By Coulter Fussell
Well, well, well. Good morning, Water Valley. Heard any local business news lately?
Well, maybe instead you’ve just noticed Alexe van Beuren walking around like an electrocuted zombie with a glazed expression across her face and the fiery light of adventure extinguished from her eyes. Maybe you’ve seen one of the Turnage’s saddling up a horse, cleaning the rifle, dusting off the Bible, gathering the family, and hunkering down in preparation to fight for survival through yet another decade in this bad luck, self-defeating town.
Or you might have noted a hint of sadness and desperation in the voice of the lady behind the counter at Sprint Mart the last time she asked if you’d also like to buy a pizza stick. The rumor of a Walmart coming to a 3,800 person town will do that kind of thing to people.
It’s supposed to be a “Mini-Walmart.” Of course, that’s in Walmart inches because bigger-than-Me-chanics Bank, bigger-than-The Pig, and six-times-the-size-of-B.T.C. is way less Smurf and much more Gargamel. But I don’t care if the proposed Walmart is small (which it’s not.) I don’t care if it’s so small that only ants can shop there. It still takes away our purity. We’ll still be that 14-year-old girl who wakes up after her first night at Panama City Spring break with a hangover and a tramp stamp. There’s no going back.
And, look, I go to Walmart occasionally. It’s where I get my hair dye and this peach-flavored iridescent lip gloss I like. And, yes, if you’re like the man in front of me in line the last time I was there and you need three economy boxes of Kleenex, a pair of panty hose and some headphones then, yes, go to Walmart.
But, you could just as easily get that same sort of sad and mystifying combination of products at our Fred’s. Like the lady in front of me at Fred’s the other day who bought one can of White Rain aerosol hair spray, seven pairs of “silk” panties, and a jar of Cheese Whiz. Thank you, strange woman, for keeping your weirdness local.
And there’s also the Dollar General. Admittedly, there are times I feel I could get murdered in an aisle of Dollar General and no one would find me for a month. And perhaps our Dollar General could be featured on an episode of “Hoarders,” but our Dollar General has personality.
I mean, has Walmart ever put the singular pack of Triple A batteries you just bought into a 13 gallon draw string garbage bag at check-out like Dollar General did that time? No.
These new Dwarf-Walmarts are designed to take out the small town dollar store. Places like Fred’s are the intended victim. Yeah, they may be specifically aiming for Fred’s ( I don’t buy that, by the way) but since Little-People-Walmarts are still way bigger than every other business in town their wake is huge and they’ll slam places like The Pig, Turnage’s, Midtown Auto Parts, Sartains, BTC, and Sprint Mart against the bank. If this thing happens and you drive to The Pig one day only to find Jermaine from the bean aisle sitting on a pile of soaking wet wreckage, weeping into his apron, then we can only blame ourselves. Or maybe we can blame the city officials who let this happen behind our backs.
And, Water Valley, I’m gonna give it to you straight. They aren’t coming here because they like us. We aren’t Sally Field at the Oscars in this situation. We are Sally Field with the principal in ‘Forrest Gump’ in this situation.
Some of you could argue that we nay-sayers are overreacting. Like Captain Ahab we’ve “piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down.” But I’m no crazed peg-leg. Water Valley, we are the whale. We are the special one. We are what’s elusive and free.
And suddenly, it all becomes clear. Alexe showing up in Water Valley and driving her big pick-up truck through town with that hilarious homemade bumper sticker that said,” DON’T KILL WHALES! They are beautiful and endangered.”
Walmart is the maniacal Captain Ahab, obsessed with success at any cost. We are the whale.
I don’t know who Ishmael is in all of this. Coffeeville?