Georgie Gray Is Still Kicking Around This One-Horse Town

He sits, as he has done for almost a second generation now,

At the same teller window he has occupied

Through two hostile acquisitions and a merger

(He has, through a happy co-mixture of asceticism and prudence,

Put himself in a financial position to survive

If the next round of acquistional number-crunching and spreadsheet-scanning

Leaves him without a chair when the music stops)

Wanly smiling and nodding to his high-school classmates

As well as their parents and their children,

Carefully writing the small sums of accrued interest

In a tiny, careful script which notes the passing

Of weeks, months, years—a penny here, a nickel there,

Tiptoeing forward a solitary dollar at a time.

 

He was, as a young man, not without promise;

Indeed, the vagaries of verb conjugation and geometrical theorems,

Which presented themselves to his classmates as Sphinx-like mysteries

Every bit as inscrutable as the physics of the curve ball or the migration of birds,

Whispered to him with the sweetness of a mother’s song to an unborn child,

The razor-clean clarity of epiphany, and in sonnets and cosines

He believed he saw a plan, an organizing principle,

And so he sailed through Latin and Calculus,

Through Literature and Auto Shop

(The gearheads not his cup of tea, for sure,

But they grudgingly respected his prowess under the hood,

As he found poetry in timing chains, mathematical ballet

In the firing sequence of spark plugs) and he had, upon graduation,

Earned a full scholarship to Rensselaer Poly,

Which was, ostensibly, a mere four-year layover

On his inexorable journey to great things.

 

Inexplicably, he stayed.  There had been no inkling

That he’d intended to do anything but board a Trailways and go:

Deposits paid, housing secured, ties purchased

But he stayed nonetheless.  He was vague and non-committal

As to his motivation for staying put in the sticks.

He’d mentioned concern for his mother’s health and well-being,

She being widowed when Georgie was nine

(Although she is still very much alive and kicking,

In her eighties but, as the townfolk say if her name enters the conversation,

Prolly destined to outlive us all), and he’d mentioned

That he wasn’t fond of cities, as if Troy was the slums of Calcutta,

And after a while people lost interest in the whys and wherefores.

He’d taken a teller’s position at the bank, ostensibly for the summer months,

And never seen fit to leave.

 

He remains in his hometown—boyish, yet graying about the temples,

Unmarried and unencumbered (oh, there were women here and there,

But never amounting to much—Never the right girl, he would shrug

Or Never the right time, or some combination or variation thereof),

Although he carries on a lukewarm, presumably chaste dalliance

With the middle-school secretary, although neither of them

Harbor any illusions as to their eventual denouement,

And it is whispered that she often shares a table

With one of the custodians during lunch.

He rambles onward, through the reconciliation of cash drawers

And the re-heated remnants of previous dinners,

The head-shaking and mild scorn of the years immediately following

His decision to bail on prosperity and prestige

Giving way to mild admiration for his efforts

In the establishment of amateur dramatics and sundry book clubs,

All testament to the slow and subtle power of damp and chill,

The imperturbable primacy of rust.

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