Yesterday my roommate and I were trying to find something fun to do together since we both had the day off. We ended-up in downtown Pilot, mainly so she could hit the ATM to put some cash in her pocket. We were then going to walk across the street to the candy store, which turned out to be closed, even though it was the middle of the afternoon on a Friday.
We figured it was closed because it was Good Friday. That would make sense, in a nonsensical sort of way. We’re in rural North Carolina, the buckle of the bible belt, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a born again closed a candy store two days before Easter Sunday, one of the biggest candy holidays on the Christian calendar. Around here, they take praising Jesus seriously.
Across the street, in an old storefront next to Blue Mountain Herbs where we sometimes shop, was a place we’d never been before. Marked by signage as a “country store,” from the looks of it we figured it was some sort of antique shop, not a real honest-to-goodness country store where one might find fatback, hoop cheese, jams and jellies or home grown honey with the comb in the jar.
I ran ahead–I’ve got longer legs and my roommate’s knee has been bothering her–to scope it out. From what I could see with my cataract ridden eyes, holding my hands over the glass door to cut down glare, it was a cluttered country crafts sort of place, which would be of no interest to me at all.
My roommate wanted to go in anyway–knowing that I haven’t been seeing so well recently and that I had, maybe, gotten it wrong. Good thing she did, because it was a pretty cool place–especially architecturally. It had brick walls, an old hardwood floor and a high ceiling. At the back some stairs led to a second floor that couldn’t be seen from the front entrance. It was the kind of place that used to be common in my youth but which doesn’t exist much anymore, reminding me of the five and dime that Marlin Brando stumbled upon in The Fugitive Kind.
I went straight back to see if I could see what was upstairs. Near the wall opposite the stairs was the cash register being watched over by an older lady, probably about my age, who encouraged me to go up with “there’s a lot of stuff up there.”
Between the register and the stairs was a small ice cream parlor style freezer holding six flavors, with a handwritten sign with the prices of different sized cones and cups. My roommate finally made it back and, as I stood and chatted with the lady, she looked over the ice cream, finally asking the size of a small cone.
The cones were amazingly cheap, especially considering it was a premium brand. A small was two and a half scoops for a buck and a half. My roommate asked for one with a scoop of chocolate and the rest black cherry. As the lady started making that, I decided I’d have a butter pecan.
My roommate wandered a way a bit, looking around, and I chatted with the woman as she scooped some chocolate and pressed it on the cone. I asked her if she owned the place. She didn’t. We both agreed she had a pretty nice job.
She finished with my roommate’s cone, wrapping the bottom in a napkin before giving it to her, and went to work on mine. We continued to chat about this and that. She was very friendly and forthcoming. Another customer had entered, a middle age woman, and had taken a place slightly behind me, patiently waiting for her turn to be helped.
The butter pecan wasn’t being particularly cooperative, causing the woman to struggle a bit with my cone. First she had trouble getting it to stay on the cone. Then, when she got that solved, the second scoop wanted to stick to the scoop. She made a remark under her breath about how “it just isn’t wanting to do right,” set the cone down and moved to a sink a short distance away to rinse off the scoop.
“It’s probably just the universe telling me I shouldn’t be eating ice cream,” I joked.
She came back and started scooping again. Rinsing the scoop had worked; the ice cream was behaving better now.
“Well, you chose our sugar free flavor,” she said, “so it’ll be okay.”
My roommate and I caught each others eyes.
“Then I can’t eat it,” I said. “I absolutely can’t eat artificial sweeteners.”
The lady was good with that and dumped the ice cream back into the butter pecan container.
It turned out that none of the other flavors was artificially sweetened, just the butter pecan. I ordered a chocolate, which is what I really wanted to begin with. The lady grabbed a fresh cone and went about making it, telling me that she couldn’t eat ice cream with sugar, only the artificially sweetened kind. I acknowledged that and said something about how it was a good thing the first cone had been hard to make or I might not have discovered it was sugar free until I tasted it.
The woman who was waiting to be served joined the conversation. “It’s like God was looking out for you,” she said earnestly.
For a bit I started to get annoyed, afraid that some fundy was going to start laying down a trip and inflict Christianity on us, but when I looked at her I realized that wasn’t what was going on at all. She wasn’t evoking God with any ulterior purpose. She wasn’t trying to convert or even be holier than thou. God was just her reality and her statement was no different than if I had said, “It’s like the universe was looking out for you.”
She actually turned out to be a nice lady. Our roommate got into a conversation with her as we ate our ice cream. She was looking for some kind of electric steeper–something to use to warm scented essential oils for aromatherapy without burning a candle.
After that, my roommate and I wandered through the store, looking around as we finished our ice cream. Although it wasn’t an honest-to-goodness country store but more of a bric-a-brac shop, they did sell hoop cheese, jams and jellies and home grown honey. We didn’t see any fatback though. And the honey didn’t have the comb in the jar.