a tinge of regret, but also a sense of fulfillment.

Stacy couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for assuming the worst about Bobby’s health. What was she to think? He was older than her, but he didn’t look old enough to be worrying about dying. Besides, she felt a sense of warmth towards him, knowing that he wanted to enjoy his later years after all the hard work he had put in.

“So,” Bobby turned back to her with a smile, “are you interested?”

Stacy looked back and forth between Bobby and Peter, feeling a sense of gratitude for their offer. “Okay,” she said with a grateful smile.

written by James Rada, Jr.

5: Helping Out

Peter Lawrence seemed to mature before his mother’s eyes, and she wasn’t sure if she was proud that he was growing into a fine man or sad that he was losing his childhood.

Stacy Lawrence had reluctantly given her son permission to work part-time on Bobby Hennessey’s farm. So far, Peter said he was enjoying the work, and Bobby had promised Stacy not to overwork the 12-year-old. Each day, Bobby would pick up Peter and drop him off, and for a few hours in between, Peter would take care of the animals and complete odd jobs around the farm–nothing too physically demanding.

Despite this, Stacy couldn’t shake off the guilt she felt. She would have loved to see her son out skateboarding with friends at the Thurmont Skatepark. Peter had chosen to help out on the farm after seeing how much Stacy was struggling financially. It was both heartwarming and bittersweet to see her son take on such responsibility at such a young age.

When she looked at her son, she saw glimpses of Jack, her ex-husband and Peter’s father. They shared the same unruly brown hair that never seemed to lay straight and bright green eyes that shone with kindness. But what really made them look alike was their smiles—wide open and friendly.

Thankfully, Peter had inherited his mother’s strong work ethic. He didn’t shy away from hard work and always gave it his all. With such dedication, it was no surprise that he proudly handed over most of his weekly pay to Stacy. And even though she knew they needed the money, she couldn’t bring herself to spend it. Taking Bobby’s advice, she opened a savings account in Peter’s name at PNC Bank. One day, he would have a nice nest egg thanks to his own efforts – and knowing Peter, she had no doubt he would use it wisely.

In the quiet moments while she tended the bar, Stacy’s thoughts often drifted to her son. She couldn’t help but miss his presence, even if he spent most of their time together, hunched over his tablet while she worked. Thankfully, Bobby was more than willing to match Peter’s days off with hers, so they could still enjoy some quality time together.

One day, after finishing work early, Stacy swung by Bobby’s farm to pick up Peter and save Bobby a trip. As she pulled up, she saw Peter feeding the animals and Bobby sitting under a tree with his easel and paints.

Curiosity getting the better of her, Stacy approached him and peered over his shoulder at his current creation.

“Not bad,” she said.

Bobby smiled warmly. “You’re kind. I enjoy doing it, though. I find it relaxing.”

“What do you do with them once you finish?”

“Half the time I just paint over them again.”

“And the other half?”

“When you go into the barn, you’ll see them hanging for the horses to enjoy.”

Stacy chuckled at the thought of a horse staring at Bobby’s paintings.

Putting his brush in a jar of water, Bobby stood up. “Would you like a glass of iced tea?”

She nodded, and they walked over to the house and the back deck. Bobby motioned to a cozy patio chair with a worn but comfortable cushion, inviting Stacy to have a seat.

“Have a seat, and I’ll bring out the tea.”

Stacy settled into the chair and took in the view of the farm. It wasn’t sprawling, but it had its own charm, with two rustic barns and a large fenced arena. She couldn’t help but feel relaxed as she sat and gazed out at the peaceful property. In the distance, she spotted Peter pushing an empty wheelbarrow into one of the barns before disappearing inside.

When Bobby returned with a tray carrying a pitcher of tea and two glasses, he joined her at the table. He set it down on the table between them and poured each of them a glass before taking a seat next to her.

“You really have a lovely farm,” Stacy remarked.

“Thank you, but it’s too much for me, really.”

“Then why not sell it?”

“I grew up here. I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories of my parents here. If I sold it, I would feel like I’m losing a part of myself. That’s probably why I have no interest in leaving Thurmont. Everywhere I turn, there are buildings, parks, houses that hold special meaning for me because of the memories attached to them.”

“I’ve never lived in a place like that.”

