The Sycamore Psychopomp – Part 1

Aaryn looked out the sliding glass door of his house and surveyed the backyard. There was a dilapidated aluminum shed and a large home propane tank on the west side with the garage and sycamore tree taking up most of the east side.

A small pile of dirt was all that remained from digging the foundations of the garage and from putting the basement under the house.

All in all, it was a great backyard to raise kids in except for the neighbors to the west. Growing up, it was the “Doc Hamman” place and there were a couple of horses kept in the backyard. An apple tree marked one portion of the property boundary, which also kept the horses happy with bountiful apples each year. The garden area of the Doc Hamman place had been seperated from his property by a row of lilac bushes with small clumps of tiger lilies growing between them.

Now, the lilacs and the apple tree were gone as the new owners of the Doc Hamman place had ripped them out to try and spruce up the property. That was about the only thing worth saving!

The Gilmore family had moved in with their three kids and it had been all downhill from there. The kids had free reign of the neighborhood and raised terror from morning until just before midnight. While they were noisy and always doing something, they were just kids.

When the parents decided to tear down the old 12×12 building that was the feeding place of the horses, it hit home for Aaryn that this wasn’t going to end well.

He returned home from a three week trip to Colorado to find the apple tree completely gone and the hole from the root ball filled in and left bare…and the lilacs had been ripped out as well as all the tiger lilies. Now there was no boundary from his front yard to the neighbors.

He couldn’t have done anything about it, but it still ate at him. His childhood memories had been ripped out by the roots, quite literally.

The rest of his neighbors were pleasant. Mrs. Jansen across the street had huge beautifully maintained flower beds that she watered and weeded every night in spite of her octagenarian years.

To the east, Mr. del Smoot, a recent widower, kept to himself except for walking his dog Tank through the neighborhood from time to time.

All in all, Aaryn thought, it was a good place to live. A small town that still had a grocery store, as many bars as churches (maybe more), and a modern doctor’s office. He couldn’t imagine moving anywhere else but he still had the urge to travel and see the world. He couldn’t rule out a move but he certainly wasn’t planning on it any time soon.

Aaryn was a “townie” through and through. His late parents moved there when he was an infant. He attended the local schools and worked at Jake’s Red Fox and The Sycamore Pizza Company and had gotten to know most people in town through one of those two jobs in high school and college.

He was never into sports and though being 6’5” and long armed, he always turned down the basketball coach’s requests to try out for the team. He was busy enough with his hobbies and taking care of the acre of land his parents had.

The biggest problems with Sycamore were, to Aaryn, the intense insularity and the closed minded nature of the townfolk. He could still vividly remember people in the late 1980s gasping at the mixed race couple that had moved to town and dared to shop together at Jake’s. Some people literally left their carts partially filled and left, never to return.

Aaryn didn’t see what all the fuss was about and treated them as he would any other customer, with a smile and a pleasant comment while doing what they asked.

Now, as 2019 drew to a close, Aaryn didn’t think all that much had changed in Sycamore. The biggest change was that an Afghani gentleman owned Jake’s and had changed it’s name to Bear Essentials. It was still the same store just with a differnet name. The Sycamore Pizza Company had folded in the mid-90s, became Giovanni’s Italian for several years, but by the mid 00’s, the only places to eat in town were the bars and the brewery that had opened uptown.

The only truly missing in Aaryn’s mind was a partner to share his quiet life. A small rural town with 2200 people was not a good place to find that…or was it?

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