Gordon Anderson dropped his fedora on the worn Formica
counter in the Carterville Register of Deeds office. He pressed the
bell labeled ‘ring for service’ and waited.
An empty office chair sat in front of shelves of files and
ledger books on the other side of the counter. Some of the books
appeared a hundred years old, and one of them held the records of
his family’s downfall. Events he planned to rectify, if only to ease
his mother’s final days.
A woman with unnaturally auburn hair approached the
reception area from behind the shelves. It had been long enough
since she’d been to the beauty shop that a half-‐‑inch of white glared
out from her roots. She placed a stack of manila folders on the
counter and evaluated him over her half-‐‑rimmed glasses. She wore
a cream blouse with a large silk bow at the collar and light blue
polyester pants. Dust smudged her sleeves where the folders had
“May I help you?” she asked, brushing at the marks.
Gordon leaned against the counter. The woman seemed
familiar, but he didn’t know anyone around here that old. Then he
realized she was probably the same age he was, probably one of his
friends. He’d been gone too long. He guessed, “Maybelle?”
The woman flushed slightly. “Yes.” She paused and he
could feel her dissecting the wrinkles around his eyes. “Gordon
He smiled. She did recognize him, but he couldn’t judge the
tenor of her voice. Pleasantly surprised, or mildly disgusted? “It’s
been quite a while,” she said. “What brings you back to town?”
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