"I still remember where I was," said Mr. Heckley, "when the thought first occured to me. 'Open up a hardware store,' a voice seemed to say. Clear as that. Clear as that. Truth be told, I was never that handy. Hadn't even swung a hammer 'til I was seventeen, eighteen abouts, and my father, who worked at a desk, wore a tie and everything, 'til he thought to build a trellis for the garden. Mother always wanted one. Anyway, I was made to help out, though I would've offered regardless. I wouldn't say it was formative, but it introduced me to working with my hands. I continued to consider law school. Here, my parents did little to encourage me. Don't get me wrong: they would've been supportive. Moral support, at least. But facts were facts, and could they afford the tuition? Probably not. Could I? God knows. Looking back, I can't tell you why I thought of law school to begin with. The germ was just there, in the back of mind. My uncle, great-uncle, he was a lawyer. I think the idea came from the word; my imagination built a possible future on the foundation of that word. Is this making sense? I think we understand the word incorrectly, as a youth we do, I mean, or if not incorrectly then in a skewed sort of manner. Then we, our imaginations, they grow around it. Is this making sense? So, maybe I didn't want to be a lawyer, but I had the idea of 'lawyer', the word, in my head, and that was the trail my mind followed. As a youth, anyway. I wasn't called to it. I wasn't called like I was to opening a hardware store. That's what happened. A voice, not a voice like a talking voice, a voice you felt like a vibration in your bones, your skull, it said 'Open up a hardware store,' just like that. No explanation for it. Who can explain it? I've got my health, I've got my mental health. These things just happen, and I'm not too much of a believer, so I won't comment as to that. But it happened. That's another idea, you know, like the lawyer idea, that the imagination can build on, but I was what, I was twenty-one, and there's that clarity you have as an adult. You speak the world's language. So I told my father about the voice and he wasn't a big talker, not too silent, but not a big talker. And we discussed it, matter of fact like, the possibility of opening a store, I mean. He told me to talk to the neighbor across the street, old fellow, Mr. Polk, never did know what he did for a living as a youth but it turned out he owned a hardware store next town over. Mr. Polk, he must've been ninety at the time, but he could talk. He could talk. 'Every town needs one,' he told me, 'so you're doing your duty and you're safe.' Safe or secure, he said. He wanted to emphasize that it wasn't fleeting, I mean. So he says to me I'll be safe, or secure, and then he tells me his own story, and I'll never forget this, 'I was drifting', he says, 'from town to town, state to state, and this was after my home got knocked flat by a tornado. And I'm taking that like a message from God, because the other explanations, they'll drive you to the madhouse. I drifted for a couple of years, doing odd jobs as I found them, until one day I heard a voice: "Open up a hardware store," it said to me.' Now you can imagine what I felt, the chill that ran down my spine, when he said these words. He had heard the voice, too. He was called. And I confided with him, and he could see how his story shook me, so I confided with him about hearing the words, and he nodded. That's all, just nodded. We discussed it no further. And truth be told, I never saw him again, never visited, never told him about the store after I opened it. I figured he knew. He could've seen my destiny, the trajectory of my life, drawn out before him the moment he knew I was called. So, he knew I opened the store, that I'm sure of."
Our thanks to Mr. Heckley for his time.