A Trip Back Home to Arthur, Illinois

All I’d ever wanted was to escape the Amish town I’d spent my entire life in. I’m not Amish, but for some reason, my parents chose to move there after I was born. College was the best excuse to escape this village of Arthur, Illinois, which seemed to be centered in the exact middle of nowhere. But it was Thanksgiving break, a time for obligatory family visits. So RJ, my roommate and best friend since preschool, and made the three and a half hour southbound journey.

“I’m losing an ounce of freedom every mile you drive,” RJ muttered under his breath.

Before we even crossed the county line, a familiar smell started seeping in my truck. Horse shit. Arthur always reeked of horse shit. Those damn Amish horse and buggies practically outnumber the cars down here. Gray clouds hung over the harvested farm fields as we passed the sign, “Arthur: Population 2,100.”

Following mandatory family dinners and ignoring my mom’s advice that “Nothing good happens after dark”, RJ and I thought it would be amusing to check out the lone bar in Arthur, The Heidelberg. As we walked in, a buggy blasting Bon Jovi from a battery-operated stereo clip-clopped  by. At least Rumspringa,  the time when Amish youths got to briefly experience the real world, hadn’t changed a bit. Oddly, that “real world” always involved 80’s music, 90’s clothing, and outdated haircuts.

The Heidelberg was dark and smoky, but packed full of almost-forgotten faces.

“Isn’t that Paul Singer’s mom?” RJ questioned as he sipped a watered down rum and coke.

“Oh my god…Jennifer got fat! Wait! Is that a baby in the bar?” I yanked his sleeve and pointed.

Former classmates stopped to chat about their factory jobs at Schrock’s, the local cabinet company, and the latest scripture studies at Bible study. RJ and I were practically the only two in our class to go to college. For the first time, it was difficult relate to these people we used to be so close to. That was the first and last time we ever went to The Heidelberg.

We hopped in my truck, I turned the key, but nothing happened. Again. Nothing.  A dead battery? How could I have left my headlights on?  Barely two minutes passed before Glen, the one and only Arthur cop, pulled up beside me.

“You two! Never thought I’d see the likes of ya’ll ‘round here again!” Glen exclaimed.

Glen hooked jumper cables to my truck until it was running. I dropped off RJ, pulled into my parents’ garage, and quietly slipped through the back door.

The next morning when I got out of the shower, Mom and Dad were standing in the doorway with their arms crossed and stern expressions.

“So you come home just to drive around drunk and get yourself stranded in the middle of the night, huh? That’s your idea being thankful for the parents who gave you everything?!” Dad hissed with sarcastic rage.

Apparently Police Office Glen ran into my dad at the hardware store earlier that morning and jokingly commented about saving his daughter outside that “scary” bar.  Gossip travels fast in a town like Arthur. My parents will never stop being overprotective. And this town will always smell like horse shit.

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