“Too bad.”

“Maybe, but can you miss something you never had?”

“Maybe not, but you can yearn for something you’ve only dreamed of having. In some ways, that can be even harder because it’s an ideal rather than a reality.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Peter jogging out of one of the barns.

“Bobby, I think you should take a look at Hershey,” the boy said.

“What’s wrong?”

“He’s been acting strange. I’m worried he might be sick or something.”

Bobby and Stacy quickly got up and followed Peter into the barn. “You named a stallion Hershey?” Stacy couldn’t help but ask.

“He reminded me of milk chocolate,” Bobby explained with a fond smile as they approached the stall where Hershey was housed.

Bobby’s four horses were housed in a spacious, rustic barn, with each stall adorned with fresh hay and a clean watering trough. Peter stood at the stall of a large, chocolate-colored stallion, its muscles rippling under its glossy coat. The horse kept shaking his head and biting at his flanks, clearly agitated and uncomfortable. Despite Peter’s attempts to soothe him with calming words and food, the stallion showed no interest.

Stacy entered the stall with cautious steps, her experienced hands lightly running along the stallion’s side. He nipped at her hand, but she quickly pulled it away. She noticed Peter hadn’t yet changed the bedding in the stall, which appeared crushed and dirty.

“I think he may have a mild case of colic,” she said to Bobby.

“What should we do?” he asked, concern etched on his face.

“Let me take him out to the arena and walk him for a while,” Stacy suggested. “Movement can sometimes help with mild cases. In the meantime, Peter should clean out the stall and remove any remaining food. A sick horse shouldn’t be eating.”

With a halter in hand, Stacy led Hershey out of the barn. The horse was hesitant at first, but with gentle words and slight tugs on the halter, he reluctantly followed her lead. As they walked around the arena, Stacy explained to Bobby how walking can help relieve gas and stimulate bowel movements in horses experiencing colic.

“Do you have any experience with this?” Bobby asked.

“I’ve dealt with it before,” Stacy replied. “But I’m not a trained vet, so if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to call one out here.”

“You seem pretty knowledgeable.”

“I’ve been around horses my whole life,” Stacy shrugged modestly. “But I wouldn’t want to risk your horse’s health.”

“I trust you,” Bobby said sincerely.

As they continued their slow laps around the arena, they talked about their pasts. Stacy was surprised to learn that Bobby had been married, but tragically, his wife and daughter had passed away in a car accident several years ago.

“Doesn’t it taint your memories of the town?” she asked sympathetically.

Bobby shook his head. “No. The town helps me remember them. They’re buried in a small family cemetery back behind the barns. Sometimes it makes me sad to visit their graves because of the memories associated with their gravestones, but you have to take the good with the bad.”

Bobby came to a sudden stop, waving his hand in front of his face as if trying to ward off an invisible attacker. “Now that’s a something I can do without.” Hershey had let out a belch of gas, the putrid odor hanging heavily in the air. “Smells like a dead skunk that’s been left out in the sun for a week.”

Stacy couldn’t help but laugh at Bobby’s pained expression. “Like you said, you have to take the good with the bad.”

She paused and ran her hands over Hershey’s belly, relieved when he didn’t snap at her. “I think he’ll be fine. Let’s walk him a little longer and see if he gets rid of anything else.”

“If he does, I might just lose my lunch.” Bobby grimaced as they continued their stroll.

They walked for another 10 minutes before Stacy led Hershey back to his empty stall. “Leave it empty for tonight, no bedding or food. Just to be safe and make sure everything is okay. If his manure is soft or watery in the morning, then we’ll take him to get checked out. But he should be fine.”

“Thank you,” Bobby said gratefully. “I really appreciate you helping Hershey and potentially saving me a vet bill… or even losing my horse.”

“I’m just glad I was here to help,” Stacy replied sincerely.

“I want to pay you.”

Bobby reached for his wallet, but Stacy quickly placed a hand on his arm. “Don’t you dare. You’ve already been so kind to me and Peter. This is the least I can do.”

“Well…” He thought for a moment before an idea struck him. “At least let me order us some pizza, and we can have dinner on the back porch?”

Stacy smiled, nodding in agreement. “That sounds lovely.”

