What Smith Williams hated was boredom. He had found himself in a cycle of making money, getting bored, opting for a risky business venture, losing most of his money, and doing it all over again. When his last venture - expanding a lingerie line into a chain of lingerie stores- didn’t show signs of implosion, he settled on selling off his shares. Smith, of course, had no fashion experience or particular interest in lingerie (other than enjoying women wearing it). But Smith never needed direct experience in whatever industry he found opportunity in. What he was best at was solving other people’s problems. He found creative people who had done alright for themselves and saw how he could help them do better. Convincing them to let him help was either a matter of money or persuasion and neither tactic had failed him yet.
The road trip was meant to take him from Maine to California, stopping in as many towns and cities as he could on the way. He figured that he’d drive for six hours every day and wherever he happened to be at 3 p.m. is where he’d settle for the night. He was certain that if he explored enough, something interesting would appeal to him. At thirty-eight, he’d already made and lost a million dollars three times over. He was currently on a financial upswing (though not his highest) and ready to pour it all into a new adventure. A few weeks into his trip, he found himself in the middle of a humid southern town with a strange case of split personality disorder.
In Moral Town, on Saturday nights, Main Street businesses that usually closed at five o’clock stayed open till nine. Every parking space had a car with an out of state license plate (the locals knew to park for free at the mega-church around the block). String lights lit up tree trunks and pockets of music bubbled out from either side of the street.
On one end of Main, a band of fiddle and banjo players rushed out fast paced folk songs. Girls from the local dance school would clog alongside their mothers and aunts-- women who had attended the same school when they were young. On this end of Main, you could buy dulcimers, harps, and hand-carved recorders from one of three instrument shops. There was the old fashioned candy store that gave away free fudge samples and small scoops of hard candies for a quarter.
On the other end of the street, acoustic guitars accompanied drowsy lyrics sung by lanky, pensive men. This side housed a coffee shop that sold freshly made biscotti dipped in fair trade chocolate. A skateboard shop that sold CDB Oil-Infused Road Rash Balm had a #pride sign in the window. ‘Facts over Fiction Books' ' (which did in fact sell novels and nonfiction) sponsored two free little library stands in town. It wasn’t that this side of Main had more youth in it but it did have a reputation for being “young”. Thus, Main Street was split between “Progressive” or “Hippie” and “Old-fashioned” or “Backwards” depending on who you asked.
While the division of Main reflected the town’s larger divide, tension between the modern camp and the traditional camp usually remained low. Most people agreed that what mattered was keeping tourism going and whatever kept visitors coming was fine. It took half an hour in Moral Town for Smith Williams to decide he did not agree. It took one hour and a mediocre dinner at the Morel Grill Fine Dining Restaurant for Smith to decide he was going to do something about it.
(Thank you to the ink well for this prompt idea! I wasn't able to fully flesh out the story yet but I intend to keep working on it).
Photo by Brandon Jean on Unsplash