Ties loosened slowly for more than a year. Waves of people found jobs in other cities. Houses took longer to sell. Few people talked about the changes. Who could blame them?
A few places die quick deaths. There’s Chernobyl and Fukushima.
But most places are like this town. They die slowly. Youth replaced by old age. Old eyes staring out through dusty pains of glass.
Molly was in the middle of everything: middle aged, middle manager living in her modest middle class home.
She wanted people to think it was her sense of duty just kept her at the mill until the last days. Perhaps the executives would remember her commitment and sacrifice and consider her indispensable.
“Molly we need you at our San Francisco home office. What can we do to woo you away from your home town?” She imagined them tempting her away from this place.
But the executives left first with bonuses so large that they would never need to sell their mansions by the river.
On the very last day, Molly walked the plant with Alan, the facilities manager. She carried the checklist and they checked each room together.
It was dead silent. All the noises had relocated with their people. Their footsteps echoed as they walked down each darkened hall.
Alan carried a metal box. After they locked the door of each room, he dropped the corresponding key in the box. The box, now nearly full with keys, clinked with each step.
Finally they walked down the long hallway where men and women would rush quickly to clock in before the shift.
At the end of the hall, by the security shack, a courier leaned against his mini van.
Alan closed the chain link gate and slipped on the padlock. He dropped the final key in.
They walked over to the courier.
“Is that everything?” He asked.
“Alright then” the courier took the box and drove off.
“Well, what next Alan?”
“Going to enjoy my retirement. Maybe do an odd job here and there. ” He smiled and Molly believed him. It made her feel sad not for him but for herself. This town died too early for her old self but too late for her young self.
“How about you Molly?”
“I’m relocating. They want me to join them at the home office. Don’t even have time to pack up properly.”
“You were always indispensable Molly. They’re smart to bring you along with them.”
“You are too kind Alan. My best to your wife.”
Molly climbed into her car. She waved goodbye to Alan, to the factory, to the town. Perhaps once she settled in a new place, she would send her key to Alan and hire him to pack up her things.
She took the long way out of town and drove by the abandoned mansions on her way to the highway. She waved goodbye to them too.