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

4: A Hard-Workin’ Man

Stacy Lawrence liked life in Thurmont, mainly because there was little drama. The worst that she had to deal with was the occasional bar Romeo trying to pick her up while she was working. So far, they had all taken “no” for an answer.

She was surprised she needed this slower pace of life. It gave her a chance to take a deep breath, regroup, and rebuild her life. Having her car break down on Catoctin Mountain might be the best thing to happen to her since she divorced Jack, Peter’s father. She hadn’t even bothered to tell Jack that she and Peter were moving. He hadn’t paid any alimony or child support, so she didn’t feel she owed him anything.

Peter was making new friends. He had been thrilled to discover Thurmont had a skateboard park that was close enough to their apartment that he could go on his own.

Stacy finished her work closing the tavern, locked up the place, and went upstairs to her apartment. She had stopped in earlier during her break to make dinner for Peter and put him to bed, so the place was quiet and dark when she entered.

She turned on a lamp next to an old armchair and sat down. She soaked in the quiet. She enjoyed her job, but it was noisy. After work, she just wanted to get off her feet and enjoy the quiet. She picked up a novel by Sherryl Woods and started reading until she fell asleep.

She woke the next morning and saw Peter watching television and eating cereal. “Good morning, kiddo,” she said, wiping the sleep from her eyes.

“Hi, Mom.”

“I’m going to the library for some new books today. Do you want to come along?” she asked.

She was off today and tomorrow, and she planned to enjoy it.

“Can I get some DVDs?”

“I suppose so.”


It was a sunny day, so the walk to the library was pleasant, and Stacy was happy to be spending time with Peter. She was working so many hours that she didn’t get to see him much, and when she did, it tended to be in the apartment or the tavern.

At the library, Peter hurried off to the DVDs while Stacy strolled through the stacks, looking for something that caught her eye. As she walked by one of the large windows that looked out on a back porch, she heard a trio of musicians playing music.

She walked out onto the porch to listen. About a dozen people were gathered around, sitting in chairs.

“They’re pretty good, aren’t they?”

Stacy looked over her shoulder and saw Bobby Hennessey, the older man who had helped her when her car broke down on Catoctin Mountain. He had also given her a good recommendation to Kevin at the tavern to help her get her job.

She smiled at him. “I’m surprised. I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet.”

“Technically, these people aren’t in the library.” He paused. “How’s the new job?”

“Busy, but I like it. The tips are good, and I can use all the money I can earn right now.”

“Why’s that? It’s a lot cheaper to live here than in Montgomery County.”

Stacy nodded. “It is, but I have a lot of debt that Peter’s father left me with.”

“Doesn’t he pay support or alimony?”

Stacy snorted. “He’s supposed to, but you have to be working to do that. So, I’m having to work 50 hours a week. It helps that I can live above the tavern. It makes it easier for me to watch over Peter.”

“Watch over? When I was a kid, I’d come home from school, do my homework, and disappear until dark with my friends. Sometimes, my mom didn’t even know where I was.”

Stacy put her hands on her hips. “When was that? The 60s?”

He pointed to himself. “I guess I’m doing pretty good for a dinosaur.”

“I didn’t mean it that way; although, you never did tell me your age.”

“And don’t think I will now.”

“You can’t be that old.”

Bobby shrugged.

A man walked by and clapped Bobby on the back. The man had thin, white hair and a full beard and mustache. He wore a baseball cap that read: Vietnam Veteran. “Haven’t seen you at the legion lately.”

“I was there two nights ago, Mack,” Bobby told him.

“Well, I wasn’t there.”

“I know. Why do you think I went then?” Mack laughed. “Mack, this is Stacy Lawrence. She’s new in town.”

Mack turned to Stacy and smiled. “How do you do, young lady?” It had been a while since she’d been called young, and even longer since she felt it. If this man was a Vietnam Veteran, he must be in his 70s.

“Nice to meet you,” Stacy replied.

“What brings you to Thurmont?”

“I was looking for a new start, and Bobby convinced me to give this place a try.”

Mack nodded. “Yeah, he got out for a while, but now that he’s back, he’s our best advertisement for the place.” The musicians started playing a new song. Mack turned back to Bobby. “I’ve got to go, but stop by and see me.”

Bobby nodded. Mack left and Stacy said, “Does everyone in town know you?”

