Star of the Day
from a collection of short stories “My Life at the Marshfield Hills General Store”
by Sherry Campbell Bechtold
Years from now, the little General Store in the center of our village will still be there. Some well intended soul will be stocking the candy corner and making recommendations on what wine to buy. Every morning, a Charlie will arrive early and buy a lottery ticket, a cup of coffee and maybe a muffin. Preoccupied young men will leave their cars running while they dash in and pay for a newspaper. Kids will get off the school bus and pile into the store with way too much energy. Lively white haired widows will look for greeting cards. Young moms will bring in their toddlers to buy a pop.
Occasionally, maybe on a holiday weekend, folks will stop in and the owner won’t recognize them. They don’t live in the neighborhood, but they ‘used to’. They will walk around, smile and say “wow, I haven’t been here since I was a kid. I used to buy candy here – right in this corner, just like this”. They’ll ask the owner how long he or she has owned the store, and then they’ll talk about the way it was – years ago.
“There was this woman who used to own the store. Her name was Sherry. She was nice, and she didn’t seem to mind all us kids. I remember she made me ‘do the math’ whenever I bought something. She would say “if you can’t add it up, you can’t buy it”. I guess it really bugged her that kids in those days couldn’t add in their heads! And, if you took out money from your pocket – or your shoe – and it was all crumpled up, she’d hand it back to you and make you flatten it out, nice and smooth, and hand it back to her. She was funny that way. But, you know, the thing I remember most about her was her dog…..”
Her dog. That lovely pale Golden Retriever, appropriately named Star. She was there when Sherry was there. If you saw Star, lying on the front porch or across the front door (so everyone coming in had to step over her), you knew Sherry was behind the counter. They were a team. Star’s job was to be wonderful….the object of love and adoration. She was there for every toddler who wanted to bury his face in her abundant fur. She was there to offer solace to every tired guy at the end of a long day at work. She was there to remind everyone who was drawn into her sphere of influence that unconditional love isn’t just a phrase and that oh, well, I guess life can’t be all that bad.
There truly was something special about this dog. Before becoming a permanent fixture at the store, Star was a visiting dog at a local nursing home. Weaving her magic web, she cast a spell of comfort and warmth among the lonely residents, occasionally performing a tiny miracle like inspiring a mute stroke victim to speak his first words in months. “What a beautiful dog!” he said, stroking her silky ears.
“Star of the Day, who will it be?”, Ray Amorosi sang to her whenever he walked through the door to find her holding court. She was always the Star of the Day.
It was late fall in 2008, just before Sherry sold the store. Star was diagnosed with brain tumors and began to fail. Less than a year, the vet said. Unsteady and sometimes more than a little wobbly, Star came to the store every day with Sherry. She would hear the keys as Sherry picked them up from the kitchen counter, and she’d wake up from her nap, slowly getting to her feet, goin to the door prepared to walk across the street – like very other day. Once at the store, she assumed her place – blocking traffic – and went back to sleep, stirring only for a familiar touch.
When, on one November afternoon, there was a sign on the front door of the store “closed temporarily”, there were some who intuitively knew what had happened. Beloved Star had died, at home, lying in the sun, with Sherry holding her and stroking her face.
It’s probably best that, a very short time after, Sherry turned over the store to new owners. Being there without Star was just too painful. Though, she was not the only one who was heartbroken – even grown men broke down in tears when they came in expecting to see the ever present Star. It would never be the same without her. It was the end of an era.
“I guess everyone thinks that their childhood was special and that nothing could ever be like that again. But, you know, I think that being a kid here, at that time, coming to the store every day. Sherry scolding me for not knowing how to add up my money – because she really cared; you know? And that dog. Everyone loved her dog. And everyone loved her loving her dog. It was pretty special.”
“Star” by Wiesy McMillan