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the paperboy

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"I had a paper route when I was a kid;  I was a Paperboy.  I was supposed to go to 2,000 houses, or 2 Dumpsters!"  Mitch Hedberg

Friday - April 3, 1981

8:31am | The Paperboy: Collection Day



“But I thought you said that you wasn’t the Paperboy anymore?”


I’m not, man. Not since two days ago anyway.


“And plus, it’s a new month. So, how we gonna get money from your old customer’s, for next month,  if you ain’t the Paperboy no more, then?”


Mark frowned, both at his accomplices’ lack of faith, and the fact that he was trying not to step on a small semi-circular pile of broken rocks in his path.  Looks like some kids had made a rock Fort right smack-dab in the middle of the sidewalk – stupid. As his frown soured, and he kicked the rocks away, he heard a small child moan off on the side of the home directly in front of the pile. “Hey, whatchu do that for?!”


First of all - he began as he turned his gaze away from the disgruntled child, who was now racing toward the pile with what looked to be small sticks in his hands. Surely the Fort’s walls – “we” ain’t gettin’ shit, I am.  And they don’t know I’m not the Paperboy anymore.  Well, I may have told one or two of them…


“OK, so how you gonna get money from them for next month?  It’s only the 3rd.”  Said Kevin, who was clearly and utterly confused. “They already paid for April last month, right? You stupid, this shit ain’t gonna work.”

Just leave it up to me - grinned Mark. It’s MY hustle anyway!

As the two boys rounded the corner they were met by a large group of kids, bookbags in tow, who were cheerfully headed-off to school and commandeering the sidewalk by virtue of sheer numbers.  Forced to abandon the sidewalk and hug the curb, so as not to be run over by either the gang of kids or passing cars, the boys were suddenly (blissfully) aware that they were ‘skipping’ school today.  Who needs teachers and classwork and study, when all they needed was a beautiful day, like today, and some…


Ding-dong! Ding-dong! “Just a minute, please!”


Then, after some muffled shuffling, the door opens to a middle-aged White woman who was clearly in the throes of getting dressed for work.  At first Mark thought something was wrong with her, and almost abandoned the ruse out of sympathy.  He then realized that her continuous blinking was somehow due to the mascara she had been applying, and not some abnormality of the eye.  Fair game, then.


         “Can I help you?” She blinked, clearly confused and rushed.


Yes, Ma’am - Mark began - I’m the Paperboy, and I usually…


“The Paperboy?  But it’s Friday morning, aren’t you supposed to be in school?  What time is it?  Oh my God is it Saturday?  Did the clocks go back, or up…”


No, Ma’am, it’s Friday, I mean the time hasn’t changed, I don’t think…


Turning toward an oval mirror on the wall that was just inside the doorway and placed above a shelf overflowing with all sorts of items, the woman seemed to will her left eye as wide open as possible, as she continued to apply her mascara and converse with him.


“Oh, thank God!  I did that last year. Totally late for work because of the stupid Time-Change, thing.  Ugh.”  A final few blinks and she turns to Mark as if she’d forgotten he was there, and with a puzzled look, she continued; So what was it you were here for again?  Are you here to collect for the Paper?


Yes, Ma’am! Mark chimed – This would be easier than he thought.


“Oh ok, well… my husband usually handles this stuff, but… how much do we owe?  Is it for the whole month?” She asked, all the while reaching for her purse, and wallet within.


It’s $6 for the month.  Like I was saying I’m a little early this month, because my family and I are going on Spring Vacation at the end of the month, so…


”Six Dollars?” she repeated, rifling through her purse to find the exact amount.  “I’ve only got a ten. Do you have change for a ten dollar bill, young man?  Never-mind, just keep the change.  I’m sure you’re a good boy and a hard worker too, since you’re here before school and all.”


Yes, Ma’am!  Thank you Ma’am!  Mark said, grinning and extending his hand to receive the money.


“You are very welcome! Now hurry off to school before you’re late.” She said, closing the door.


Mark was beaming with pride, and couldn’t walk fast enough around the corner where Kevin was waiting, all the while clutching the ten dollar bill in his hand and grinning from ear-to-ear!


Seeing Mark’s hurried and grinning approach, Kevin began to walk toward his friend as a smile opened on his world as well.  “Did it work?” He asked.


Mark raised the bill to his chest and declared, “Like a Champ!”

The Paperboy | © 2021 Mark Wilson
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