At this time of day, it was hard to believe that the old soda shop was still open and running. Buster was one of a handful of customers – an elderly couple sat toward the back, by the kitchen order window, nursing the last of what was on their plates. In the middle of the main dining room were two counters – one in a U-shape, ringed with chairs, and another on the right, lined with higher, spinning stools. The whole place was done over in a simple decor of red Formica counter-tops and seat cushions, with the walls and tables left plain and unfinished. Behind the second counter was an alcove that led to another, smaller dining room.
Like its real life counterpart, The Fountain has been an Aviario fixture for decades. I wanted the novel to start in a place that really embodied the way small New England cities hold on to old favorites... and the Fountain is like a microcosm of Aviario: still well-loved, still in good shape, but in need of a little TLC if you look in certain spots. It also has an interesting layout, which lends itself very well to Buster's habit of watching for Interesting People ... I wrote the opening chapter as a result of having lunch after a Wander of my own, taking photographs for North End inspiration. As I sat at Buster's favorite table, his habit took shape, and the view out this little window gave me the first good windo into who he was as a character...
Because the Fountain was set at this particular corner of the parking garage, part of it was underground, putting the windowsill beside Buster's favorite table level with the sidewalk. Unless people were a certain distance away, either on their way in from the Pursley Centre across the street, or heading for the entrance of the parking garage, he only saw them from the waist down. That left speculation about the rest of them wide open, and he’d come to make a sort of game out of it: guessing as much as he could about the rest of a person from their lower half, and seeing how right he was when the upper half came into view.
My wife and I still visit the Soda Shoppe on a regular basis, usually for brunch on a lazy Sunday, or on Saturday before grocery shopping... It gives me a particuarly warm feeling to know that I'm helping a part of my past stay alive: not only through my patronage, but on the page, as well. If you're ever in the neighborhood, give them a try ... and say Angela sent you. The corn chowder is a staple for a good reason.
Please come back next week for inspiations & homages ... and Big Exciting News! I've got something great in the works, and I can't wait to share the details!
Until then, I remain your hostess,