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Walker Giant

Micanopy, Florida is a town where every Monday morning for the past 193 years has gone in much of the same fashion. I was born here, raised here, got a job here, and married here. Now my son, Walker, who turned 14 three Mondays ago, is growing up into the same life I’ve lived, and my daddy before me, and his daddy before him. I work for the town of Micanopy serving as the foremost, and only, member of the Micanopy Tree Committee. Aside from serving the community, I am now the sole owner and operator of the only wholesale nursery in town.

The town is little, quaint, with a historic downtown shopping district that falls on a single street about the length that I can throw a football — and I’m not very good. But we’ve got everything you need, just ask Dave who’s been selling guitars for as long as I’ve been living. Mrs. Clarke runs the tailor shop in town and sees most of her business from weddings for city folk hosted at the Herlong House. The houses here are charming, if a little on the small side, but they’ve got big porches and rocking chairs that creak in time with the cicadas chirps. Everybody I know — and I know everybody — has a vegetable garden. See, Micanopy is home to only slightly more people than a 747 airplane can hold; 600 people, to be exact. We’ve got a middle school, but no high school. The bus now comes to get Walker to take him to the next town over for that. Needless to say, the town doesn’t have a crime record — the police force isn’t even needed.

Every Monday for the past 10 years I’ve had the same routine. I wake up at 7:15 and slip out of bed, avoiding the floorboards that moan under foot so I don’t wake Mary. I rinse my face in the bathroom, and peer into Walker’s room to let him know it’s time for him to get up for school. Downstairs, I turn on the coffee pot and while I wait for it to brew I open up the windows and prop open the wooden door leaving just the screen door, mangled with age, weather, and stories of birds and boys who ran there noses into the mesh having mistaken the door for an open passageway.

If by 7:45 I haven’t seen Walker, I call up the stairs to him, reminding him that worms only come to those that are early. I used to walk him to school, but when Walker was a fifth grader he sat me down to tell me, “Dad. I’m a big kid now. Ryan and Lucas walk themselves to school now. I can too.” I laughed and called him Walker Giant before allowing him to walk out the front door unattended. Inside I had a twinge of fear. I was born here. I would die here. Walker was proof of the fact that ten years had galloped past and suddenly I was clawing at the remainder of my 30’s. I wanted to tell him not to grow up to fast; that even though he desperately wanted to grow up to be just like me, there was nothing about me to want to be like. So now, instead of walking Walker to work before walking myself to work, I now walk alone. I take my time as I pass by each storefront talking to Jill, and Dave, and Mr. Murray as I go. We small talk, stuff about the weather, it’s always warm in Micanopy, and our kids.

Every morning at 9 o’clock I walk into my office at the community center, check for any mail, respond to any phone calls, email anybody who needs an email, and leave the office ten minutes later. The Tree Committee is supposed to have 3 chairs, but in my lifetime only my dad and I have ever run for office. It’s kind of a nonsense job, but Walker always used to brag about it to his friends before he, too, figured out how pointless it was. “Have you ever heard of my dad? His name is Mike Campbell.” He used to say. “He’s on the Tree Committee.” Walker’s friends would oooooooh and ahhhhhhh as if this meant anything to them.

Work for me really takes place at the nursery. I water, fertilize, and mulch. I rake, hoe, and plant. Flowers bloom, trees grow, and seedlings sprout. Sometimes a customer stops in, buys some new starter plants for their garden. Since the weather never drops below freezing people plant all year long. Business is slow, but steady. I make enough. Clara works the front desk while I tend to the plants. She’s young, in her twenties, not married yet. I think the boy who bartends down at Al’s is getting mighty close to popping the question, though.

Monday’s are ordinary. This Monday was ordinary, too. I gathered my things and started walking home. When I turned the corner through the waves of heat rolling up off Peach Avenue, though, Monday suddenly didn’t seem so ordinary. Where there should have been Mr. Benson, walking his Whippet around the block for their 5 o’clock stroll, in front of me was the entirety of the Police force and a growing crowd. In the middle of the crowd there was a body. And beneath that body there was a black shine, a liquid that seemed so out of place on the quiet streets I’d grown up in. And in a second, everything that was mundane about Micanopy, Florida suddenly came sliding to a halt.

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