They’d thought the place would be a gold mine.
These words came (wholly unbidden, not that it mattered to their originator)
Courtesy of the lone regular in this frowzy, nondescript Upstate bar
Attached, more or less, to an equally unhappy motel
Where two or three of us, consigned to stools by a capricious wind
Which had dredged up all the Lake Ontario moisture it could carry
Before dumping it in implacable white bands over this particular bit of interstate,
Seemed fated to call home sweet home for the evening.
The “gold mine” in question, we came to find out,
Was a small country store located in some approximation of a hamlet
Known as Blodgett Mills (we inferred, though it was not said as much,
That it was just down the road a piece, as such places usually are.)
What inspired such confidence in our new-found friend’s parents
Had not been readily apparent at the time,
Nor had the passage of time (and it was difficult to pinpoint
How old our unfortunate speaker may have been,
His visage subjected to weathering and wuthering
By forces that spoke more to the quality of his years than the quantity)
Served to clarify matters–he supposed they thought the forlorn little ski bowl
Up toward Virgil would, through some means of enchantment, become profitable,
Or maybe they’d heard whispers that the truck factory up in Cortland
Was planning to expand to some nearby abandoned farmland.
Hell, he all but spat, they probably got hold of the fool notion
They could make the place a go by hard work and force of will.
It had not worked out that way, of course; the combined encumbrances
Of hundred-hour weeks and skating upon the edge of bankruptcy
Had taken his father before he turned fifty, and his mother,
Rushed closer to the precipice through the addition of grief and guilt,
Soon followed him to the ranks of the choir invisible.
The son had no intent of taking the reins– place was no more
Than a fucking oversize coffin to me–nor could he find anyone
Who appreciated its limitless commercial possibilities,
And the bank did its due diligence shortly afterward.
The store had been vacant for years, perhaps decades at this point.
Place’s still there, our narrator assured us, winders ‘r busted up pretty good,
But the rest of the place hain’t in bad shape, not that it’s good for anything
‘Cept meetin’ a girlfriend or takin’ a piss out of folks’ line of view.
He’d said all he had to say, and so the bar was quiet
(The tiny and occasionally reliable TV showed the unhappy Doppler images
With the sound off) save for snatches of the bartender’s conversation
With a teenage son or daughter who was being advised
That mom wasn’t going to make it home tonight
So the place better goddamn well be just as she left it
And the constant growl of the winds driving the squalls
Which obscured a billboard up on the highway
Touting the impending if indeterminate opening
Of a resort on a man-made lagoon sanguinely named Hope Lake.