He shrugged. “Maybe not everyone. I think the kindergartners at the primary school haven’t had the pleasure yet.”


Two days later, Peter came in from playing at Community Park, excited. “Mom…Mom, Bobby offered me a job.”

“What? Who?”

“Bobby. You know, the man who helped us on the mountain. He asked me if I wanted to help him on his farm.”

Stacy laid down the clothes she was folding, trying to take in what Peter had just told her.

“You’re too young to have a job.” He was only 12.

“No, I’m not. Besides, he said it wouldn’t be too much. I can help you now, so you don’t have to work so much.”

Stacy hugged her son. “That’s sweet, Peter, but I don’t know. I think Bobby was just being nice.”

“Please, mom. Bobby said it wouldn’t be too hard, but I had to ask your permission. He’s in the tavern waiting to hear what you say.”

This was all coming at Stacy so quickly that she could barely take it in.          

She went downstairs and saw Bobby talking with a couple at one of the tables. When he saw her, he excused himself and walked over to her.

“I can’t tell if you are mad,” he said.

“I’m not mad, but why would you offer my son a job?”

“He asked.”

“Peter asked you for a job?”

Bobby shrugged. “Well, he asked me for a recommendation like I gave you because he wanted to help out, so you weren’t working so much. I admire his enthusiasm, but he’s not likely to find work at his age, so I offered. I have plenty of odd jobs around the place that a boy his age can do.”

Stacy shook her head. Peter wanted to work to help her. She also didn’t want to discourage his initiative, but she wasn’t sure it was the best thing for him.

“I can’t be running him up the mountain every day, even if I wanted him working,” she said.

Bobby grinned. “No worry there. I can pick him up and bring him home.”


“I grew up on a farm, but I never had to run one. There’s a lot that needs doing, and honestly, there are other things I’d rather do.”

Stacy nodded. “I know. I spent my summers with my grandparents in Western Maryland, helping them on their farm when I was growing up.”

Maybe that was why she was enjoying Thurmont. It reminded her of her summers in Western Maryland.

“I never took you as a country girl,” Bobby said.

“I’m not anymore, but it is the reason I like animals.”

Bobby nodded, but said nothing.

Stacy sighed. “Fine, we’ll see how it goes.”

Bobby put a hand on her shoulder. “It will be good for him.”

“I hope so. I don’t want him to grow up like his father.”

Stacy looked over toward the kitchen and saw Peter standing, waiting. She nodded. He cheered.


Peter took well to his new job. He was tired some evenings when Bobby dropped him off, but he never complained. From Peter’s description, Bobby had him doing odd jobs around the farm. If he didn’t know how to do them, Bobby showed him how and watched him until he got it right. Most of them were just basic chores. Peter said he enjoyed feeding the animals the best because he got to spend time with them, and they appreciated him more since he was feeding them.

After his first week as a working man, Bobby brought Peter home, and the boy came into the apartment with a smile on his face. He handed Stacy an envelope filled with money.

“That’s my first week’s pay, minus $20,” Peter said. “I want you to have it. I want to help out, so you don’t have to work so much.”

Stacy looked over at Bobby. “He earned it all. He’s a hard worker and a quick learner.”

Peter smiled at the compliment. Stacy did, too, as she passed the envelope back to Peter. “I can’t take this. Like Bobby said, you earned it. It’s yours.”

“But I want to help,” Peter said, with a bit of pleading in his voice.

“Uh, Stacy, can I ask you something over here, please?” Bobby said.

“Right now?”

Bobby nodded. She walked over and he whispered, “He’s been excited about giving that money to you since day one. It’s the reason he took the job.”

“I can’t take his money, though. It wouldn’t be right.”

“You’ll hurt his feelings if you don’t,” Bobby warned her. “He’s stepping up. He said since he’s the man of the house, he’s doing what he can. If you won’t take it, it will discourage him. Take it. Open the boy a savings account for when he gets older and wants a car or needs money for college. You don’t need to tell him that, though.”

Stacy looked at Bobby, then Peter. She couldn’t believe that her baby was growing up. She walked over and swept him into her arms and hugged him tightly as she cried.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: Job Hunting

Saturday morning, Stacy Lawrence slowly woke from her slumber, feeling disoriented and unsure of her surroundings. She looked at the ceiling and then at the nightstand. She didn’t recognize them. With a jolt, she remembered that she and her son, Peter, were holed up in Thurmont for the weekend while their car underwent repairs.

