by Ruth Hymel
You arrive outside Evening Shire through wheat fields. A Tuesday night is descending. Walking slowly along the ancient track, your fingers brush the feathery tops of wheat. In the solitude, your feet make a comforting sort of thump on the dirt path. Silhouetted against the darkening sky, the Kent Downs roll away, grasslands and trees scattered over the hills. Out of the dusky blue, lights twinkle ahead like fireflies. You are reminded that you are tired and you sigh for a welcome.
Half-timbered cottages beckon you forward. You see a shop sign: “Odds and Bobbs.” Warm light streams from a window. Looking through you see Miss Matty, two knitting needles clicking away, holding court amongst the women of Evening Shire. By the fire sits Mrs. Gillian of “Listen For the Wind,” holding a steaming cup of tea on her knee. On the couch, the mayor’s two needles keep time to Miss Matty’s.
Other shops crowd your path. They crowd in a pleasant way, not at all like the city you’ve left. “Evening Shire Design,” you read from a hanging sign, “Jewellers,” on another you pass, and “Little Shop at the Corner.” Up ahead the path curves left into the deepening night. Your tired body desires a rest and a cold drink. Male voices jumble together jovially from a building marked “St. George and the Dragon.” As you push against the wooden door, the room envelops you in pipe smoke and talk.
Down the bar, you see the Evening Shire men. Shaun, owner of the Little Shop at the Corner, and the jeweller Peter, each with a pint in hand. As you take your first frothy sip, Shaun declares, “Peter, my man, as I’ve told you before, Julias Caesar himself founded a settlement in this very spot.” To which Peter will reply, “Come now, Evening Shire doesn’t go quite so far back as that. We were founded by the Normans. My Jayne read about it once, and she would know.”
The warmth from the room and conversation fill you and you think, “I’m going to stick around here a bit and see what happens.” And you do.