Young boy rebels against a thankless father.
The Copenhagen Faux Pas
He didn't know why Willie boy had taken it in mind to antagonize him every moment of his life, but there it was, without ceremony, a splinter under a fingernail that pained you incessantly till it was removed. The splinter under his fingernail had become infected, had taken up permanent residence. It pained him like a knife in his heart. He didn't know why the knife was there, but he knew the party who had put it there.
One day of the fight for his life had started with Willie boy's ill-gotten, bright idea to send him over to Williamson, West Virginia to purchase some Copenhagen smokeless tobacco. That had been a long journey for a twelve year old boy, not to mention the legal ramifications.
The night before his journey, Willie boy had casually mentioned he was speculating on sending him to town tomorrow, said he was out of Copenhagen. I don't have myself a bit of business to transact over in Williamson, West Virginia, he had thought, lessen it be attending the matinee at the Cinderella Theater. And I ain't never hired myself out as an agent to do Willie boy's transacting for him.
At first the idea had excited him, later on, after he had turned over the probabilities entailed in the event, his face had turned sour with skepticism. He knew he was going to have to walk all the way to Williamson, in the heat of July, without anything to drink and no expectations of obtaining anything to drink. His Daddy would count out his money down to the last penny for the purchase of that Copenhagen, nary a thought that his son might be thirsty or hungry would cross his mind.
Well, he was tough, he had thought. Might be, he could turn this Copenhagen adventure of Willie boy into a situation that would terminate in his favor, and if he did himself a whole headful of speculation on the matter aforetime . . .
That night he had done himself a fair amount of pondering, seeing how things would wind up if he did this, or if he did that, but no concrete plan jumped out of his thoughts as the one he would put into effect. He had finally decided to wait till morning when he would have Willie boy's Copenhagen money in his hands.
One thing he did know for a fact, when he strolled into Williamson tomorrow, he was going to have himself a powerful thirst. He was going to waltz right into The Blue Eagle Cafe, he was going to sit himself down on a stool, and he was going to order himself an ice cold, twelve ounce bottle of Royal Crown Cola. Right along with that ice cold bottle of Royal Crown Cola, he was going to order two of the best hot dogs made in Williamson, West Virginia. And the stool he was going to be sitting on was the one in front of that little metal machine you could put a penny in and try to catch a football by moving a little man around.
The next morning had risen early for him, and the pondering had still been dancing around in his head. Maybe, he had thought, I ought to just disappear for the day, but his second thought on the matter had strangled the first. Nah, I'm going to be the leading character in this here Copenhagen adventure Willie boy has planned for today.
Now just for reference, and getting at the facts of the matter, he didn't have himself a thing against Copenhagen, but he didn't recall signing any indenturing agreement with Willie boy, whereby Willie boy could control every aspect of his life. Something just wasn't right that he had to walk all the way from the Cold Fork of Turkey Creek to Williamson, West Virginia, which is about five miles distance, purchase some Copenhagen for Willie boy and turn right around to walk five miles back to where he started, he thought. He had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness just the same as any other person born in the United States of America. Might be, he would write himself out an itemized bill of particulars, a legal attachment for services rendered against the amount Willie boy laid in his hand this morning. Might be . . .
According to the laws of this here United States of America, Willie boy was the responsible party when it came time for his children to eat, to drink, to be safe from harm or to imbibe of various other necessities to sustain life. Ifen I allow Willie boy to successfully send me on this Copenhagen adventure, it will be the beginning of another pain in my heart, he thought. I reckon I am going to oppose this adventure with all my heart, and drag my feet in the dirt with all my strength till it's over.
It wasn't too awful long of a time that morning, and there he was, walking down Cold Fork Road with Willie boy's three dollars of Copenhagen money in his pocket. By the time he had walked down to Money Branch, he had done himself some calculating, and figured Willie boy owed him fifty cents. And taking into account that he was an unwilling participant in this ill-fated excursion, he added a nickel of hazardous duty pay on top of that figure.
