The wonder of the town

Next to the empty apartments is Nobles Department Store. There’s a 4th of July display in the front window, but it’s been up for the past three years. Ever since Gregory left for college, old man Noble hasn’t found anyone willing to rework the theme. And so it’s become a permanent fixture, like the barrels of plastic toys in the basement (four for a dollar) and the out-of-fashion knit sweaters in the third aisle. They still sell mustache wax behind the counter, and diaper pins by the dozen. It’s an old-fashioned Five-and-Dime, with little change in the inventory. The American flag in the window still has 48 stars, but no one has ever complained, or probably even noticed.

Stumble across Walnut Street, and you have one of those tiny cracker box buildings that tourists love to snap for the folks back home. Built in the late 1800’s, the Domino Parlor is empty now. The façade is crumbling, decomposing a little more every day. It was the town gathering place for gossip and tall tales. It’s been closed for over twenty years, but its history is the history of Handsome. Like everything else in town, it just sits there now, gathering dust.

Beside it stands the out-of-business local paper, The Handsome Weekly News. It is a simple single-story shotgun style structure, narrow and claustrophobic. It’s been boarded up for a dozen years. The publisher, John Wight, kept it running for years in spite of dwindling ad revenue, but it eventually folded when Wight ran off with Davy Garnett’s granddaughter Katharine, twenty years his junior. They still talk about it at the Clatchy.

And then there’s the wonder of the town. Three stories tall, it gleams even in the dark. All steel and glass, it is an architectural marvel. The Museum of Modern Mathematics looks as if it has been surgically cut from a large metropolitan city and wedged in between the derelict storefronts and vacant lots. It makes me wonder how—

But, no, that’s not right. None of these things–


Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at

Free downloadable Kindle app also available.

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