Suggestions from the Candy Store on 24th St. (Story #9)

For a long time, people tried to avoid the candy store on 24th St.  No one knew why everyone called it that.  No one could remember if the plain, white building with the smoke-glass windows had ever sold a piece of candy or anything else for that matter.  But that wasn’t important to the people in town.  What did matter were the yellow notes taped every day without fail to the store’s front windows.

The “suggestions” as people called them, varied a good bit.  Sometimes, they were helpful.  Jaime Osorno, a teacher who used to live down the street, once received a note telling him to buy a lotto ticket.  Jaime had always been a practical man, and he never even thought to play the lotto before, but knowing what everyone else knew about the candy store, he didn’t ignore the advice.  The next week, you could hear the whooping and screaming at the Osorno home when Jaime found out he’d won the jackpot.

Other times, the results weren’t so good.  Kevin Brockmeier was told to follow his wife to her Yoga class only to find out that she was cheating on him with an instructor who fancied himself a guru and who had a thing against deodorant.  And Megan Cutler was told to see the doctor about her sickness, which she didn’t know she had, but which within three weeks would kill her.

Of course, mostly, the suggestions were pretty neutral—even bland at times—like the little notes one gets in fortune cookies.  “Be good to your kids.”  Or, “Work hard and one day, you’ll be successful”—that kind of thing.  Still, most people hoped they’d never get a note, even though everyone in town knew that sooner or later, they’d wake up with that tingle and with a yellow note with their name on it taped to that blackened storefront window.  Everyone got a note eventually—everyone, that is, except for John Carney.

John worked at a bar a block down from the store.  And in the twenty years he worked at The Barley Mow, he never gave the store or its suggestions much thought.  In his 20s, he was too busy getting drunk on the Pisco Punch whose recipe he’d perfected after much trial and error.  And in his 30s, he got married and had a kid and then another, so he was too tired to think of much else other than the sleep he wasn’t getting.  But then, just about the time he was to turn 40, something changed.  He started wondering why he was the only person he knew who’d never received a note.

A couple days before his birthday, he walked up and stood in front of the store.  He got up close to its front window but couldn’t see what was inside because of the smoked glass.  He did, however, see that there was a note waiting for Joni Anderson.  Joni often came into the bar, and he liked her.  He hoped the message was a good one—or at least not a bad one.  But there was also a part of him that was jealous.  So he decided to take matters into his own hands.  He wrote a note of his own and taped it to the window.  He wanted to know why he was different from everyone else in town, and suggested that he too should get a note.  Then he went to the bar and got drunk and forgot about what he’d done.

But the next morning, when his wife woke him up to remind him that it was his turn to make dinner, she seemed uneasy.  John was a bit hazy, but once she said something about the store, he woke right up.  He turned on the news and found that the morning anchorwoman seemed less sunny than usual.  For the first time in as many years as anyone could remember, there was no note waiting on the candy store window.  As much as people wanted to avoid the place and its little yellow notes, now the town was in an uproar.  By the time John got dressed and out of the house, it seemed like everyone was out there wringing their hands.

John worried that maybe he’d caused the problem, but he didn’t tell anyone what he’d done.  The next day was the same as was the day after that and the day after that.  People started getting desperate as the noteless days went on.  They came to believe that a void had formed in the town—a gaping hole that needed to be filled.  At the bar, it was all anyone could talk about, which only made John feel more guilty.

After about a month with no notes, John couldn’t stand it anymore.  He decided that maybe he just needed to apologize.  So, after pouring himself a few too many Jamesons, he poured his heart out onto a piece of paper apologizing if he’d offended anyone and asking for the notes to start up again, which, as it turned out, they did the next day.

In fact, the next morning, a note with John’s name on it was taped to the store’s window—that is to say, a piece of yellow paper with just John’s name was taped there.  Apart from that, where usually there would’ve been a suggestion, there was nothing.  Just yellow space.  No one thought much of it.  They were just glad that things were returning to normal.  But the next day, another blank note appeared and then another, and another after that—all addressed to John Carney.

People were curious at first and then incensed.  They thought he was hogging the candy store’s attention.  But after a while, they started to whisper when John passed them on the street as he made his way to pick up his note for the day.  What, they wondered, did it mean?  What did it mean to get a blank note?  What advice could be derived from that?  It had to mean something.  It had to, didn’t it?

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Tags: , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at www.circularrunning.wordpress.com and Tumbls at www.circularrunning.tumblr.com

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