May 05, 2006

When Casey's Burned

When Casey’s Food Store burned to the ground every resident of Cedartown had an opinion regarding who the pyromaniacs responsible were.

The assumed culprits were “the blacks”. For most larcenies in Cedartown, Georgia the go to villains were always “the blacks”. Even as a tween, I approached such racially fueled notions with skepticism. Why exactly would “the blacks” burn their own grocery store to the ground?

Casey’s Food Store was located on South College Street near the train tracks. It was the closest grocery store for both Cedartown’s African-American community as well as my own, "the country folk".

Thus as a suspicious member of "the country folk”, and a bit geeky, I was convinced “the grunge kids” had set fire to Caseys. The “grunge kids” wore black, were fans of Seattle rock music and smoked doobies behind the bowling alley. I never participated in any such misbehavior. My brother and I were too busy feeding quarters into the best video game ever, Gauntlet.

“Valkyrie needs food, badly!”

And of course "the Baptists" were convinced it was "Devil worshippers". Nothing happened without "the Baptists" blaming "Devil worshippers". Nowadays there's alot less random finger pointing in Cedartown. Everyone, regardless of race, class or religion, pretty much blames "the Mexicans" when things go awry.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, ya'll!

Who did the deed soon gave way to what was to be done with the resulting burned rubble. The only thing that mattered was the aftermath: Casey’s enormous clearance sale of the fire damaged food.

Nothing inspires a rural Southern community to join as one like a good ole-fashioned clearance sale.

All of Cedartown, the rich and, especially, the poor, descended on the smoking husk of that 60’s era grocery store for a half day of bargain price, blackened sundries. People of all races came together that morning to browse over the scorched edibles in the hopes of finding a pearl among the ashes.

Not much was salvageable. Despite that, my thrifty mommy procured eight cases of what came to define that enitre summer: TaB. The familiar pink cans were burned as black as tar.

I never drank TaB as a kid before that summer. Our neighbor, Monie Landrum, would drink TaB’s as she and my mom sunned at Johnson’s Lake Swimming Pool. For hours they’d slather on sunning lotion, smoke a carton Pall Malls and drink TaBs. This fact, combined with the pink can, instilled the instant impression that TaB was a girly cola. I never drank the stuff.

But now that lispy, lavender label was scorched the color of death. Also, many of the aluminum cans were bloated as though the contents had exploded due to the extreme heat.

Neither my brother or I had any concept of how the fire damaged diet soda should have tasted. Monie refused to taste test for us, no matter how hard we pleaded with soot covered hands and charcoal ringed mouths.

"No tellin' what that fire did. You gonna get cancer drinkin' that mess." Monie would warn between long drags of her Pall Malls.

The ashen residue over every can of TaB was the most pleasurable aspect of our fire-damaged summer beverage. Smudges of soot and coal coated everything a distended can of the blasted TaB neared. My brother and I, eager for a sugary fix would drink two or three and chase one another around the yard. We resembled a 1920’s flicker film about Africa, tossing bamboo spears with our blackened faces and hands.

Only recently I told my mom how much I had loved that summer with the burnt TaBs; how neat they were. She told us how embarrassed she had been buying the second hand soft drinks. It was all she could afford at the time.

They never caught who burned down Casey’s.


Foxy said...

I think I love your moms. Not as much as I love Gauntlet...but still...

bryce said...

Your mom wasn't THAT embarrassed about the TABs. I was there when you reminded her. I think she chuckled a bit even.

Moms are thrifty if they are smart.

Gayest Neil said...

Thanks Bryce... next you'll contradict the fact that we were all riding llamas on Mount Everest in search of the Loch Ness Monster when it happened.

Hmm? I feel another four parter comin' on! WOOOOOO!


SteveSchalchlin said...

Great story. Burned out Tab. Wonderful visual image.

MEK the Bear said...

Ah! nice story Neil.

"Valkyrie needs food badly", Indeed!

Anonymous said...

I think your burned store was Mack's, not Casey's.