The winner of the Fan Fiction Competition is…
Here’s her entry.
It was a bright and sunny day when I finally returned to Odyssey. I drove my old clunker of a truck through the streets fondly, recognizing the old businesses whose windows I’d washed and remembering the people who’d owned them. Just ahead—at the end of the street on the edge of McAlister Park—sat the building I most wanted to see—Whit’s End. The old building looked the same as ever. It was an old Victorian style house. It looked similar to a pile of wooden building blocks dumped randomly on the floor with towers and high sloping roofs. Children played outside, enjoying the bright sunshine while families went in and out of the friendly double doors. I carefully edged my truck alongside the road by the sidewalk and shifted the gear to park. Taking my keys, I swung the door open and stepped out onto the familiar footing. I was surprised at how normal it felt, despite the many years I had been gone. For once I was grateful for the Walton Family Reunion as it allowed me to revisit my old stomping grounds. Since Maude and I had moved to Florida, things had felt a little empty. I took a breath, stuck out my chin and strode towards the front door. I hadn’t told anyone that I would be in town. They’ll be surprised alright. I pushed open the door quietly as to not cause a disturbance. Ah… that beautiful bell. It tinkled cheerfully as the door moved. Whit’s End was a flurry of activity. Children were everywhere. Some sat on the barstools at the counter, sipping sodas or devouring sundaes. Others sat with their families in booths along the wall, laughing together as they ate their ice cream. In a corner booth, I noticed Wooton Bassett, my old mailman. While annoying most of the time, he was a good friend. He wore the same blue Moose Mail uniform that I had been so used to seeing, indicating he was detouring his route. His fiery red—and very curly—hair sat smooshed under a cap that lay lopsided on his head. He sat across from a young, blonde-haired woman with thick framed glasses. Despite the sweltering heat outside, she wore a sweater and a fuzzy hat. Interesting that Wooton had a lady friend… I decided to ask about her later. I strode to the counter and took a seat on one of the empty stools, a mischievous smile on my face. Eugene Meltsner hurried over to take my order. He didn’t recognize me yet. I blinked in mild surprise at the sight of him, however. After all these years, he finally cut his hair. I noticed for the first time that his eyes were periwinkle blue.
“Greetings and salutations kind sir! Welcome to Whit’s End! How may I be of assistance?”
I broke into a grin at Eugene’s standard method of greeting. Despite his new look, that boy hadn’t changed a bit.
“Well, Eugene,” I drawled, “you can start by getting me a Wod-Fam-Choc-Sod.” I can see the wheels turning in Eugene’s brain. He stared with his mouth opening and closing, no sound coming out.
“M-m-m-mi-mister Walton!!” He spluttered. I couldn’t help but laugh. His eyes bulged and his eyebrows rose so high they went past his—now higher—hairline. I reached over the counter and clapped him on the back
“Hey there Eugene! Nice to see you again.”
“Mister Walton!” He exclaimed again, his voice rising past his stuttering squeak. “You’re here! This is beyond believability! It’s been so long—”
A familiar voice came from behind the kitchen doors, “Who’s here?”
The doors pushed open to reveal Connie Kendall, drying her wet hands with a dish towel. Her chestnut brown hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail and she wore a t-shirt and jeans. She glanced at Eugene and then towards where I sat at the counter. Her jaw dropped and the towel fell to the ground.
“BERNARD!!” In a flash she was beside me and gave me a huge hug, which I returned. “Bernard! I can’t believe it’s you! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you here! Why didn’t you call and tell us you were coming??” She released me and I took a deep breath. That girl could sure squeeze!
I chuckled, “Well Connie, I was just passing through for a family reunion and I thought I’d drop in. Boy, this place hasn’t changed a bit! Except for the people.” I glanced pointedly at Eugene. By this time, curious bystanders had started to drift over towards the counter.
“Did you want to see Whit?” Connie asked, “He’s out on an errand but he should be back soon. Do you want me to give him a call? I should give him a call—”
I held up a hand, “No, no, no. Don’t call him Connie.” She shot me a questioning look and I saw Eugene raise an eyebrow. I smiled, “Don’t you think it will be better to surprise him?”
Connie pocketed her cell phone with a mischievous smile, “Yeah, I guess it would.”
“Meanwhile, can someone get going on my soda? I’m thirstier than a camel on a treadmill!” Eugene nodded enthusiastically.
