“Every single town we drove through had a sign honoring some famous resident, alive or dead,” he said to me at the hardware store where I work.
“Anyone famous ever come from Tannersville?” I asked.
“Well, as a matter of fact, yes,” the mayor said. “That’s why I’m here.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” he said while clearing his throat, “I think you are our town’s biggest celebrity, and that we should put up a commemorative sign that says as much. And maybe even have an unveiling ceremony.”
“Mayor, I don’t know how you define celebrity, but I haven’t done anything but run this store,” I said, laughing. “Hell, that doesn’t even warrant a cardboard sign.”
“No, no, that’s where you’re wrong. Didn’t you once chair a committee of the state’s model train club?”
“Yes, I chaired the bylaws committee for one year, but that was only because no one else would,” I said. “Besides, it was no big deal.”
“Well, you’re wrong again,” the mayor said. “I happen to think it’s a very big deal, and I’m going to ask Ralph at Avril’s Repair Shop to make a metal sign we can post alongside the highway.”
“Don’t you think that’s going a bit overboard? It was one stupid committee in an organization nobody gives two hoots about,” I said, getting back to erecting the new display of flashlight batteries.
“Now, Tom, where’s your sense of civic pride?” the mayor said as he walked toward the door. “Every town needs a celebrity. And you deserve this.”
The mayor left and I finished the battery display. Throughout the day, I found myself often forgetting to thank customers, something I never do. I must admit, the idea of being identified as a famous resident, even a small-town one, began to grow on me. I lost all patience with any dumb-ass customers who claimed they couldn’t find the hammers or electrical tape. And I had to bite my tongue when anyone came in with a return.
Between these fits of frustration, I reminded myself how many people find enjoyment in model trains, especially during the holidays. My work on the club’s by-laws committee must have had tremendous impact even if I didn’t realize it before.
I figured the highway sign would likely be my only shot at a lasting legacy. As soon as I closed the store at 6, I called the mayor and asked if a parade down Main Street was out of the question.
Steve Kissing’s stories and poems have appeared (or soon will) in such print and online journals as: THICK WITH CONVICTION, BEST POEM, BULL and PATERSON LITERARY REVIEW. Kissing’s first chapbook, SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (Big Table Publishing), was published in the fall of 2009. He can be reached at www.stevekissing.com.