He walked on. He wanted to take himself a little detour and visit the construction site of the new Turkey Creek school, but he went on ahead. Directly, there was Joe Dempsey's house coming along on his left side, and up ahead, out of his line of sight, was Elisha Sartin's. He walked steady till he came in sight of Keither Wilson's post office and grocery store.
The July sun was fixing to send itself rivulets of sweat sliding down both sides of his forehead as he approached the bridge leading to Wilson's, and the tar sealing the asphalt on the road made a squishy sound as it came into contact with the soles of his shoes.
As he crossed the bridge, he took out his mental cash register, and it allowed as how Willie boy was in his debt for another fifty five cents, taking into consideration another nickel in hazardous duty pay.
He walked on across the bridge and into Wilson's. There was a soda pop cooler over on the left side and he headed for it. He opened up the cooler and selected himself a bottle of Nehi root beer. It was ice cold. He opened it up, and imbibed himself of a long swallow. When he got up to the counter, the shadow of Willie boy jumped in front of him and insisted on paying for that Nehi root beer, being as how it automatically fell under the category of being one of the necessities of sustaining a boy's life.
Ha, ha! Willie boy would cuss seven long strings of black and blue profanities if he knew what he had just done.Thank you, Willie boy, he thought as he took himself another long swig. He went on outside and sat down on the steps to finish it.
While he was sitting there, he took a dollar and ten cents and put it in his left side pants pocket, segregating his financial portfolio from Willie boy's anemic monetary condition, that left Willie boy with a dollar and ninety cents in his right side pocket, lessen ten cents for his root beer soda pop. Willie boy's assets are suffering from a sudden downturn in the stock market, he thought. He rested up there on those steps till he caught a holt of his second wind, then he commenced walking down Kentucky Highway 612 toward South Williamson, Kentucky.
He didn't really like walking along this road, seems everyone stared at you as if you were a foreign tourist. Most folks were friendly though. He walked onward. Today, traffic was as thin as a fog on a hot fourth of July afternoon, which pleased him right tolerably. Directly, he looked up ahead of him, and there sat the Old Regular Baptist Church of Turkey Creek. It was in the sore need of someone applying some gravel or red dog on its parking lot. The elders are laying down on the job, he thought.
Right up ahead of him was Kentucky Highway 292, and he made himself a right turn onto it. He was poking along slowly now, his bones were aching, and a monumental thirst was working its way throughout his body. He walked on by the Appalachian Regional Hospital, and past Charlie Baldwin's house, up a long hill and down the other side. In a minute he could see the mouth of New Camp up by Virgil's Esso station. On and on he walked.
It wasn't more than three minutes or so when he took his first step on the sidewalk entering South Williamson, Kentucky. It was right about then, he thought he heard someone calling his name. At first, he did not recognize the voice. It was a voice he had never heard before, and he was somewhat puzzled. "Hurry up, Jamie! Hurry up!"
There wasn't anyone in sight, and nary a sign of who might be calling for him.Then he saw it, and lifted up his feet into a tired run toward it. King's Dairy Bar. And it was talking to him all the time.
"Hurry up, Jamie! Hurry up! Get your chocolate milkshake here, or a foot long hot dog. Taste our root beer float, or we can fry you up a freshly-made hamburger."
He thought, as he approached the door of King's and slung it open, Huh, all this time I never took myself a thought that a dairy bar could talk. He stepped on inside King's, and ordered himself a small cup of root beer with no ice, just plain, ice cold, root beer. It cost Willie boy another ten cents.
He debated the good points on both sides of the argument before deciding against the merits of ordering a foot long hot dog. Next time Willie boy, he thought as he strode out the door. Naturally, Willie boy's financial soundness was then in dire need of some major restructuring after he had seen his way clear to pay for that ice cold root beer. The unpredictable nature of the stock Willie boy had sunk his money into is eating up all his profits, he thought. If I happened to be his financial adviser, I'd recommend he divest himself of it.
