The Old Mill

The Gristmill at Stone Mountain, 29 August 2015This is from a series of stories I wrote, involving a character from The Long-Timer Chronicles.

Tangie Carson hoists the camera onto her right shoulder and peers through the viewfinder at the reporter, Megan Wilson, standing in front of the old mill. She’s already taken several minutes of footage of the mill itself from different angles, enough to splice in later during editing. She and Megan have been there for nearly half an hour, making a feature piece that will appear on either the human interest portion of the six-o-clock news or a segment on the morning show the following day. Tangie concentrates on the report Megan is giving, mainly to keep from thinking about her last visit to her doctor. She’d revealed the secret about her lifespan and, despite the assurances of the doctor that no information would be shared, Tangie worries that the doctor will want to publish her findings, if not share the information with colleagues.

Tangie’s not sure how she’d react if this happened. She could easily deny the report, say there was a misunderstanding but if the doctor had proof it might be hard to deny despite how unbelievable the story would be.

Megan finishes her report then stands for a few seconds looking into the camera before saying, “Are we good?

Tangie nods and lowers the camera. Megan says, “Who are we interviewing?”

Tangie checks her notes and replies, “Norman Saxon. He’s ninety-eight years old and remembers this place when it was still in use.”

The reporter nods. “I bet he’s seen a lot.”

Tangie smiles and looks again at the old mill. The boards are loose and some have rotted through. The wheel on the right-hand side stands idle, the stream that once powered it having dried up many years before. Tangie tries to imagine the place a hundred and fifty years ago when it was first built and went into operation. She thinks, Victoria would have been alive back then. But she wasn’t in the U.S for most of that.

Tangie thinks again of the conversation she had with her doctor and tries to decide what she’d do if word of her special gift were to go public. How would she handle it? She decides that she might have to move and she wonders about how successful she’d be in uprooting herself and starting over somewhere else. Victoria has lived in New York for over a hundred years, she thinks. She’s managed to keep a low profile, even though her name is well-known. But then again, Atlanta is not New York.

How difficult would it be to remain where she is and act like nothing’s different about her? The neighbors would notice how young she would continue to look but as they moved away or died, new people would replace them who had no idea how long she’d been in her home. It’s something she’s thought about before, but hasn’t given it a detailed examination. Her attitude has always been that she’d deal with the issue when it came up but now she wonders exactly how she’d deal with it. Telling her children, BeBe and Chet, now seems like the easy part.

She wonders how difficult it would be to make herself look older. The hair she could fake with a wig, but her face and features wouldn’t change and that would be hard to explain. How would she deal with it at work? They would certainly notice if many years have gone by and she still looks the same. Fortunately, she’s behind the camera not in front of it so there’s no video evidence of how she looks, though there are pictures from office parties.

Tangie walks with Megan back to the news van and takes a seat behind the steering wheel. She checks directions to Mr. Saxon’s house and starts the van. The drive takes fifteen minutes.

Norman Saxon is a spry older black gentleman with wiry gray hair that’s balding on top. Tangie decides it would be best to interview him on his porch swing and begins setting up the camera. Megan makes small talk with him as Tangie gets ready. When the interview starts, Megan stands off-camera to ask questions while Tangie films Mr. Saxon’s responses.

“Why I can’t have been much older than you are when they shut down that old mill,” he tells them. “Lot of people were sorry to see it go, but I guess times change.” He chuckles then continues, “I’ve seen so many changes around here you wouldn’t believe it. You young people today think everything’s just going to stay the same but when you get to be my age, you realize things don’t last.”

Tangie thinks, When I’m his age, I’ll look about the same as I do now.

Finally the interview concludes. Megan thanks Mr. Saxon for his contribution and heads back to the van. Tangie starts to take the camera off the stand, but stops and takes out her phone. She dials Allison’s number.

“Hello?” Allison says with her pleasant British accent.

“It’s me,” Tangie says.

“Tangie!” Allison says. “What’s up?”

“We still on for dinner?” she says.

“Of course,” Allison says.

“Great,” Tangie says. “You want to make it another sleep-over?”

“Do you really need to ask?” Allison says.

“No, I guess not,” Tangie says with a laugh. “Good, there’s something I need to discuss with you. I need an older perspective.”

“Sounds important,” Allison says.

“Kind of,” Tangie replies.

She finishes the call. Mr. Saxon says, “That your friend?”

“You could say that,” Tangie says.

“What I wouldn’t give to be your age again,” he says. “I thought I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. Here’s some advice from an old man. Make sure you stop once in a while to appreciate life. Take it from me, you won’t stay young forever.”

Tangie smiles and thinks, You have no idea.

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