Lunchbox Vignettes are micro-works of fiction performed during the Black Tie Lunchbox Program. Each vignette takes place in a different community visited by the author.
By J. Timothy Quirk
Collinsville is that secret idyllic Connecticut town discovered by motorists turning the wrong way off of Route 202 who follow the river along River Road, taking a right onto Bridge Street and as they cross the bridge they realize they probably should have stopped to explore. The looks of the occupants in the steady stream of SUVs as they u turn in the open parking spaces in front of St Patrick’s Church always conveys the same conversation.
“Did you see that town?” The Passenger-Seat asks. “It looks so nice.” There’s an implied command in the phrasing but the subtlety was missed.
“That was neat,” says Driver-Seat. Clearly the list of available word choices shrinks in direct proportion to his familiarity with the roadway.
“We should check it out. Do you want to?” The question is merely the accoutrement to provide an illusion of choice.
To this he responds, “You want to check it out?” This is the type of clarifying question Driver-Seat believes is helpful. For the record, It isn’t. But the turn of the wheel satiates the passenger and they begin their return to town.
They cross the Farmington River once more taking note of the kayakers, the canoers, and rafters alike as passenger seat exclaims in wonder “We should do that!”
“It looks like fun,” is the reply which notably isn’t a “yes”. There’s really an infinitesimal chance Driver Seat will ever perform any water sports activity in the foreseeable future; he hasn’t exposed his knees to sunlight since John Rowland was Governor but the theory of taking part in the activity is momentarily exciting and the shimmering blue water surrounded by lush greenery allows both occupants to suspend their disbelief in their actual participation in water based activities. The SUV pulls into the public parking across from the Crown and Hammer pub.
They walk along a brick covered sidewalk towards what appears to be a center of activity, a marketplace with outside seating overlooking Main Street. They walk up the stairs into a bevy of excitement. A line has formed at the cash register which is in front of a giant chalkboard that graces the back wall listing the many varied sandwich opportunities available for creation and purchase. Passenger seat peruses the local art available for purchase on the wall and tells Driver Seat to order something for both of them. “No pastrami” she says. This is right within Driver Seat’s wheelhouse for there’s nothing that demonstrates his decision making prowess more than choosing which sandwich best goes with a Saturday excursion and for the record, he’s never selected pastrami so her enjoinder was rather superfluous. After ordering he finds an open table outside and when passenger seat has completed her survey of the establishment she joins him.
Underneath a red awning for shade, they are slightly raised above the rest of Main Street’s sidewalk and can view other couples walking together, hand in hand, a young family tries to keep up with their young son who is bounding with energy as he darts up the street, a fine restaurant hosts a full complement of guests outside at the tables with umbrellas, a bicycle rack near the flag pole holds two bicycles.
The sandwiches are delivered outside as Driver Seat spies the community bulletin board listing local events on the outside wall.
Taking a bite to eat Passenger Seat says “Oh that’s good.”
“You like it?” Once again, his clarifying question wasn’t truly required.
“What’s in it?”
“A touch of horseradish,” he smiles. It’s at this point he reaches for his own sandwich. Unbeknownst to passenger seat he ordered the same sandwich as she, her favorite, save for one key ingredient, the horseradish sauce. Had she not liked the touch of spice they would have switched plates. Quietly celebrating his personal triumph, he gulps down a few swigs of soda while passenger seat devours the first half of her lunch.
Previously while on the road they were exchanging periods of uncomfortable silences peppered with occasional sounds that served as silence fillers but now seated on metal chairs on a raised brick walkway outside a market and deli they were enjoying the moment that required no vocalizations on their part whatsoever. With each bite, each glance, they are recalibrating.
They explore the area within walking distance and discover a stage company they had never heard of that was trying original works dovetailed in their season with memorable favorites. While Passenger seat explores an antique store, Driver Seat wanders into the historical museum both activities a variant of the same purpose-exploring the past in search of ways that it might inform the future.
They meet outside the antique store where Passenger Seat has found an adorable lamp of intricate design.
“For the den,” she says.
Smiling, he replies, “Really? It’d go perfect there. Can I carry it for you?”
“It’s fragile,” she reminds him as he picks up the discovered treasure and carries it to the car. Surveying the inside of the vehicle, he finds no place to store it where it would ensure safe travel.
“Maybe one of us should hold it,” he says.
“I’ll drive,” says passenger seat.
And Passenger Seat becomes Driver Seat. Driver Seat becomes Passenger Seat. With new vision of their future den in mind, they leave Collinsville and continue across Bridge Street and to the left along Canton Road where the see the occasional bicyclist making their way to the trails along the Farmington River.
“We should do that,” says Passenger Seat.
“Yes,” she replies. “It looks like fun”