The construction crews work so quickly now. I can remember when it would take months just to erect a single building – the entire summer would pass, and by the time the kids arrived back in town, the men would still be out there with the ungodly racket of their tools, banging away at the bones of the thing. But then something changed. I’d leave town for the weekend and on the drive back I’d spot apartments and shopping complexes where I was sure I’d passed only an empty field days before. I’d wake to the sound of hammers and drills, but by lunch all would be quiet and a new business would stand just down the street. Finally it seemed as if the buildings were appearing instantaneously; it was hard to imagine that a group of men was even responsible for their existence. And it wasn’t just the suddenness with which they were popping up that was alarming, but also the fact that they could appear anywhere. I read an account in the paper of a man returning from work to see a small accounting firm where his kids’ tree house had stood that morning. I saw a story on the news about a sports bar appearing overnight in the surgical wing of the local hospital. I can’t say I was shocked when I went to take the trash out one morning and turned around to find a fully functioning grocery store where my home had just been. The old cashier nodded silently to me when I walked in, and I did the same. I could see a crate full of watermelons where the television had stood. The bedroom was now a freezer filled with every variety of meat imaginable. I found a spot next to the canned soup, curled up, and went to sleep. I awoke to a customer patting my head, asking, “How much is this one?” Can I even begin to express to you the relief I felt? The immense gratitude that overcame me when the cashier said, “That’s for display purposes only. It’s not for sale.”
Joshua Johnston was born and raised in Caneyville, Kentucky. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Sprung Formal, Forklift, Ohio, Hobart, and Word Riot. He is co-founding editor of Frontier Slumber and currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he recently graduated from Indiana University’s MFA program.