The Sinkhole

Part of the neighbor's front yard caved in a week earlier then Heffler's porch began slanting in that direction. He couldn't sit in his rocker any longer because it slid. Florence had seen the chair at a Stuckeys in Kingsport, Tennessee and driven it all the way up 81 sticking out the trunk of his Camero. Got pulled by State Troopers twice but didn't get off the Interstate. Paid the owner twice what it was worth back then but he'd been knee deep in crank so price was no option.

Even Heffler understood what was happening around him to be bittersweet. The State just informed him he could stay and live out his life in the town if he wanted. Their zip code had been discontinued so there'd be even more peace and quiet without the mail men snooping around.

"Afterward, your house will be taken through what's called eminent domain," the clerk in Harrisburg explained.

Heffler said, "alright," and signed. He caught the next Greyhound back to Columbia County and hitchhiked the rest of the way in. He stopped off at Rexall's and Pederson Grocery, still standing as they had been since the day of evacuation. Hadn't been time for looting so all the drugs were left on the shelves. The place had been a Mom and Pop operation. Pop had an issue so he stocked the tincture of opium in his back closet; been doing so since Civil Defense days. There were still quite a few intact cases.

The town doc had a heavy hand with pain med prescriptions; they'd arrive in pick-ups from as far away as Allentown, get their scripts, fill them at Pops' then drive back. Half the town had a monkey on their back, Hefler included. That may have been part of the problem at the time they discovered the underground fire. They all just let it burn.

Since he'd been out of the area for a few hours Heffler could smell it: Camphor, feet and month old eggs. He picked up a box of Twinkies, Corn Flakes and ten cans of Little Friskies at Pederson's. He liked turkey and giblets best but they just had tuna now. He grabbed two bottles of Pop's tincture at Rexall's. It didn't last him anywhere as long as it had initially.

Just short of fifty, Heffler looked ninety and was yellow and bruised as a banana with no teeth. His right eye'd been scratched out by a raccoon while he nodded off on the Jaycees pitcher's mound about a year back. Bled for three weeks straight. ER nurse in Shamokin said he was lucky he didn't catch rabies.

Heffler was sitting with his back propped against his front door when his mailbox dropped out of sight. He imagined Florence sitting beside him watching it like they used to watch thunder storms. He had no idea where she was but kept imagining her sitting with her back against the door and them holding hands. His walkway looked like a tongue being drawn back into a big mouth and Heffler reached up trying to get a hold of the door knob, at the same time asking Florence did you see that but rolled over and hit his head on the steps that were rising. Splinters drove up under his chin and came out of his mouth so he was stuck there while the porch sank. He thought about Dorothy's house for a split second, turning and turning in the middle of the twister, careening toward Oz.