Rated: E · Short Story · Experience · #854873
Short story based on an actual day in the life of a newspaper boy many years ago.
|The Day His Hair Turned White|
He was just a lad of twelve and was anxious for Friday to arrive. That was the day the parents of his best friend were going to take him fishing. While there was no school that day, he was surprised his father was even allowing him go. Normally he and his siblings were not allowed to go anywhere except school or errands.
But he had a problem. He had recently started a newspaper route and the papers had to be delivered. Asking his brother to deliver the papers for him was not the answer. His brother was not dependable and papers not delivered would cause him to be in big trouble, not only with the newspaper but also with his father. One of the rules set down by his father when he asked to be a newspaper boy was that it was his responsibility to see that the papers were delivered every day.
So, not wanting to upset his father and have him change his mind, he had to come up with a plan.. Why not set the alarm to get up earlier than usual, do the route and then go fishing. Even if he was tired after doing the route, since it was an hour’s drive to get to the fishing hole, he could sleep during the trip to the fishing hole. He also decided that it would be best if he completed all his chores on Thursday night and bathe before going to bed. This would give him the head start he needed to make the plan work.
Since they had wanted to be at the fishing spot by sunrise, he set the clock for 3:00 A.M. Once the alarm went off, he quietly dressed, not wanting to not wake the rest of the household. He pulled his carrying bag on over his shoulder, slipped out of the house, and walked to the corner of Third and Penn Street. This was the predetermined spot where his bundle of papers got dropped off. Fortunately, his was not a big route and the drop-off spot was close to his house.
The street was quiet with very little traffic and no pedestrians. He untied the string that was around the bundle and counted all of the newspapers. If you did not receive the correct amount of papers in the bundle, you had to call the Circulation Department as soon as you finished delivering the papers you had received. This was so that they could bring out the number of newspapers a carrier was shorted so that all customers would receive their paper before 8:00A.M. He breathed a sigh of relief when his count indicated that they did not short him today. Had that happened, there would be no fishing trip. So far, so good!
His route consisted of individual homes, apartments, and retail establishments such as banks, retail stores, a gas company and the like. His method of delivery was simple. Some of the businesses had large open areas in front of their doors. As he passed these establishments, he would merely toss the paper and hope it landed close to the door. When the owner or employee arrived they could pick up the newspaper before opening the store. Homes that had fifteen or so steps leading up to the front door or vestibule took up a lot of his time due to the climb up the stairs and then the descent once the papers had been delivered. Some of his customers also lived in apartment buildings and he had to carry the papers up the steps, open the door and place them inside the vestibule, again not hard but time-consuming.
The weather was cooperating. There were a few stars in the sky and even less clouds. The temperature was cool with little, if any, humidity. There was no rain to slow him down. He hated it when it rained because on rainy days, each paper had to be placed into a plastic sleeve and the end twisted shut. Once this was done, he could toss the paper hoping his aim was straight and that the paper would land somewhere close to the door. Because of this it took much longer to deliver all of the papers and by the time he was done with the route, he was usually miserable because he was usually soaked by the time he returned home. But that was not the case today. Everything was going smoothly.
Most of the newspapers had been delivered. He had about thirteen papers left to deliver. Ten were for businesses and the other three were for one apartment building. Due to being anxious about the fishing trip, he worked the route so that the businesses were last. There were only about ten of them and they were the easiest to deliver to. Since there were no steps to climb, it was just a matter of tossing the paper to the right spot near the door. There were about twenty steps he had to climb to get to the top landing of the apartment building. Once there, it was merely a matter of opening the outer door and placing the newspapers inside, laying them on the floor so that they would be out of the weather.
He climbed the steps of the apartment building to deliver three of his papers. What happened next took him completely by surprise. As he opened the door to toss in the papers, he looked right into the eyes of a person standing motionless inside the vestibule, staring straight ahead. The person was dressed in an army uniform and his eyes never moved. As a matter of fact, he could not even tell if the person was alive or dead. Who would be standing perfectly still in the vestibule of an apartment building at 4:30 A.M. in the morning? Better yet, why? But, he was too scared to speak. It startled him so. All he could think of was to drop the papers and run as fast as his legs would take him down the steps and across the street. He was so thankful that all he had to deliver yet was the business establishments. He practically ran the rest of the route. He would throw the paper as he passed the opening of the business, hoping that by some small miracle the newspaper would land in the vicinity of the front door of the business. At this point in time, feeling the way he did, he was not prepared to go back and place them properly. As long as the paper landed somewhere in the vicinity of the door, he was satisfied.
He looked over his shoulder every now and then to see if the person was chasing him. No one was in sight. He thought to himself, where is a cop when you need one? But then again, what would he say to the cop, "hey, I just seen a dead body standing upright in that doorway back there". The cop would take him home, wake his parents, tell them of his silly story and that would be the end of both his paper route and the fishing trip. Perhaps it was best that there wasn’t a cop to be seen. The best course of action now was to finish delivering the newspapers and get home as soon as possible.
Fortunately, the businesses were on Penn Street between second and fourth streets. He lived in the two-hundred block of Cherry Street which was a half block from Penn Street and so he wasn't far from home. Having tossed the last paper, he headed home as fast as his legs could carry him. He ran into the house and up the stairs, trying to be quiet yet desperately wanting to get to a mirror so that he could see for himself how this incident may have changed his appearance. First stop was the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror. After that he needed confirmation from his mother that he was allright. Slipping into his parents' bedroom quietly so as to not wake his father, he knelt beside her bed and quietly whispered into her ear that he needed to speak to her. Would she please come into the hall way with him? He had a question he needed to ask her but they needed to be in the light when she answered him. His mother slipped out of bed and came onto the stair landing and asked, "what is wrong? You look like you have seen a ghost!" He looked at her, his face was pale, his palms were sweaty and he tried hard to keep his knees from shaking. Trying to compose himself, he said with a shaky voice, "Mother, look at me and answer me truthfully, has my hair turned white?"