By this time, the sun was quite well on its way in it's journey across the sky. It was probably going to be warmer than the previous day. Looking around as I walked toward the drug store and the bookshop brought back many memories and I smiled as I strolled along.
It didn't take me long, and soon I was entering Landers' Drug Store. Right away I saw the lady herself, sitting by the cash register, much older and heavier in weight than the last time I had seen her. Her round face lit up in a joyous smile when she saw me. She had recognized me at once.
"Well, look at you, you handsome devil! Little Zeb O'Hanlon, all grown up and good-lookin' ta boot!"
She grabbed me in the twinkling of an eye and clasped me to her ample bosom. Naturally, I hugged her in return, and then gently released her grip, backing up a bit.
"How are you, Mrs. Landers? Are things going well for you?"
"Sure, sure. Not too bad. I'm gettin' too old, though, to keep going. My health isn't doing too well these days and there's nobody to take it over, so I reckon maybe I'm gonna have to sell it. My husband died about five years ago when some young hoodlum held us up and shot him. The cops never did catch him, in fact, they thought they had him once. Had a big shootout and almost killed one a them, did kill the other one. Then he took off, and, as they say, is still at large."
"Tell me, Mrs. Landers, do you know the name of the one he almost killed?"
"Ah, lemme see, hmmm, seems like it was something like Bentley or Friendly, don't remember fer sure. I know they gave him a decoration for bravery, and then they retired him on disability. So they did a big write-up in the newspapers, and then, didn't hear much anymore about him. I think I did hear he headed for a warmer climate. That's all I know, Zeb.
Now, what can I get for ya? How about I make an old fashioned milkshake over at the soda fountain counter? What flavor would ya like? Vanilla? Chocolate? Maybe strawberry?"
"Sure, that sounds wonderful. It is a little early in the day, but so what? Make it chocolate if you would, please."
"What brings you this way, anyhow? I heard you all left town about eleven years ago. Your ma was supposed to be marryin' that grocer, then all of a sudden she left town."
I knew then how Mrs. Landers came by all her information. She pumped her customers for all they could tell her and then kept it in her memory to talk about when the occasion came up. I had met several people of her nature. I certainly didn't need to give her any additional fodder.
"My Ma doesn't share her private life with anybody, Mrs. Landers. I guess it just didn't work out between them. Shall we just leave it at that?"
"Why sure, Zeb, honey. I didn't mean to be nosy. Just interested, you know?"
"Of course," I smiled in return. "Say, this is a wonderful milk shake! Thank you so much. How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing, my dear. It's on the house. I have one every once in awhile myself. I know they are good."
"I have to be going now, Mrs. Landers. It's been good seeing you again. I'll never forget how kind you have always been. Do you still give lemon drops to kids that come in?"
"Oh, yes. Here, have a couple to take with you. You come back and see me, now, hear?"
She grabbed me in another hug, and I hugged her back, then made my escape, waving goodbye to her.
(To be continued)