Author’s note: Well folks, the time has come to declare that THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY CARD AND GIFT SHOP is officially on life support, a victim of search engine algorithms and the modern McDonald’s mentality. You see, search engines look for sites that are much more one dimensional than what you have been seeing here, and search engine traffic is essential to the type of numbers that lead to a successful blog. And, apparently, even the traffic I do get only gives me a couple of seconds before they decide to stay or go. McDonald’s has taught people to demand instant gratification, something the present format of this blog does not provide. I don’t think it ever will…that’s not the way I write stories and anecdotes, but we will try to make it more obvious to visitors what’s in it for them if they stick around. Look for an extreme makeover soon, complete with a change on the blog’s name, theme, and focus. We will keep the type of content that everyone has been enjoying, but the packaging will be quite different.
Why on earth am I doing something like this? I was the lucky recipient of a blog audit by the incomparable Ana Hoffman in her Traffic Generation Cafe blog audit Friday. She took my blog apart, piece by piece, and didn’t even put it back together again. She left that part up to me. How can I argue with someone who started a blog, and within a year, was up to 25-30,000 visitors a month?! (according to Google analytics) Blog audits are one of her paid services, but if you are one of her email subscribers, she picks one from her list every week for a free blog audit. So, I recommend you stop over to http://trafficgenerationcafe.com for lots of free advice about traffic generation. The bonus is that Ana is a loveable and transparent person who makes everyone know that she is their friend.
I’d like to quickly note that our blog was featured on Third Sunday Blog Carnival, which is a blog featuring writers and their stories.
Some of you are asking…Where’s the story? Is he going to leave us hanging and not finish the story? Nope! Our story will continue as I’m making the changes that Ana recommends. If you stop by, and something isn’t working right…have patience. I must have clicked the wrong button. Somehow, I don’t think this is going to be a seamless transition.
William was on a mission. It was Juanita’s birthday and he wanted to find the perfect gift. The only problem was, he had no clue on what to give her. She sure hadn’t given him any hints, either. Should he give her something for the house, or something personal? He concluded that he needed some help and he knew just the person who could give him some gift counseling.
He had tried to get help from his sister, Jasmyne, but that was a lost cause. When he asked her if she thought a vacuum cleaner was a good gift, after she stopped laughing, she said, “Why don’t you just buy her a bucket and a scrub brush, William? Boy, are you ever clueless!”
It was only a few blocks to the Village Gift Shop from their home, so William quickly made the walk. He entered the little shop and approached his friend, Angel Realto. “Hello William! It’s good to see you here. What can I do for you?”
William heard a baby ‘s laughing coming from a room in the back of the store. “You’ve got little Lonnie with you today? How’s he doing?”
Angel’s face glowed with love for the baby. “He’s growing fast. And, what an appetite he has! We think he’ll be ready for his first steak soon.”
William laughed. “I don’t know about that. Maybe you ought to go a little slow on the steak for now.” He glanced around the shop quickly. “Angel, I have a problem. It’s Juanita’s birthday and I haven’t got a clue about what to get her. You would know better than I do about what a woman wants for a gift.”
William walked to the display of different types of sweet treats. “What did you think of my sister, Angel? She’s going to stay with us during her leave. We’re all proud of her and she seems to have a calling…a special calling.”
“What would that be, William?”
“She works with people who have drug and alcohol problems. She’s really good at it and she likes her job.”
“We certainly need people like her around the Village. I wish we had a program here when my father was having his problems.”
“That would be great.” William picked the largest box of filled chocolate candy he could find. Angel gift wrapped it for him and he added a romantic birthday card. She walked him to the door and he headed back home.
Today was ZeeZee’s day off, although it was more of a workday for her than a day of rest. She was traveling to the city on the other side of the province to spend the day in the specialty shops where she could get the gourmet foods she used at the inn. Her father had often taken her on these shopping trips when she was a little girl. Many of the shop owners regarded her as part of their family, so she totally enjoyed these trips.
One by one, she made the rounds, purchasing the various meats and cheese that the inn was known for. The proprietor of the last store she was stopping at was a portly, grey haired, grandmotherly lady. She was one of ZeeZee’s favorite people…sort of an adopted grandma. “ZeeZee, I am just about sick of seeing you without a man in your life. It’s time you met someone and settled down, don’t you know? I’ve got a wonderful nephew I’d like to have you meet. How about the next time you come to the city?”
