Chapter 6

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Pulling out of Hawkins' gas station, Justin stuffs a large bite of pimento cheese sandwich into his mouth swallowing some Coke as he chews. He couldn't remember the last time he'd tasted a pimento cheese sandwich. Licking his lips, he bites off another large mouthful of the white bread sandwich stuffed with orange filling remembering that when he and his brother used to go on youth trips with the Hickory Lutheran Church, he'd never eat the pimento cheese or egg salad sandwiches that the Mothers made for the trips. Instead, he'd always bring along his own peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Thinking about peanut butter and jelly now, he remembers what the old man at the cash register had said about stocking up on it and bread, and he starts to turn the SUV around and head back to the store.

After driving a few more feet, he stops his car in the road and turns around. He starts driving north exactly 5 M.P.H. over the set speed limit of 35 and a few seconds later he blazes by Hawkins store. Out of habit, he shoots up his hand in a wave just in case Mr. Hawkins is watching.

Putting his arm back down, he slides back the black plastic button on the armrest steering the SUV as he waits for the glass to slide down into the door. Peering out the open window, he breathes in the smell of crisp clean air and newly mowed fields. Then he sighs deeply and shrugs his shoulders thinking how much cleaner the air seemed here than in Hickory. He figures the air is cleaner in Union County probably because of less traffic and the lack of nearby factories with their smokestacks and chemicals.

Shifting his head back and forth, he wrinkles his nose at the overwhelming scent of manure and hay as his gaze is drawn to the new scenery of rolling green hills and groves of trees. Suddenly, his eyes scan what looks to be another abandoned structure about fifty feet ahead. Slamming on the brakes, his tires squeal as he skids into a dirt road. The Cokes gurgle and slosh up and down in the drink holders as the SUV bounces along the rough surface. He steers the SUV through the decaying mud and dirt up over several small hills and through two deep gashes serving as ditches in the road.

About half a mile off the main road, he stops the SUV at another small ditch filled with a sliver of running water. Craning his head out the window, he watches the water drift southeast for a couple of minutes before exclaiming, "Chancel's Creek!"

Then he revs the engine and drives right through the minuscule creek up the embankment to the other side. Driving down the remnants of the ancient road, he stuffs some more of his sandwich and a few chips into his mouth. Swallowing between bites, he grabs a Chocolate Cookie from the wrapper and pops the whole thing into his mouth his teeth grinding into the moist dough.

He gulps down the rest of the sandwich and chips plus three more cookies before coming to a stop when the road dead-ends. Turning off the engine, he pockets the keys and jumps out of the car landing feet first in some mud. Wiping crumbs off his shorts and shirt, he grabs his sunglasses off the visor and begins plunging through the overgrown weeds and grass.

Pushing away green and yellow stalks as high as his belly, he plows forward making a path north of his parked car. Staring at the dilapidated wood structure looming in front of him, he finally gets close enough to realize it used to be small barn.

Walking faster now, he ignores the bug bites and scrapes on his legs and arms and moves fast towards the old barn. Stopping just outside it, he sticks his head inside the gaping black hole that he figured probably served as the entrance. His eyes take in piles of slanted wood from the south wall which was entirely caved in, mounds of brown dirt, and a pile of round tin circles that probably had fit around some barrels at one time.

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