A single sandwich board sign leaned against the parking side of the hardware store. The old wood had been painted with several coats of white to cover its former message. “Bring Lolita Home” was written in large, incomplete letters, as if there was barely enough black paint. Coming from the other direction on the highway through town, the sign would have been missed completely.
Perhaps it was once propped on the corner each morning, but now, it seemed, there was just no longer a need. If she had returned, Jonas would have gotten rid of the sign. He kept a clean storefront. No crates or pallets or flyers. This was the first thing folks saw when they passed through town and he was proud of that. He even asked Sheila to do up some flower boxes on either side of the front doors and keep them tidy for him. Had Lolita been taken so long ago that they just stopped putting that hope on the curb?
I passed through Rockgate for weeks before ever stopping. I had hit the road earlier than usual, subconsciously on purpose, I suppose, and had almost an hour before visiting hours up on the hill. As I pulled around the curve of road along the canal, I thought for a moment that the sign was gone. But as I parked beside a green truck, the sign was still leaning on the wall, within inches of the truck’s bumper.