ZeeZee remembered some of the blind dates she had with distaste. “I don’t think so, Grandma. Don’t worry about me. God will send the right man in His time.” She didn’t know why, but as soon as she said that, she thought about Sandy.
“Oh, I know what it is, ZeeZee. You’ve already got someone you’re interested in. That’s wonderful.” She clapped her hands and her round face lit up with a huge smile.
ZeeZee laughed. “Grandma, you are an incurable romantic! No, there isn’t really anyone right now.”
The older woman nodded her head. “Sure, sure. That’s what you say.” She reached under the counter, retrieving a bottle of wine. “Here. Take this with you. It’s a special blend my friend gave me a case of. See if you like it when you go home.”
ZeeZee took the bottle and place it in a large satchel. “Thanks, Grandma. I’ll let you know when I’m back this way.”
Almost reluctantly, she began the trip back to her large, empty house. She inherited the family home along with the inn, but didn’t spend much time there. As she drove, her thoughts kept returning to Grandma’s words. What could God have in mind for her? Sandy hadn’t shown any kind of interest in her, even though she half wished he would.
When she got home, she put everything she had bought into a large, walk in cooler in the cellar. Weary from the long trip, she decided to forgo trying Grandma’s wine until another time. She set her alarm for 5 AM, and within a few minutes of stretching out in her down mattress, she was sound asleep.
Thoughts were coming into Sandy’s mind as fast as the fish were coming past his spot in the processing line. It was fortunate for him that his job was fairly mindless, giving him a chance to reflect on recent events. He was so used to being on the outside looking in that it was almost making him uneasy to be so included in people’s lives as he had been since his arrival at The Village on the Edge of the Sea. The attachments that people here seemed to make so easily were difficult for him. Sometimes, it seemed like loneliness was his oldest and best friend. At least, he never got hurt that way.
Thoughts of his hostess, ZeeZee seemed to be in the forefront. She was an attractive woman, about his own age. He knew she was single, but didn’t think her interest in him was much else than professional. Why would someone like her be attracted to a hobo like him? Sandy thought that they seemed to connect, but nothing had ever been that simple in his life.
The red faced man behind him in the line called out, interrupting his thoughts. “Hey Sandy. Are you dreaming over there? Things are getting backed up.”
“Oops! Sorry, Bud. I’ll catch up here in a minute.”
Sandy pushed his thoughts from his mind and finished the day. But as he walked home, they returned like a rushing flood. William’s sister Jasmyne had impressed him greatly. For someone so young to be so involved with doing the very thing that had brought him from a lifetime on skid rows was so special. He made a mental note to ask her how she had gotten started with drug and alcohol rehabilitation the next time he saw her.
When he got home, he got rid of his clothes, reeking from fish. He took a long, hot shower and got dressed for dinner. When he walked into the dining area, ZeeZee greeted him warmly. “There’s a hard working man. Have a seat and we’ll take care of that big appetite you must have.”
Sandy grinned sheepishly. “Okay, ZeeZee. But do me a favor, please. Don’t bring me any fish!”
ZeeZee tried to suppress it, but she couldn’t stop giggling. “Gotcha, my man. I think we might have something else besides fish tonight.”
She walked away, still giggling and shaking her head. When she returned, she was carrying a plate, two baskets, and a bottle. She set them on the table with a flourish and a curtsy. “What you have here is a steak sandwich with three bean salad. On the side is a basket of french fries and a basket of garlic bread. The bottle is a specially blended wine that my adopted grandma wanted me to try. I’d be honored to get your opinion about it.”
A dark look suddenly came over Sandy’s face. He looked away for a moment and then turned back, looking deep into ZeeZee’s eyes. “I’m sorry, ZeeZee. I can’t drink that. I’ve been a recovering alcoholic since I was sixteen.”
ZeeZee didn’t avert her gaze. Looking back into Sandy’s eyes, she said, “No, Sandy. I’m the one who should be sorry. I’ll bring you something else.” She didn’t want to end the moment. She felt like she could look into those azure eyes for a long, long time. Finally, she broke away and returned with a pitcher of iced tea.
“Do you mind if I take my break with you, Sandy? I’ve got about a half an hour or so.”
Sandy’s heart started to race. “I’d like that ZeeZee.” He slid over, making room for her and she sat down. The next half hour passed like a dream, with both of them chatting excitedly.