Chapter Fifty-Nine: The Plague of Closings

Editor’s Note: as Vine approaches the 21st century, it’s not hard to feel as though the town is beset by challenges on all sides. Nowhere can stay completely cut off from the world forever. Christine thinks the turn of the century will see Vine fully merging with the outside world, modernizing completely, but gradually, like a frog boiling in a pot. How much say will the people of Vine have in the matter? How much say do they want? Consider:

ClearView’s Meat-And-Three closed after Mrs. Clear died. Dan’s Lake Tours closed when Dan’s boat finally sank. Thompson’s Guitars closed after Pa Thompson died and his son Kyle packed up the remaining stock and moved it to his garage for personal use aka the one band that could clear out the regulars from Gentleman Jim’s. 

Austin’s Apparel & Denim closed when Molly, Austin’s widow, decided running a business was no way to mourn. Hank’s Body Shop closed the winter after all them heavy storms. Sister Christina’s Daycare closed when Helen—who claimed to be descended from Christina—claimed her arthritis had got such a way she could care for children no longer. 

To say these were all individual cases would be to skip over the immutable yet invisible fact that Andre Sherman Pilt’s Wal-Mart deal had allowed Wal-Mart to set up shop in two directions from Vine, flooding Vine with cheap goods and choking out business from stores who had been open in Vine for generations. 

Would the people of Vine see that, though? Consider the minds of children: the migration of a second hand on a watch from one number on the clock face to another represented a complete reset of everything they knew about the world. Any new object could spark jealousy if only someone else was holding it. 

The fisherman’s market dropped from seven days a week to five to only weekends to individual fishers selling direct to the General Store at discounted rates. The farmer’s market dwindled down to two days a week. Clobbers and seamstresses sat at their bookkeeping, trying to change the language of numbers. In this way, Vine modernized and homogenized. 

In this way, the people of Vine were poised to enter the new century. 

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