I don't always buy clothes, but the winter was coming and I wanted a good coat as soon as possible, no matter if it was second-hand. In town, there is a big grocery store, which sells all kinds of items, from hardware, food to clothing, even second hand. Fung and Chang's business.
Evergreen is a small town and as you know the saying, small town, big hell. However, Evergreen is a friendly place, full of nice people and not so nice people too. One of the best establishments is Joe's butcher shop, where they give you the best steaks, attended by Joe himself, an obese and kind man, who always attends you with a smile and if you are lucky enough, a good pat on the back.
Evergreen borders a great forest of the region and in winter the cold is devastating. Many times we can see wolves, foxes and even small wild cats that come down to steal a little food. The selfsame Joe always leaves one or the other bone and fat to feed the little beasts that like to make nocturnal visits to his business.
There is also a well-known tavern, The Pirate's tavern, which belongs to George, a man whose hair has turned gray, although he never visited the sea, he likes to set up his boat on the weekends on Silver Lake and I suppose that is where all his stories were born that he likes to tell to all tourists who visit his business.
There is a cinema that also functions as a theater, in which famous artists from many parts of the country have come to perform great plays. But I won't bore you by telling you about the business our town has, I want to tell you what happened to me that same day, on a Friday afternoon, something I never expected to happen to me. As I have already said, Evergreen, besides being peaceful, we scratch the boring (or so I thought).
I parked my old truck near the entrance of Fung and Chang's store, purring like a cat with a full belly. I had her check the carburetor, which for some reason caused her a strong hiccup that made her jump every time I turned it on. I shook my beard a little, looked in the mirror and took off my gloves to tidy up the tangle of reddish hair I was hiding under my cap. After accepting the rebelliousness of my hair, I got out of my truck and went straight to the store entrance.
I waited outside shaking my boots in front of the entrance as they slowly opened the automatic sliding doors they had installed a week earlier. For some reason, they were slow to open, perhaps not adapted to the Evergreen weather.
They lazily hissed at the doors as if screaming with effort.
There was a large queue at the cash registers, it was inevitable, possibly Evergreen was small, but two cashiers were not enough for the number of people who used to come to the establishment.
I ignored the frustrated customers' complaints and went straight to the second-hand clothing section.
Luckily Hank was attending the clothing section.
"What's up, Jack? What brings you here?"
After telling me the whole story of how he lost all his money last weekend betting on horse racing, I told him I wanted a good coat, no matter how second-hand it might be.
"Unlike me, you're lucky today. Here are the new acquisitions from the store."
I took a look at the carousel of coats that paraded in front of me. Brown, black, green. The color was the least of it. Although I'm 6 feet tall, I'm a man of slim complexion and most of the coats were too big for me.
I began to move my lips back and forth while inspecting the coats, scratching my beard. However, my downhearted expression didn't discourage Hank, maybe he wasn't good for horse racing but he was the best salesman I've ever met, I'm sure he could sell ice to the Eskimos.
Suddenly he raised his eyebrows and drew a smile
"I've got what you're looking for! Come, come with me"
I immediately followed him through shelves of endless clothes, underpants, pants, t-shirts, ties, socks. Finally, we reached a corner where there were some coats on a large chest of drawers. He lifted them one by one and measured them by eye from his perspective towards me. After a few failed attempts from his point of view, he settled for a mustard quilted coat.
"Here, try this one."
Hank definitely had a gift. I tried on my coat and it fitted me perfectly. I felt warm inside it. It was very soft inside.
"Huh?", he separated his hands by putting his palms up and remained with an ear to ear smile waiting for me to flatter him.
"You definitely have a gift," was all I answered.
I felt good. I put my hands in my pockets and felt a rectangular object in my right pocket. I frowned and pulled out my hand with the object in it.
"What have you got there," Hank asked.
"It's a cassette," I replied.
"A cassette? Who the hell uses cassettes these days?"
On it, there were three words written: "Please, play me."
I put the cassette back in my pocket and asked Hank how much the coat cost. After giving me a fair enough price for a ride home, I accepted the deal.
While I waited for Hank's shift to end, I checked the hardware section of the store. A hardware store for me was like a candy store for a kid. I loved to see the new tools, saws, axes, screwdrivers, wrenches, plastic tape, ropes. Everything a good serial killer would need. I let out a little snort, letting out a smile. Maybe I was watching a lot of movies online.
I was still wearing my coat and I felt the cassette in my right pocket again.
I remembered that my old truck had an old cassette player.
"What a seriousness, my friend," my brow was still frowning when his sudden words pulled me out of my thoughts hovering around the mysterious cassette.
There were his perfectly white teeth, smiling at me.
