While the Parade Passes By: Original Mystery Short Story

Jun 30, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Contributors, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Michael Mallory

Here is another fun Fourth of July related mystery short story, “While The Parade Passes By”, by Michael Mallory. This story was originally published in the Summer 1999 issue of Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine.

She looked like somebody’s grandma, and she probably was. On one long lapel of her white waitress uniform she wore a yellow smiley-face pin, and on the other was her nametag, which identified her as Maisie. I was perched on a counter stool and she came straight to me, which wasn’t surprising, since I was the only customer in the place.

“‘Fraid you come at kind of a bad time, sir,” she said, apologizing. “I can offer you a cold sandwich to go, but that’s about it. We’re just about to close up to go watch the parade.” The day calendar behind the counter read July 4th. “We’ll open back up in about an hour if you want to come back.”

“I’ll take the sandwich,” I said. “Ham and Swiss.”

“You got it,” she chirped, calling the order back to the kitchen.

“Funny,” I said, absently playing with a sugar packet, “but I didn’t even realize it was the fourth. You work on the road, like I do, you tend to lose track of time.”

“Oh, well, ‘round these parts this is a big day,” Maisie replied. “There ain’t much that goes on this town, but we do the fourth right. Big parade at one o’clock, then fireworks tonight. Whole town turns out. You should come watch the parade.”

“Me? Oh, no, thank you, I don’t like Fourth of July parades.”

“Don’t like Fourth of July parades?” she said, genuinely startled. “I never heard that one before.”

“Well, it’s kind of a long story,” I said, sighing. “I come from a town in Idaho probably not much bigger than this one, about four-thousand people.”

“We’re three-thousand,” Maisie told me.

“Okay. My family lived on the poor side of town. I didn’t have much when I was a kid, but there was one thing I wanted: my own bicycle. Every other kid at school had one, and I wanted one. My folks must’ve got tired of hearing me whine about it because one year they scraped up every spare penny they had, and they got me one. It was painted red and white and it had a blue seat, so they waited until the Fourth of July to give it to me. And man, was I excited. I must’ve rode that thing over every square inch of town that morning, hoping every other kid would see me whizzing by on my own bike. But I was so excited I got careless. See, we had a Fourth of July parade, too, and when it started, I leaned my bike against the wall of building and went to watch it.”

“Oh, don’t tell me,” Maisie said.

“Yeah, when I went back it was gone. Never saw that bike again. I had to go home and face my folks, who didn’t even talk to me the rest of the day, they were so mad. From that day on, I’ve hated any kind of July Fourth celebration.”

My sandwich was up then, and Maisie put it in a styrofoam box. “That’s just terrible,” she said, carrying the box to me. “Here, mister, this one’s on the house, so maybe you’ll now have a good memory of the fourth.”

“Oh, no, you don’t have to do that,” I protested, but she insisted. I thanked her profusely, laid down a nice tip, and left the restaurant. Outside I could see the crowd gathered for the parade. I carried my sandwich back to my hotel room and quietly ate. I didn’t even have to look at my watch to know when one o’clock struck. The marching band informed me. They were playing Sousa — and losing — but they were getting cheers from the crowd. From my hotel window I could see the parade. I watched an old fire engine go by, and that was followed by a flat-bed truck carrying a group of waving people in makeshift Revolutionary War costumes. Following that was a police car, with a small squadron of uniformed officers marching around it.

Quietly I left the room and made my way down to the lobby, which was deserted. A sign at the desk read Back after parade. It took only a few seconds to find the metal cashbox behind the desk.

From there I snuck over to the town pawn shop, jimmied the back door open and cleaned out the jewelry counter. A few pieces looked like they might actually be worth something. Getting into the town bank was harder. I had to go through a window. The vault was closed and locked, but I managed to score about nine-thousand or so from the teller drawers.

When I got back to my car I checked my watch. It was now one-twenty-five. The parade in Clarkson, another little town about fifty miles away, wouldn’t start until four. Everybody in town would turn out for that one, too. As I drove past the sign proclaiming that I was now leaving DuBois, Missouri, I could still hear the drums of the marching band pounding away.

I still hate Fourth of July parades.

But I love small towns.

Michael Mallory is the author of some 120 short stories, many chronicling the adventures of “Amelia Watson,” and eight books. He lives in the Los Angeles area.You can learn more about him on his website.

4 Comments

  1. Will you be staying for the fireworks?

    Reply
  2. A fun story, Michael! Thanks!

    Reply
  3. What a good use of backstory! Thanks, Michael!

    Reply
  4. Not what I expected but it does make you wonder! Thanks!

    Reply

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