Set dominoes, one behind another. Arrange them in a series of arcs and turns like a writhing snake. All it takes is one slip of the hand to start the whole contraption in motion, clattering in an unstoppable succession of collapse. And then, it’s done. Just like that.
Odell Masters leaned across the post office counter and glanced at the line that snaked out the door. Every single one of them was there for the same reason, and it occurred every single year, just like this. The glut of summer residents on South Rockton Island were making their mass exodus, like roaches from a burning building and the first jump was closing out their post office boxes.
Odell took the white cotton handkerchief from his back pocket and mopped his sweating forehead, refolding it so the damp side was facing in. It was, expectedly, the busiest day of the year and he stayed open late to accommodate the crowd. It was his sworn duty as Post Master to ensure that every summer resident was properly stamped, folded and checked out for the season; a duty that Odell Masters executed with grave authority. Because, if he did not have these people, whom he greeted every morning with a smile, a wave and a good old fashioned, “Have a great day,” if he did not have them ready to leave the island by Monday, the dominoes would fall.
Three months, that was the extent of the island’s tourist season. A three month period where the intrepid few who ran the island here took on their roles like a Tennessee Williams production. The summer residents expected it.
Fresh baked breads and pastries, the yeasty sweetness that wafted through the early morning air in the summer from Daisy’s Bakery was promptly shut down on the day after Labor Day; Daisy, on her way back to Detroit . Walter Emerson, the banker was quick to follow, closing down and heading to his place in Grand Cayman. The grocer, the doctor, the garage, gone, gone, gone. They all left, that was the point of working the summer. The tourists got their island, their ideal weather, their quaint towns folk. It’s what they came for. They paid for it.
Smiling, O’Dell called, “Next!”
Early 30‘s, professional, family man, O’Dell surmised as said man stepped forward holding a chubby, chortling little toddler worthy of a Gerber jar. Glancing sidelong down the line, O’Dell estimated only an hour or so before he could close down. Shut the blinds. Lock up. The last boat out would sound it’s horn at 5:30 p.m. sharp, a throng of summer residents waving, shouting out their goodbyes, promising to stay in touch throughout the winter as it gently pulls away from the dock. That never changed, their sun tanned faces, eagerly making plans with the others to come back next year, spend another summer in this enchanting hamlet. But for now, O’Dell could only think about the first class ticket tucked into his jacket pocket with an 8 p.m. departure.
O’Dell grabbed a closing form from it’s cubby, played for a moment with the disinterested toddler in the arms of the man before him, and slid the form across the counter to commence the transaction. The man kindly reached out, slipping his hand onto O’Dell’s, “No sir. I want to keep it open. We are planning to stay for the winter.”