With a heavy sigh, Stacy relaxed back into the pillows, but then realized that she had no plans for the day ahead. Apartment hunting in Pennsylvania had been on her agenda, but the unexpected car trouble had derailed those plans. She mentally scolded herself for not having a backup plan.

She got up and went through her morning routine, the hot water from the shower soothing her tense muscles. As she dressed, she glanced over at Peter, still sleeping soundly. He would probably be content spending the day lounging around and watching TV.

Downstairs in the breakfast room, Stacy sat alone at a table with a cup of coffee and some toast. She wracked her brain, trying to come up with a new plan. She was someone who needed structure and organization to function properly, but lately, her plans seemed to crumble beneath her.

Pulling out her phone, Stacy pulled up a map of Thurmont. It was a charming small town, but its size limited the options for things to do. She thought back to what Bobby Hennessey had suggested last night at the pizzeria: Why not consider finding work and settling down in Thurmont?

Intrigued by this idea, Stacy began researching businesses in the town and potential apartments to rent. Unfortunately, there were only a few places available within her budget.

Frustrated, but determined to make the most of her weekend in Thurmont, Stacy decided to explore all possibilities and make a decision once they got their car back. After all, she had nothing else planned for now.

When Stacy returned to the room, Peter was awake and engrossed in a TV show.

 “They have waffles in the breakfast room,” Stacy said.

Peter’s face lit up. “Awesome!” Waffles were the 10-year-old’s favorite breakfast.

“Before you go stuff yourself with waffles, I need to talk to you about something. Can you turn off the TV for a minute?”

Peter complied and sat up, curious about what his mother had to say.

 “I know I said we were going to live in Pennsylvania, but what would you think about staying here instead?”

Peter shrugged. “I haven’t really seen much of it.”

Stacy nodded. “I know, but I’ve been doing some research online. It seems like a nice place to live. It’s almost what I was looking for, although it’s a little smaller.”

“What would you do for work?”

Stacy sighed. “That’s a good question, and the answer is: I don’t know. If you were agreeable to staying here, I was going to spend the weekend looking for a job. Bobby said there’s a veterinarian in town, so I can apply there. I also saw there’s a zoo—maybe they could use some help.”

“Do I have to walk around with you?”

Stacy shook her head. “No, you can stay in the hotel room as long as you promise not to wander off by yourself. And, don’t forget, you can’t order room service without my permission.”

“That’s fine. I can watch TV.”

She tussled his hair. “I didn’t think you would mind that. I’ll leave you some money, so you can order a pizza for lunch if I’m not back.”

Stacy spent most of the day trekking from one end of Thurmont to the other. Her first stop was the veterinary hospital that was near the high school. Even though they weren’t hiring at the moment, the office manager accepted her application since she had experience in an animal hospital.

Walking back through town, she stopped at stores, banks, doctor’s offices, and restaurants, asking if they were hiring and filling out applications. She even followed signs to the public library and applied there. She wasn’t picky, and she had worked a variety of jobs in high school and college, so she had experience in a lot of fields. However, she doubted some of the jobs would pay well enough to live on.

She also took the time to inquire about apartments or rooms for rent wherever she applied for a job. Thurmont had a few apartment complexes and many businesses downtown that appeared to have living quarters above them.

Luckily, the weather was pleasant, with plenty of sunshine and no extreme heat. This made the walk enjoyable for Stacy as she walked around town.

After submitting her application at a local tavern, she settled onto a barstool and ordered lunch while scrolling through the Internet to find potential places to live. The bartender, Kevin, struck up a conversation with her.

“So, why did you decide to move here if you didn’t have a place to live?” he asked curiously, wiping down the already spotless counter.

It was after the lunch rush, but before dinner, so there were only a handful of people in the tavern.

“My car broke down yesterday, and a friend convinced me that I could live here as easily as Pennsylvania.”      

The bartender, Kevin, nodded. “He’s right, but why isn’t he helping you search? If he lives here, he would know where to look.”

“He’s not that good a friend. I just met him yesterday. He helped me out when my car broke down.”

