Osley watched his wife weave through the Trading Post aisle, bending to pick up stray rubber snakes and waylaid feathers. She turned the shot glasses to face the same direction and tied the laces on the moccasins in tight, neat bows. Osley loved her precision, her willingness to make things right. When George wasn’t causing Osley’s wrestlers to trip during trainings, he too was darting in and out of displays. If there had been a tip hat, the tourists would have paid to witness his make-believe games under tables of blankets and imaginary friend foot races across the swinging bridge. Just a couple months until the General Election, Osley began detailing the plans for his second term. The mountains sparkled with autumn rust and the Smokies were alive the with their second tourism season. Osley stood on the front porch of the Trading Post sipping coffee. He slowly blew the steam, watching it rise and fade into the morning fog. On most days, he had a good ten or fifteen minutes after the store opened before shoppers arrived. However, his retreat was cut short this day by an eager troop of boy scouts fresh out of the Great Smokies National Park. “Mornin’ boys,” he greeted them as they charged past. “You’ll have to excuse them,” their troop leader responded. “They don’t give out badges for good manners, I guess.” The two men smiled and Osley pointed the way to the snack bar so that he could enjoy a cup of coffee while the boys ravaged the store. George was thrilled. The scouts matched his exuberance step for step and didn’t seem bothered by the tiny tag-along. George was always willing to sacrifice being stepped on once or twice or being bumped into displays as long as he got to laugh loudly when the older boys did it, just like he knew their joke thoroughly. Martha always worried. In most circles of parental reasoning, George was too young to turn loose, but she had given up trying to control his fervor for adventure. He was too much like his father in that respect. She had trained herself to spot-check the store every few minutes, to gauge his most current location. She quickly learned other cues as well. She knew the clinking of shot glasses, the rubber vibration of the drums, and the all too common squeal of a surprised tourist when George poked his head out from under the t-shirt table. George was banned from behind the lunch counter, but nowhere else. Osley stood at the entrance of the store, calculating the damages the children triggered as they tore through. Luck ily, trinkets were pretty cheap and even the most raucous bunch couldn’t amass major destruction. The boy scouts were rude, but not quite as rude as their parents, especially the mothers. The women sifted through stacks of shirts, complaining that, “no one ever carried the right size” and argued with Martha about discounts for chipped paint or frayed feathers. At least Osley could laugh at the putrid expression on Martha’s face as she flatly denied requests. The boy scouts found the swinging bridge almost instantly. Despite calls from Osley and their troop leader to take turns crossing, the boys ran back and forth in a great herd, daring each other to jump harder, higher. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Jake Fuller, the suave Tennessee salesman who had caught Martha’s eye on his frequent visits to the Trading Post even felt the changing winds. Osley began ordering everything he possibly could from the newly opened “Cherokees” factory. Regardless of cost, he would keep them in business himself if he had to. Jake’s orders grew insignificant and it no longer became a tax advantage to purchase from Tennessee. Osley didn’t miss Jake in the slightest. Martha grieved in her own way. She even managed to slip a letter into the last invoice payment, expressing her apologies for his loss of business. As she sealed the envelope she felt a sense of loss, inevitable finality. It was, after all, the swinging bridge that kept George most entertained. The bridge was Osley’s last contribution to the store. He used it to market the business from day one, on post cards and in magazines. George thought of it as a magical transport to a magical land. He battled invisible foes, ever fearful of the dragons below, as he made his way across. George’s performances added drama to the already terrified tourists making their way across the undulating rows of boards. Osley loved to watch them dodge George as they clung to the railing, though he scolded George for his unawareness of others. 81 Though she tried not to be, his wife Martha was secretly grateful that Osley was no longer competitively wrestling. His training and promoting remained limited and he was never away for more than one night. The local boys he coached and promoted seemed to grow into men before her eyes, further illustrating the velocity of life that grabbed hold of their days and sent them headlong into an age for which they were not quite ready.