Hollow Grove is a rather curious town. I’m at a loss for how else to describe it.
Though many of its residents whisper about supernatural happenings–which is intriguing in its own right– I’m much more fascinated by their daily interactions. The minutiae of the every day that they seem to take for granted. Their little microcosm is so beyond anything I’m personally used to.
I’m well used to the small-town experience. There’s something very isolating about it. Most have traditions and creeds ingrained with age and organization that are rather hard to challenge. Same could be said for any community where the powers-that-be are firmly established.
Hollow Grove is different. I’m bearing witness to a town that’s actively trying to build its own identity. It’s unmistakably American but there are unique layers just beneath the surface. It’s sometimes crass, sometimes beautiful, sometimes filthy, sometimes hostile, sometimes superstitious and it’s always changing.
Due to this, it’s quite the challenge to figure out what to dutifully record. What incidents deserve to be recounted. Arguably all but human memory is fallible and there’s only so much ink and paper I’m supplied with.
Perhaps it’s best just to start with the town proper along with Mr. Mooreland and his “tour.”
Well, it should be said that the town of Hollow Grove is a mess. There’s very little logic to the town’s organization outside of the main road. Buildings sprout where they may and there are so many ingresses and egresses–small and incidental–that all unaccustomed will find themselves frustrated by dead ends.
The uncultivated lands thick with trees and wild grasses haunt the periphery. They encroach upon the town daily–a reminder of this land’s ancient roots. In hindsight, perhaps it’s unfair to say that there is no logic in the town’s design. The interweaving paths that branch from the center much resemble a tree. It branches out while always being connected to the root.
But I doubt most of the locals think so poetically. It’s mostly need and chance that dictates decisions here.
These observations were made during my first full day here. I took to my own wanderings around midday when my promised guide failed to show up. Upon checking in with the tavern’s proprietor, Mr. John Lynton, later that evening, I inquired if Mr. Mooreland called upon me in my absence. He did not.
Punctuality, it seems, is not a valued trait to the people of Hollow Grove.
But Mr. Mooreland did call the following day around midmorning. He announced himself with a racket of knocking outside my door beckoning me to rise. He sounded in such a fit that I thought that I was the one who had missed the appointment.
Mr. Mooreland was a surprisingly squat man–rotund in size and nervous in disposition. Bespectacled and round-faced, he looked more like a banker. Only his dress of a linen shirt and brown overalls belied his country roots.
He held up a handkerchief to his nose as he addressed me.
He sucked in his lip and looked me up and down–sizing my value. He held out his hand.
“My name is Albert Mooreland, treasurer and personal accountant of Hollow Estates. I am here to offer a tour by Mr. Hollow’s insistence.”
I took his hand with a smile.
“Nice to make your acquaintance. Being treasurer must keep you awfully busy.”
He snatched his hand away and eyed me suspiciously.
“Why do you say that?”
I was stunned by this reaction but pressed forward.
“I was told by Mr. Hollow that you would call on me yesterday.”
He seemed surprised by this but shook his head saying nothing. He pushed past me into the room and opened the window.
“There are eyes and ears everywhere.”
“They hate when you tell lies.”
I remained silent, dumbfounded. Mr. Mooreland squinted at something in the distance before shutting the window and pacing back. He told me to get ready and meet him downstairs.
After that lovely introduction, he walked me down Dead Street pointing out the front facing buildings and talking about the people who owned them. He talked a lot about the people who owned them. There was a saloon a few buildings down from the tavern.
“That there little saloon is own by Mr. Parker. He’s always late with his payments and his wife sells moonshine in the backwoods.” He thumbed his nose conspiratorially. “They don’t think I know about it but believe me, I know. I know everything.”
He pointed at the building across from it.
“Marshall and his brood own this little shop. They get their stock from the next town over but they refuse to disclose their sources in their filings. They’re a shady lot. Liam Marshall, the head of the household, disappears frequently and none of the neighbors can give heads or tails of where to. The wife’s a curious one as well. People rarely see her. The eldest son is the one primarily seen in the shop.”
He produced a curious reaction from the people we passed. The streets were crowded with people roaming to and fro at a leisurely pace but their pace noticeably quickened when they passed by him. One woman with a small child in tow kept her head down in fear of locking eyes with him.
As we were making our way to the post office, a light shower of spit rained down on us when we passed another local inn. There was a mad chortling from the upper story as various men and women looked down on us from the street. Some booed and jeered while another quite inebriated fellow, gave us and the rest of crowd a splendid view of his ass.
This threw Mooreland in such a rage that he ran in through the entrance and demanded to meet a Mr. Tauber who was smiling behind a counter. He was a tall man of muscular build with dark hair thick on his chin and arms.
Mooreland pointed accusingly. “You and the swine you keep did that on purpose!”
“Did what on purpose, Mr. Mooreland?” Tauber inquired innocently.
“They’re spitting on the streets,” he screeched. “Public indecency! Capital offenses! I demand that you turn over the offenders for swift punishment.”
Mr. Tauber scratched his beard. “Fraid I can’t do that, Mooreland. Brings bad business to send tenants to jail.”
“You’ll suffer worst if you don’t. I’ll tax into your profits.”
Mr. Tauber set his glass down and produced an awful sound in the back of his throat. It reverberated throughout the room, drawing the attention of all those who remained nonchalant until that point. With a great thunderous final pull, he spat at Mooreland feet. Scuffing his shoe with a fine glob of phlegm.
“That’s what I say to your damned taxes.”
Never have I witnessed such an exquisite show of American patriotism. Uncouth and dirty yet diehard and passionate. Their tried and true aversion to taxes put on mighty display and enthusiastically cheered by all who bore witness. I bet the scene could easily match the great tea dumping of 1773 in the Boston harbor.
Mooreland ran out cursing and screaming. It was the abrupt end of my tour.
I now wonder why Mr. Hollow chose someone so reviled to guide me throughout the town.