Feel Like a Million

Drugstores built and operated by a neighbor before the mega CVS and Walgreens dominated adjacent corners of busy intersections magically still managed a meager survival in towns with simple names on the outskirts of urban sprawl. Tucked in the corner of brick facades where next door retail shops would come and go from shoe repair shops to ladies wear consignment stores, these drugstores, pharmacies, apothecaries, made do with prescription refills along with an assortment of over the counter remedies, toiletries, canned goods, and menagerie of retail items from manicure kits to children’s toys. At one time, it was expected that stores such as this featured a lunch counter. In the 1940s before the golden arches, a cup of coffee for ten cents and a hamburger created a comfortable spot for customers to wait for their prescriptions to be filled. Most of these faded away beginning in the 1960s as the population favored fast food, fast service, and the death of lunch counters and most independently owned drugstores; the drive through window. Rare is a good word for Mechanicsville Drug Store. Just off  I-295; actually off the Mechanicsville Bypass. That far out of way survival for the small store was even more of a challenge as not many travelers made it a destination for a quick stop off the interstate. Somehow the family continued to offer hot breakfasts for patrons that were comfortable at a lunch counter or small Formica booth. Laminate hard surfaces withstood attacks from spills and cigarette buts long past the installation date when smoking was cool. Most soda fountains had disappeared in the 1970s, so this specific store was a time capsule since the family that owns it bought the business in 1957.

Strange how some things last and others fall victim of the times. How, you may ask, does a lunch counter last when just up the road a ways, so they say, the site of Pole Green Presbyterian Church is marked by a grave stone looking historical market that dates the founding in 1748 by Reverend Samuel Davies. The Reverend Davies ministered to slaves and preached a great deal about freedom and liberty. Patrick Henry of ‘Give me liberty or death’ fame attended many of the services led by Davies and was so well received he expanded and became minister to lead seven congregations in five counties.

Times change and in 1864 the Civil War destroyed the shouts of hallelujah when the church was burned. People burn the damndest things when emotions run wild.

Reverend Davies did okay. He went on to become the fourth president of Princeton, however, his legacy would be all but forgotten without the Woman’s Auxiliary who created the memorial in Hanover County in 1929.

Eight generations after the church burning, the sun rises once again above the pines and rolling fields part and parcel of the same landscape that once ran with blood from any number of Civil War memorials from Polegreen Church to Cold Harbour a stones throw east of the marker erected by the ladies.

Instead of a church, the old men who hung out every morning at the drug store for breakfast, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and non-believers alike have found the dated store cafe a preferred place to meet each morning and discuss world events. On no occasion has anyone brought up Reverend Davies burnt out church. The counter and small booths provide adult day care for some guys who will sit there for hours drinking coffee and talking. Each day as the group would gather, old man Chuck Davies, no relation, not even distant, to the Reverend Davies would enter and hold court over the other men. “C.D., about damn time, how you doing?”

Chuck Davies did not mind the nickname C.D. as he grew up with the moniker being that he was a junior and the pet name gave clear identification when he and his father were together. Even after the older Chuck Davies passed, the initials C.D. lived on.

C.D. answered, “Feel like a million ... and two.”

“And two?”

“Any body can say they feel like a million, but when life is good enough to hand two more, that’s saying something.”

The younger guy sporting a worn cowboy hat poked back, “Just two? That ain’t so much to brag about.”

“Hellfire C.D.,” another local piped in, “You wouldn’t know what to do with a million in the first place.”

“My name, after all is said and done, is C.D. You run on up the street to the windmill bank and ask them what C.D. means.”

“You been up to that bank?” One of the younger guys in his fifties asked and commented, “That new teller up there is cute as a button.”

“You’d know about as much to do with that young lady as C.D. knows what to do with a million dollars.”

“And two,” another adds.

C.D. explains, “You will learn over time that additional two is everything.”

The group settled into a quiet moment taking a few slurps of coffee. C.D. looked around noticing the metal clanking of the spatula against a hot grill scrambling eggs, bacon and sausage frying perfumed the air, Loretta, the weathered waitress, was making rounds with a fresh pot of hot black coffee in each hand, one with a green rim, the other orange, the green topped pot mostly drained.

“Hey, earth to C.D. You were about to shower us with some old fart knowledge,” Cowboy hat said.

“First piece of advice is to remove that hat in the presence of a lady,” C.D. said as he motioned for a refill from the green pot.

Loretta smiled, winked, and took a shot at cowboy, “I hear you over hear bragging again about two inches?”

The guys laughed and applauded Loretta. The hat said back, “You ain’t woman enough for this man.”

“You can’t even get the name of the song right,” Loretta said, topped off the cup in front of C.D. and turned away.

“See there young man. You just got your extra two dollars worth for today.”

“How’s that?”

“Young Loretta just gave you one more new lesson to add to your education. Everyday can be like that if you live long enough to understand that any increase you get each new day enriches your life. Sometimes two is more than enough. You count up enough days with small daily increases as I have had the great fortune to enjoy, and if you are smart enough to count blessings instead of losses, you too will become a happy old man.”

“How can you be so positive with all the crap that’s going on?”

“Like what?”

“You watch the news?”

“Only if I have to. Mostly I avoid it like a plague.”

“Have you seen the riots tearing down statues and burning up places?”

C.D. sipped his coffee, “Don’t get so worked up.”

“You’re damned right I’m worked up.”

C.D. made the observation that a contagious sentiment could rifle through the group and decided to calm the mood, “I have lived long enough to know these things come and go. People burn things for the damndest reasons. Sometimes they can’t even figure out they’re burning the very thing that is on their side. It’s happened over and over. Hundreds of years, most likely.”