“Of course, Mister Walton! Fear not, I, Eugene Meltsner, am on the job! You shall have your soda momentarily.” With that, he disappeared into the kitchen. I snorted. Yup. Eugene was definitely still Eugene. At least he didn’t lecture my on my sugar intake…
Suddenly an annoying, high-pitched, excited voice came from behind me.
“Bernard! You’re back! Wow, it’s so great to see you again!” I turned to see Wooton Bassett beside me. Normally I would have groaned, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen him that I decided to go along with it.
“Hello Wooton, long time no see.” I said. I noticed the blonde girl had followed him and stood just behind him. I opened my mouth to ask about her when the floodgates suddenly opened and Wooton began talking again. Connie joined in and together they began telling me all the happenings in Odyssey since I’d left. I listened until they began babbling about some green ring and a carnival, then I tuned them out. It was a skill that took years of practice to master, but it came back easily. Eugene set a chocolate soda in front of me. I took a sip and focused on the shop’s front windows. To the commoner’s first look, they appeared quite clean. But my practiced eye from years of window washing could spot several smudged fingerprints. I stiffened. There was even a dusty spot left in the corner! Whoever had taken over my job was not a suitable replacement. I reminded myself to speak to Whit about that later when Connie’s shrill voice shattered my thoughts.
“Whit’s back! Everyone be quiet!” The shop quieted, so silent that you could hear a cat with mittens walk across a carpeted floor. Then, the little bell above the door sounded and in walked Whit. He had the same wild hair, the same glasses, and the same wisdom-filled gaze. He had slimmed down a lot since I’d last seen him. I cringed, realizing that the same probably would’ve happened to me if I’d been around Connie for too much longer. I groaned inwardly at the memory of Connie as my health instructor. Whit suddenly paused at the doorway, noticing all eyes were on him. His gaze traveled the room.
“What’s going on?” Then his eyes fell upon where I sat at the counter and his mouth fell open.
“Hiya Whit! It’s been a while!”
“Bernard!” Whit grinned. We hugged, slapping each other on the back.
“Well stuff me with feathers and call me a pillow, Whit! You look great!” I said.
Whit laughed “So do you Bernard! Why didn’t you call and tell us you were coming?!”
“That’s what I said.” I heard Connie mumble.
“Well… I didn’t want to make too much of a big deal.”
“Too much of a big deal?” Connie exclaimed, “Bernard we haven’t seen you in forever! Of course this is a big deal!!”
I took a sip of my soda and grinned. By now, everyone was clustered in a group around me. Some were old friends, others, I didn’t recognize.
“How is life in Florida?” questioned Whit.
“Oh, it’s warm. Maude appreciates the pool. Not very many window jobs though. Speaking of which, Whit, who do you have doing your windows? I’d like to teach em’ a thing or two about window washing…” I end, muttering my dissatisfaction with the cleaning job.
“Oh! Bernard!” Connie spoke up suddenly, “There’s a bunch of people I want you to meet!” She waved to the girl behind Wooton, “Penny! Come here!”
I sipped my soda and raised an eyebrow, curious as to why Wooton followed Penny over.
“Bernard this is Penny!” Connie explained as I shook Penny’s hand. “She was my old roommate and—”
“My wife!” Wooton exclaimed, finishing for Connie.
I choked on my soda and Eugene rushed to my side.
“Mister Walton! Do you require assistance? I have been trained and certified to administer the Heimlich maneuver!”
“No, no, no Eugene!” I shoved him away. I was just surprised. Scratch that, I was dumbstruck. Wooton? Married? I never would have believed that in a thousand years… well, maybe 20 years. I shook myself out of my thoughts, realizing they were waiting for my reply.
“Good for you Wooton.” I managed to stutter.
“Aw thanks Bernard!” Wooton said, giving Penny a hug. “I’m glad you finally got to meet my Penny!”
Everyone began talking all at once. I glanced around the room. Only one person was missing: Tom. I remembered when I had received the news last year that Tom had passed away. It was a hard time for everyone. Memories flashed back of the times we had together: camping trips, fishing trips, and just talking to each other. Tom was a close friend, one of the closest I’ve ever had. I pushed away the sadness and glanced at my friends. Here we were once again. All together. I dreaded having to leave again for the reunion. I sat back in my chair and sipped my chocolate soda and shoved away the worry. No use in letting it spoil my time with friends. There was so much to catch up on!
“So, Whit, what have I missed?”
Thanks to all who entered into the contest! If you didn’t have a chance to enter, have no fear! I’ll be doing another one in the future! So stay tuned!
Also, happy late Fourth of July!