“What’s his name?” Kevin asked, filling a glass with ice from the large machine behind him.

“Bobby Hennessey.”

Kevin smiled and nodded. “Bobby! Everyone around here knows Bobby.”

A small smile tugged at her lips. “He ate dinner with me and my son last night at Rocky’s, and it seemed like everyone knew him there, too.”

“Not surprising. He’s one of those people who makes small towns worth living in.” The bartender paused and then added, “I tell you what. If Bobby vouches for you, you can have this job.”

“I don’t know that he will.”

“I’ll give him a call and see what he says. He’s a good judge of character.”

She hesitated, unsure of whether Bobby would actually vouch for her after only meeting her yesterday. But before she could respond, Kevin disappeared into the backroom. When he came back out, he was smiling.

“Bobby said I should give you a chance and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

“I have to be honest, Kevin, I’m not sure why he said that. Like I said, we just met yesterday.”

“Well, do you want the job or not? I’ll see for myself if you can handle it, but I hope you don’t make a liar of Bobby.”

The bartender gave her a sly wink before turning to tend to other customers.

Stacy started her new job at the tavern the next day. Kevin even arranged for her to stay in an apartment above the tavern. Although it was far from luxurious and desperately needed some TLC, it was a roof over her head that she could afford. The walls were riddled with holes and peeling paint, but she was determined to make it her own.

Kevin had struck a deal with her. He would keep the rent low if she put in some work to fix up the place. It wasn’t a glamorous offer, but it would allow Peter to be nearby while she worked. Stacy was grateful for the opportunity, especially since she had bartending experience from college and knew she could make decent tips.

Although it may not have been her dream job, it provided some much-needed breathing room. She could start saving money and get back on her feet, all while searching for a more permanent living situation.

For now, this was what was available, and Stacy was grateful for any chance to rebuild her life.*Read what happens next in our March 2024 issue*

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*  

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

1: Breakdown

Stacy Lawrence glanced anxiously from the dashboard to the winding road ahead of her, as the temperature needle steadily climbed. She had been a teenage mom, but now she was trying for a fresh start. The rising gauge reminded her, though, that you couldn’t always escape your past.

Raised in Gaithersburg, where the cost of living was skyrocketing, she had wanted to stay in the county for the good schools, hopeful that her son could get a good education. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cost her her job as a veterinarian assistant and apartment lease, forcing her to pack up the car and leave for some place affordable to live.

She and Peter headed out on an uncertain path, northwards. They drove north on Interstate 270, leaving Montgomery County. As she drove through Frederick, she took some side roads to explore towns on the map as a possible place to live.

However, she stopped in Catoctin Mountain Park, just to relax. She felt drawn to its beauty—it was like nothing was weighing her down. She and Peter hiked one of the trails up to a scenic overlook that took her breath away. She had seen nothing like this in Montgomery County.

 Once they were back in the car and driving further up the mountain, her car struggled. The engine sputtered, and the temperature gauge rose. Before long, the car came to a stop. Stacy had no one to call for help, and she wasn’t a member of AAA. She and Peter were stranded in the middle of nowhere. The scenic vistas and country setting no longer seemed so inviting. She did not know what to do, and the sun was setting.

Stacy sat on the side of the road, cursing her luck. She knew she should have gotten the car checked before leaving Gaithersburg, but she couldn’t afford it. She leaned her head back against the headrest, closing her eyes and taking deep breaths, trying to calm herself down. She had been through worse than this. She was a survivor.

“It can’t be that bad, Mom,” Peter said.

She rolled her head to the side and looked at the 10-year-old. What should she tell him? He wasn’t dumb.

“Probably not. I just need to consider what to do,” she answered finally.

“We could walk back to the visitor’s center.”

“They closed at five o’clock.” Besides, she would rather not walk on the twisting road with narrow shoulders. A careless driver could easily hit them.

However, she knew they couldn’t stay here on the side of the road, either. It was getting dark, which would make the road that much more dangerous.

She turned to her son and said, “I’m going to walk further up the road and see if I can find a house. I’ll call you if I do, so don’t play games and run the battery down on your phone.”

“I can come with you.”