"We can go now?"
It was already dark outside, the cold surprised us, even more, when we came out of the warm atmosphere of the store. However, I still felt very comfortable with my new purchase. I reached in to get my keys out and they stumbled upon the rectangular object hidden in the pocket. I took both out and rushed into the pickup.
Hank kept knocking on the glass of the door so that I would open it quickly, unlike me, he only wore the uniform of the store: an orange shirt and blue jeans.
"Turn on the heat! I'm freezing to death," he protested insistently.
After turning on the truck and obviously the heating, I put the cassette in the player.
A female voice, unknown to me, told a story:
"My name is Cynthia and I thank you for playing this cassette. Surely you don't know me, very few really know me. I hate this town.
"I know that voice," commented Hank.
I raised my hand extended so that it would be silent. I turned up the volume of the player.
"My story is nothing new, perhaps even common as everything in this tiny little town. Life sucks. Like any idiot girl, I dreamed of being an actress and escaping from this tiny hell called Evergreen. I fell in love with a boy, a renowned actor who was doing a play in our theater. I was expected to trample my heart to pieces. I've never been lucky with boys. One thing is very clear to me, he is a very good actor because he made me believe in so many things. Fantasies.
"The hillbilly girl who falls in love. Isn't the world a vicious circle of filth? As if my bad luck wasn't bad enough, I got pregnant. Obviously, my parents are ashamed to have an irresponsible daughter, they live on appearances and what people might say. I'm tired. Tired of this life, of this town and its people. Surely they will not miss this gir..."
The cassette got stuck and a gurgling sound took hold of the player.
"Shit!" I shouted.
Unfortunately, the old player had damaged the cassette. When I managed to get it out, the tape from the cassette had been chewed inside the player, ruining the recording.
"Don't worry Jack, I doubt she did anything serious," Hank added without giving much importance to what we had just heard.
"She used to work in the store. She's an introverted, unsociable girl. She was fired a couple of days ago if I'm not wrong. But, as I said, don't think badly, she's just taking it easy. It's teenage stuff.
I took Hank home and thanked him for the help with the coat.
On the way home, I couldn't stop thinking about the girl. There was something wrong, I was missing something. Then it fell on me like lightning. The sound in the background. It was George's boat. The girl was recording the cassette on Lake Silver.
Without thinking about it, I headed for the lake. I accelerated at full speed, at everything my truck gave me.
If there was one thing I was right about, it was that all the things that happen to us were always for some reason. What was the probability of finding that cassette? God always has a way to show us the way.
I stopped my truck as close to the lakeshore as I could, leaving the lights on. I checked behind the seat and looked for a flashlight. I hit it a couple of times and it went on.
I opened the door of my truck and as I got out of it, a cloud of steam came out of my mouth. The temperature had dropped drastically. I got back into the van, but this time in search of a pair of gloves and a cap in the glove compartment.
My mind hesitated for a moment. "What the hell am I doing? This could have been recorded months ago, maybe last year." I shook my head and got out of the van again.
The sky was cloudy and the wind was roaring with fury. The ground was muddy. I lit up the road and looked around the lake.
"Help me, Lord," I cried out.
When I was about to give up, I could make out a little sob under the roar of the wind. I followed the sound with difficulty.
My heart leaped when I saw her
"Cynthia!" I shouted loudly.
There she was, hugging her knees. She was wearing a possibly grey or green dress, it was really difficult to discern, but I could see her white arms and legs trembling in the cold; at her waist a rope tied, holding on her lap a large rock. Her make-up had run with the passing of her tears. Her purple lips were shivering. Her hair spilled over her face.
She stretched out her arms towards me, throwing the rock to the ground. I ran towards her and her crying became louder.
"Calm down, girl," was all I could say.
I didn't know how many times she had tried to commit suicide, and I didn't ask her. Maybe the winter didn't let her give up this time.
I tucked her in my coat and tried to lift her up, but the rope was tied to her waist. I took my pocket knife from my belt and cut the rope. I finally took her to the pick-up. Cynthia was still shaking and sobbing. I gave her my coat and covered her legs and feet with shirts I had left behind the seat. I looked for a coffee thermos under my seat and offered her some.
I turned on my truck along with the heat.
I took her to my house, we didn't say a word along the way. I noticed when I carried her inside the house that she was burning with fever. Fortunately, I got the medicines to bring it down without harming the future creature, who was innocent of everything.
I won't say that things were fixed overnight. And we were happy forever. We all deal with problems and demons that torment us every day. Happiness depends solely on us. It's not the end result that makes us happy but learning to enjoy, understand and deal with the road. Life will always have bad things. How could we recognize good things, if bad things didn't exist?