He kept on walking. He was going to go straight across the steel mesh bridge into Williamson, West Virginia. When he arrived at the middle of the bridge, Willie boy tendered another payment of fifty five cents, and he transferred the funds into his left side pants pocket. It was then he asked himself, Was he imagining it, or was his body leaning just a hair to the left? Must be because Willie boy's balance of available funds had dwindled to a dollar and fifteen cents. The preponderance of funds in his left side pants pocket must have altered his center of gravity, he thought as he unconsciously took a skip and laughed delighted.
He walked on across the bridge, made himself a right turn over the railroad tracks, and commenced walking up the hill toward Sears, Roebuck & Co. up on Second Avenue. Sears was the first store on the corner of Second Avenue. He walked on past it, and past R. H. Hobb's Department Store and G. C. Murphy's. As he was walking past Hobb's his feet tried their best to take him inside. He could smell the many flavors of candy from inside the store, and his feet were almost overpowered by the smell of vanilla fudge. But, he thought, Willie boy will be bankrupt if I go through that door.
After several false starts toward the doorway of Hobb's, he was able to regain control of his feet, and he castigated their involuntary actions. "Keep walking straight up the sidewalk feet, turn neither to the right nor the left, unless I send you a signal, you know as well as I do that I am headed for the Blue Eagle Cafe."
He walked on. When he came to the intersection of Second Avenue and Logan Street he looked to his left toward the Cinderella Theater. Reluctantly, he kept on walking up Second Avenue toward B&L Furniture. He walked right on past B&L and turned onto Pike Street, and there across the street and up ahead of him was the Blue Eagle Cafe. He hurried toward the Blue Eagle.
Directly, he crossed Pike Street and approached the door of the Blue Eagle. They knew him in there. He opened the door and went in, took himself a seat.
In a moment of time, the owner of the Blue Eagle came down behind the counter and asked what he was needing.
"Morning Mike," he said.
"The reason I came in here today, was to purchase some Copenhagen for my Daddy. S'posed to be, but I have taken and had myself a change of heart. I am tired, I am thirsty and I am hungry. I think I will have a couple of hot dogs and a bottle of Royal Crown Cola to rejuvenate myself."
Mike shook his head from side to side, laughed and replied, "Your daddy is sure going to have a fit if you come home with your stomach looking like it's been well fed, and maybe you failed to carry his Copenhagen along with you. Are you positive you want to place that order?"
"Go ahead and make me those hot dogs Mike, and when my daddy comes in here tomorrow to buy the Copenhagen I did not buy, you can tell him I said, Thank him for the food."
"And you can tell him I called him Willie boy. You can tell him the next time he sends me to walk ten miles, I am going to do the same thing, and the next time, and every time."
Mike took the hot dogs buns out of the steamer, got the weiners from the pot and set about preparing the hot dogs. Directly, he was finished and placed the Royal Crown Cola and the plate of hot dogs on the counter.
"Your daddy didn't give you extra for food and drink, did he, son?"
"No sir Mike, he didn't."
"Son, you're a man now, just try to do right and stand yourself up those times it is called for. I have an idea, why don't I trust you to pay for this food and drink at a later date, and let you have the Copenhagen?"
"It's a matter of principle, Mike. I just can't do that."
"I didn't think you could, son, just letting you know you had that option."
"I have something else I had in mind for you to do Mike. You tell my daddy your name is Mike. You know that is not what he calls you as well as I do. You know where he always sits when he comes in here. Make yourself a little sign, write on it in big letters: My name is Mike. No usey, no boozy. No service, no Cophagen. Put that sign behind the counter, right where he usually sits, and he will call you Mike from that moment on."
"I will make that sign and hang it today son. Is there anything else you need today?"
