The Old Town by Alan Delaney

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SUMMARY: My entry for the flash fiction contest:

He brought the car to a stop outside the old town hall and killed the engine, reminiscing for a time about his childhood days. He could remember a more innocent time when he used to throw his bike by the wall here and run into the nearby shop, even while it was still moving, to stock up his pockets on chocolates and penny sweets.

Behind it, just out of view, was the old cinema. He smiled to himself as he remembered his first love. The cinema had been their secret place, or, more precisely, the fire exit at the back had been the one that opened out onto a balcony overlooking the river. Distantly he wondered whatever had become of her, and how things had gone after she went to college not that it mattered much anymore, that had been a long time ago.

To his left he caught sight of a solid green door in an otherwise blank, imposing wall. The sign over it marked it as an entrance to a timber yard. When he had been a boy the door had been rotting, dilapidated. Behind it there had been nothing more than an abandoned car park where many a schoolboy dispute had been settled, or more often deepened. He allowed himself another smile at some of the pleasant memories that came to him, and conveniently pushed others aside. Some things were better left in the past.

He got out of the car and glanced down the street, hoping to see some of his favourite shops, but there were few that he knew. The sleepy, lethargic town of his school days had turned into a haven for the trendy and the fashion-conscious clothing boutiques and restaurants replacing sweet shops and gaming arcades. It seemed to him that the pubs were the only constant, and even these were sporting fresh paint and double-glazing.

His favourite sweet shop was long gone, having been replaced by jewellers store many years before. So was the arcade, the sounds of blow-dryers and fresh gossip replacing the strains of synthesised death. The cinema was still there, but it was now little more than an empty shell. Even the boards across its doors and windows looked old.

Unwilling to let such details spoil his day, he took a walk through the town, taking in the new sights and hoping to spot an old, familiar face. Two hours later he ducked into a restaurant and ordered a pizza for one. In all that time he had seen no one he recognised no one at all