Mid-October is spectacular in Western North Carolina this year. The hardwoods are coloring up, especially the maples, vivid and bright with their fluttery robes of red and gold leaves. Jerry and I love the cooler temperatures, but we have to return to Florida next week.
We’re on the way home from one of our meandering scenic drives when I decide to buy another Loafers Glory T-shirt at the General Store in Loafers Glory.
According to my Loafers Glory friend and native resident, this store’s been here since 1955. It was built on the same spot as the original General Store that was washed away in 1905 or ’06 by a flood that she said her daddy called a May fresh.
It’s like going back in time—a charmer of a place that you could spend hours in. The rusted springs on the screen door screech as I step over the worn wood threshold and into the store. Late afternoon sunshine floods through the big plate glass windows. The scents, a mix of candy, tobacco, and new fabric, waft around me. I gaze at small tubs full of buttons, displays of thread, and an endless array of sewing needs. I see racks of tourist temptations—including T-shirts—and smile. I was once one of those tempted travelers. Now I spend a lot of time here in NC, no longer a tourist, but neither am I a full-time resident.
Fred and Iris Garland are. This was once their store, and Iris has told me some of her stories. Love those stories and these two wonderful Loafers Glory residents.
A little boy peeks at me from around a bin of cloth remnants. Seconds later he saunters out from behind the bin.
“Hi!” says he, then announces in the most wonderful North Carolina drawl ever “I’m gonna be five next April!”
He punches the air, wiggling five fingers.
Let’s see now . . . that’s six months away.
He’s cute, a little cocky, and has my total attention as I study him.
He reels me in . . . with his head full of curly, carrot-red hair and a batch of brown freckles across his nose.
“What’s yore name?”
He’s not shy, guileless maybe. And suddenly, I just love this little guy.
He looks a lot like this but without the straw hat–which I’m sure he has stowed behind the counter.
“Ah’m Ridge.” He draws his name out, nearly makes it into two syllables.
Really? A little boy named Ridge? Unusual. But maybe not up here where mountain ridges are everywhere. And I figure he has to be saying Reg, short for Reginald.
“Ridge?” I repeat it carefully, frame it as a question.
And he grins up at me and nods, like, ‘good for you, you got it!’ his curls bobbing like twisty little springs . . . and changes the subject.
I get goose bumps, totally enthralled and stuck on his name.
But I listen as he tells me he fell on the sidewalk a few minutes ago and scraped up the heel of his left hand. He holds it up.
“It’s bleedin’ a little and stings like a road burn, but it ain’t nuthin’.”
He shrugs. He’s brave, and I pray that his hand stops stinging soon. He barely takes a breath before he needs to tell me more. You know, ‘portant stuff.’
“We got chewin’ gum in this store.” He looks up at me like I should be very surprised.
I bite the inside of my cheek to keep the smile from reaching my ears!
“Okay, where is this chewing gum?”
Ridge proceeds to show me. He grabs my hand, and instead of the aisle where candy and chewing gum might be, he leads me around to where they sell material from large bolts. Reaching in deep behind two of the heavy, colorful bolts, he pulls out a package of bubble gum that’s in the shape of paper money.
He hauls a “bill” out of the package, bites off a big hunk and hands the rest to me so I can take a bite too. I take the offered piece and break a chunk off. I’m positive he has a good-sized private stash buried behind those bolts of cloth.
It’s good, pretty tasty gum as gum goes!
But also good is that the hero of my novel has just been given the awesome name, Ridge, in honor of my new friend, who waves and blows me kisses as I leave his grandparents’ store.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1
I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. Psalm 22:22
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Remembering to pray before, during, and after writing sessions, to pray over everything including character names, isn’t always easy. And I’m in awe and thankful when I see the amazing ways God answers my sometimes fleeting, needy prayers.
Do you take the admonition to pray about everything to heart too? What’s been your experience?
He’s closer to you than breath, loves you, and cares for you.
Amazon’s Author Page for The Stonekeepers