Me, Mama, and my little brother, Teddy, lived on the main street in a small town in the heart of Mississippi. When Papa was still living with us, our house was one of the prettiest around. Mama knew how to decorate on a budget, and the floral curtains in the kitchen matched the teapot cover sitting on the stove. That’s how I knew Mama was a good decorator. Then one day, Papa was gone. He didn’t die or anything, he was just gone. And Mama cried for days on end. Me and Teddy cried too, but not as much as Mama. We weren’t sure what was going to happen next. Then one day, Mama sat me and Teddy down on the sofa in the parlor and told us. She said that Papa got involved with some bad friends and disappeared and that now the three of us were left to fend for ourselves. I’m not quite sure if I believed her story, since I heard rumors that the “bad friends” were really a woman named Trudy, but if Mama wanted us to believe that, we believed that.
So Mama eventually stopped crying and went out to work cleaning people’s houses and doing a little sewing on the side to make some extra money. Teddy was still in junior high school and too young to work. I, on the other hand, was in high school, so I got a job at the little food and coffee mart down the street called the Rest-Awhile. It was a small place, filled with some general staples such as milk and bread and baked goods. It also had a soda fountain, a newspaper stand, a magazine rack with all the latest tabloids, a lottery machine, and a coffee maker that even made vanilla coffee if you wanted something fancier to drink than regular coffee. The Rest-Awhile was a place that most townsfolk, as well as the people who started working in that new office building, usually stopped at, at least once a day.
I love people, and that’s why I loved my job there so much. As soon as school let out, I would hop on my bike and take up my position at the Rest-Awhile to handle the customers. Every kind of person you could imagine came passing through at one time or another. Once, we even had a celebrity stop in. We knew she was a celebrity the second she pulled up, because she was in a limousine. It was a bright shiny black limousine with those tinted windows you see in Hollywood. Her name was Gladys and she was a famous psychic, so everyone said. She asked me for a cup of our fancy vanilla coffee, as well as a newspaper. I gladly poured her a cup of vanilla coffee and handed it to Gladys, smiling ear to ear, since I never waited on a celebrity before. Gladys must have been having a good day, because she was smiling a whole lot. Before she left our little store, she leaned over the counter and said to me, “Honey, let me tell you something. A speck of fairy dust is going to fall right in the middle of your store someday”. And with that, her and her black limousine sped off.
That got everyone talking for many days to come. Exactly what did she mean by that? Is fairy dust a good thing, or was she trying to tell us our place was old and dusty? Did she even know what she meant by saying that? Soon, we forgot about Gladys and her strange words.
Once again, I was caught up in all the interesting people who passed through the Rest-Awhile. I seemed to be everybody’s best friend since they always told me a little bit about themselves. And I remembered everyone’s stories too. I loved the little old man who walked with a cane and called me “Sweetie”. His wife had died several years ago, and it seemed to make him happy when I poured him his late afternoon cup of coffee and handed it to him. No vanilla for him though, just “straight up” is what he always said. Then there was that tall boy who came in to buy staples quite often. His Mama sent him down there with some dollars in his pocket and he felt like the man of the house when he bought milk and bread and took it home. He always bought a cup of Coke for himself too. And then the Fanny sisters stopped by in the evenings quite often. They were a hoot. They always bought a celebrity magazine and it really mattered whose picture was on the cover. That’s how they chose what to buy. A magazine, along with a few cinnamon buns and a carton of milk, were their usual purchases.
I also loved it when the new company down the street let out at 5:00 PM in the evening. These were the new people in town, and they seemed to enjoy stopping by the Rest-Awhile to pick up a few things before heading home to the outskirts of town. Bob, our manager, had to start buying those little cardboard huggies that go around the styrofoam coffee cups since most of them liked to drink a cup of coffee in the car while driving home and Bob thought it would be a classy touch to give them one with their cup of joe.
I was so proud, because even with the increased traffic inside our little food mart, I still remembered everybody’s name. There was Mr. Connor who liked to give a little tug to my long braid before he left. There was also an older gentleman who I called Mr. Michael who was always very polite to me and asked me about my school grades often. I told him I was doing well, and I was. Even with working at the Rest-Awhile, there were enough quiet times when I could do my homework and catch up on my studies. Then there was Miss Darlene. She was a beautiful lady and always wore those fancy high heels to work each day. I wanted to be her someday and work at the new company and get to wear high heels every day. Maybe someday. But right now, Mama needed me to stay in school and make a few extra dollars to help out.
It was a Friday. I remember it well. And it was raining out, so by the time I rode my bike to the Rest-Awhile after school, I was drenched from head to toe. There were no customers inside, and Jane the daytime clerk headed out into the downpour the moment I got there. After shaking off some of the raindrops, I poured myself a cup of steaming hot vanilla coffee. I liked the good stuff. Then I turned on the little TV on the counter for some company. Just then, several cars pulled up in the small parking area in the front of the shop, all at the same time. I squinted my eyes to see out of the rain-soaked front window. I wanted to know who and what was going on.
A group of people came bursting in through the front door to the mini market. Some were holding large cameras with bright lights attached, and a couple of people were holding bunches of brightly colored balloons. What WAS this? It was then that I saw Mr. Michael, and he was smiling, as usual. A microphone was put in front of me, as Mr. Michael explained what was happening. I was just standing there in shock and disbelief, not saying a word since I wasn’t certain if this was a good thing or a bad thing. So I waited.
When Mr. Michael came into the Rest-Awhile for his cup of coffee on the way home each day, he always purchased a lottery ticket, just like many other people did. And guess what? Mr. Michael had the winning ticket this week, and it was a rather large one. Let’s just say it was in the millions. And I was the one who sold it to him. And guess what again? Mr. Michael was formally giving me HALF of his winnings, since he apparently had no other living relatives. He said it would be his honor to bestow upon me and my family, this very generous, and quite life-altering gift. My heart started racing when his words started to sink in, especially when I realized just what this would mean to Mama and Teddy and me. The reporter shoved the microphone toward my lips and asked me what my thoughts were, and I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. I said “I guess that speck of fairy dust did fall down on the Rest-Awhile, and it fell right on my head.” Everyone laughed, even though they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I gave Mr. Michael the biggest hug I’ve ever given anybody, and just then Mama and Teddy came walking through the front doors with tears streaming down their faces. The Mayor had been notified and already told Mama and Teddy what was happening. We then had a group hug, and it was the start of a whole new life for all of us. However, I will never forget the Rest-Awhile and the people who passed through their doors each and every day. You never know when your life will be turned upside down, and maybe in a good way.