Monday, September 12, 2011

The Corner Where The Gun Shop Stood

In my hometown, for as long as I can remember, there was a little strip mall-type place where the main road that led down from Route 2 crossed over the railroad tracks of the Boston & Maine. On the corner of this cluster of shops was a drug store or convenience store or some such thing, and the local hoods used to hang out there all the time. One day they harassed a girl who entered that store, and some young man about nineteen or twenty stepped in to defend her from them. They stabbed to death this young Galahad with a switchblade. I was only five years old then, and I didn't read the papers much, but I heard all about it. At least one of the hoods got sent to Walpole for the crime, and it was decades before there was another murder in my hometown. But for several months after that incident, whenever my granddad was taking me and my little sister on a walk and we passed that corner, he pointed out that shop, reminded us of what had happened there, and grimly shook his head. When I got to be teenaged myself, and was still living in the neighborhood, I always thought of that place as The Murder Corner.

Sometime during my teenage years, I noticed another shop in that vicinity. It was a gun shop. You could barely see inside the place, and it would be grated up after dark, but the sign on the outside let you know in no uncertain terms what merchandise was sold therein. It was the only gun shop I knew about - and I mean anywhere in that part of Greater Boston. And it stood almost on the same spot as The Murder Corner. I used to wonder whether that shop had existed when the murder took place, and was the honey-pot of weaponry around which those violent young hoods were hovering like flies. If it had not existed then, but had been opened later, why had it been opened so near that corner? Had the gun shop owners thought that it was a fitting place to sell "deterrents to crime" because of its history of violence? Or had that violence itself pervaded the soul of the place and turned it into a magnet for the sinister presence of firearms? Last time I drove past that corner, a few years ago, the Boston & Maine was long gone but that gun shop still existed. Most of the people who lived in that neighborhood are dead, or have long since grown up and moved away, and I don't think anyone around there remembers it as The Murder Corner, but in my eyes it still is.

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