"No Mike, I"ll eat these hot dogs and drink this Royal Crown Cola, then I think I'll take a little stroll down toward the Cinderella Theater. Lessen I have made myself a mistake, I hear some fresh, buttered popcorn calling my name."
"Son, you have yourself a lot of nerve and a strong heart beating in your chest. Be careful, son. I'll let back to my work."
"Thank you, Mike."
He stood up, reached into his right side pants pocket and extracted Willie boy's puny financial reserves. He selected seventy five cents and laid it on the counter. Mike turned to walk away and get his fifteen cents in change as he bit into the first hot dog. Man, that hot dog good!
He inhaled that first one, and started in on the other one, mixing it with a cold swallow of Royal Crown Cola, every now and agin. He asked himself as he swallowed, Wonder what's playing at the Cinderella Theater?
Directly, Mike laid fifteen cents on the counter in front of him and walked away. He picked up the fifteen cents and put it in his right side pants pocket, upping Willie boy's remaining fortune to a total of fifty five cents.
Right about then he heard Willie boy talking in his head, "You're going to get it when you get home son, might as well do this thing right and spend my last fifty five cents."
He immediately took Willie boy's expert advice under diplomatic consideration. He was not descended from a long line of diplomats, and up till that point in his schooling, he had not majored in diplomacy, but he was cognizant of the fact that on rare occasions Willie boy did have some good ideas, and this was one of them. He chewed on this suggestion a second or two, to wring the flavor out of it while he ate the rest of his hot dog. As he sat there, he thought. Willie boy's idea is going to be a lot easier to digest than those two hot dogs and a lot more pleasurable.
He stood up, walked over to the door, opened it and stepped outside. He went along Pike Street till he came to Third Avenue, made himself a left turn and commenced making his way toward the Cinderella Theater. Maybe I'll take me a look inside the Army and Navy surplus store, he thought as he walked down Third Avenue. Just as he came abreast of the Army and Navy store, he could read the marquee sign above the Cinderella Theater. Alan Ladd and Van Heflin, starring in Shane. He skipped on past the Army and Navy store and made himself a beeline toward the Cinderella Theater.
He went on in the theater and watched a Woody Woodpecker cartoon before settling down to see what Shane was all about. Willie boy had volunteered to buy him a ten cent box of popcorn, a Zagnut candy bar and a large Coca Cola. After thanking Willie boy for his generosity, he settled down in his seat to partake of some old-fashioned entertainment.
Shane was the best movie he had ever seen up till that day. Still, he will find himself watching it, whenever the opportunity arises. He did not recall many more events of that day, except his heart knowing it was the day of his rebirth. The day he stood up.
He walked all the long five miles toward home with his chin almost touching the ground with dread. He was choked with fear of the little .25 caliber Beretta automatic pistol of Willie boy which he kept seeing in his mind.
When his home came into sight, he tried everything he could think of to halt his progress toward Willie boy. It was more than fear which held him in its grasp, only a tiny kernel of courage remained in his heart.
And as he stalled there on the dirt road, this kernel burst forth and became a seed planted in his heart. A seed of reckoning, a seed of life, a seed of the future. Oh Lord, he thought.
He sure hoped Willie boy had not been drinking moonshine today. He was seven times as mean when he did that. After all his thinking, he had failed to take that possibility into consideration. His heart sank, but his courage did not waver.
He trembled as the red color of anger burst forth on Willie boy's face as he explained why he had not purchased Willie boy's Copenhagen smokeless tobacco. Willie boy looked as if he was confounded and at the same time, as if he was about to choke on the words he was preparing to say. Of a sudden, the blue in his eyes took on a darker hue, and an almost imperceptible ghost of a smile appeared there.
"Alright son, I reckon I will go to town tomorrow and get it myself," he said as he turned away.
"And son, you owe me. The next time you get me a hickory switch, you are going to find yourself getting a double application."
He did not know what came over Willie boy. Was it the realization he was not only Willie boy's son, but he was also a human being?