Stacy shook her head. “No, you stay here in the car with the doors locked. If anyone comes by, talk to them through the window. See if they know someone who can help us and call me.”

Peter nodded. “Be careful.”

She nodded and kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Stacy got out of the car and started walking uphill on the road shoulder. She was hoping to find a gas station, but she would settle for a house where someone was home. All she saw were trees and rocks. Occasionally, a car passed, but none of them slowed to help her. They probably thought she was a hiker.

After a while, she saw a light in the distance. She could make out the silhouette of a farmhouse and hoped for a phone to call for help. As she trudged up the dirt driveway, chickens clucked and the smell of pork drifted from the porch, where a man sat in a rocking chair eating.

“Hello,” Stacy said. “Can you help me? My car broke down on the road, and I need to call a tow truck. I have no idea who to call.”

The man set down his sandwich and waved her forward. “Hope you haven’t been walking long on the road. It can be dangerous. Some idiots take the turns too fast, thinking it will get them into Thurmont faster.”

“I was nervous, but I didn’t see many cars.”

“Would you like something to eat? I make a great pork barbeque.”

Stacy shook her head. “No, thank you. I left my son in the car. I’d like to get back to him.”

The man wiped off his mouth. “Well, let me get my keys, and we’ll drive down and see what’s wrong.”

“Are you a mechanic?” Could she be that lucky?

The man chuckled. “You have to be a bit of everything around here. I can keep my tractor and truck running. If you don’t need new parts, I might be able to help.”

“Thank you, Mr. …”

“Hennessey. Robert Hennessey, but people call me Bobby.”

He opened the screen door, reached inside and grabbed his keys, which must have been on a hook next to the door.

“I’m Stacy Lawrence,” Stacy told him.

Bobby hopped off the porch. “Nice to meet you. Truck’s over here.”

They walked around the side of the farmhouse. Bobby’s truck was an older model, probably older than Stacy’s car, but she bet he kept his car maintained.

They climbed into the cab, and Bobby started the engine. He turned the truck around and headed toward the road.

“This looks like a nice farm,” Stacy said.

“It’s been in my family for generations, but that might change soon. I’m the last one left.”

“You don’t look that old.”

He smiled. “I don’t think I am, but there’s no next generation getting ready to take over. Truth is, I have thought about selling it.”

“Seems like that would be a shame.”

He shrugged. “Maybe, but I never planned on being a farmer. I was a financial consultant in D.C.”

“What happened?”

“My parents got COVID. I came back to take care of them, but then they died, and I wound up staying here.”

“You could sell it,” Stacy suggested.

“I could, but I feel an obligation to my parents to keep it going as long as I can.”

Stacy couldn’t imagine feeling that type of obligation to her parents. They had kicked her out of the house when they found out she was pregnant. She had moved in with Jason, Peter’s father, and they had lived in the basement of his parent’s home. They had moved out of there as soon as they could.

Bobby passed Stacy’s car and found a place to turn around. Then, he came up behind it and put his hazard lights on. They got out of the truck, and Stacy hurried over to make sure Peter was all right.

Bobby had her unlatch the hood, and he lifted it up to look inside. After a few minutes, he looked under the car.

He then stood up and shook his head. “I’m surprised you got this far in this heap.”

“That bad?”

“You’re dripping oil and have a leaking radiator. It also looks like a few other things are either ready to go or have gone. When was the last time you had this car serviced?”

“The last time I had enough money to do it, and that was a while ago.”

Bobby sighed and said, “Well, I’m sorry, but it’s not an easy fix. It will need to go into the shop.”

“For how long? I was heading to Harrisburg.”

“Given that it’s Friday, you won’t find anyone to look at it until Monday, probably.”

Stacy closed her eyes and slowly shook her head. She wanted to cry. How was she going to afford the repairs, plus the hotel?

Bobby called for a tow truck and waited until it came. Then he talked with the driver. He walked back to where Stacy and Peter waited, sitting on a hill beside the road.

“Jack says you can ride with him back to Thurmont. He’ll drop you off at the Super 8 Hotel. Tell them I told you they would give you their best rate. They’ll take care of you. Jack’s a good guy, too. I talked him into taking a look at the car tomorrow, but it probably won’t be until Monday at the earliest before your car is ready.” He paused and smiled. “Welcome to Thurmont.”