“Look at it.” I held it above eye level so he could see it.
“I’ve seen it already. It’s a big bottle,” he said grabbing another paper to fold and rubber band.
“Yeah, but…,” I said taking in the size of that bottle. “It’s a pint. A whole pint.”
“Yup, it’s big alright. Never seen anything like it.” He snapped the band against the paper and stuffed it in his carrier bag. “I’ve heard it called a belly washer.”
“Ha ha. That’s a good one. Sure fills you up. You want the rest of my moon pie? I don’t think I can eat the rest and finish this baby off,” I said holding it towards him.
“Naah, I already ate one. Toss it in the trash. There’s the can.” He was pointing at the side of the pink building. We always called it the Greek’s, probably not acceptable in today’s society but we were kids and we repeated what we heard without thought to right or wrong. It just was.
I looked at my moonpie and decided it would be best not to finish it. Launched into an arc, it banged against the side and landed on the pavement.
“Better get that,” said my buddy. “I’ve been folding papers here for a while and I don’t think he would appreciate litter around the building like that.”
“OK.” I retrieved the melting moonpie and dropped it into the trash can. Turning back I saw he was placing the last paper into a tight spot in the bag. It was bulging with issues of The Evening Post, the afternoon edition of the Charleston newspaper. He lifted the bag with a grunt and placed it on the wooden platform he had made to fit on the handlebars of his bike. It weighed heavily to one side until he shifted its equilibrium. With that he stepped on a pedal and pushed off.
‘OK. Let’s go,” he said gliding to the right side of the road.
He had had this paper route for some time. I always felt it a privilege to ride alongside after folding papers. We had been friends since first grade. This was his first job which he enjoyed until he had to go door to door to collect payment for the paper and his deliveries.
“Lot’s of deadbeats,” he had told me one time. “I so much like it better when they pay the paper directly. I don’t have to go to their door and ask only to be given an excuse as to why they can’t pay this time. It’s frustrating.”
He always had my sympathy about that. For me it was a fun afternoon to meet in the Terrace in front of the Greek’s. We’d spend a dime for a drink and another for a moonpie then settle into folding papers. But this time the drink had been fifteen cents because it was the new Pepsi pint. Sixteen ounces of sweet bubbly nectar. Usually the drinks were eight to ten ounces for a dime. This one was so much more for only an additional nickel. I had to have one.
These weren’t my first paper rolling days by any means. Clyde had had a paper route a while back. His was in the afternoon too. I helped him to fold papers when they arrived. He picked them up and took them to the house and we’d fold them in the living room. When he was finished he would load them on his scooter and buzz around the neighborhood tossing them into the yards.
So folding newspapers was second nature to me. My only recompense was the company and something to do in the afternoons. It was enough for me. I think my buddy enjoyed the company. I never went door to door with him when he made his collections, so I never shared the feelings about the paper recipients since I had never experienced their sorry behavior at collection time.
I hopped on my bike and whipped around the road, a horn blared from a car that was a block away. Ignoring it I raced up to R who was grabbing the first paper to be thrown. His style was a flip of the wrist with a touch of power. It was good technique for the Whamo Frisbee which would soon come on the market. The paper would flip end over end until it reached the porch with a smack. His aim was fairly good. I never saw one disappear into the bushes or splash into a puddle after a rain. It was an impressive record.
His route took us down Woodland Shores Road. We hung a right at the Annex, a side road that paralleled Woodland Shores. At the end we made a u-turn and peddled quickly back to the main road. Another right and we were halfway to the end of this street. At the end we’d stop and look for cars. In those days there weren’t so many. With nothing coming in either direction we were up and pedaling quickly to cross and settle into the seat for the last half of his route, Stono River Road.
We peddled past his house on the left. His rhythm was impeccable. Reach, fling, reach, fling. It was perpetual motion without a hitch. Each house received a perfectly arced tube of paper. His routine was perfect.
“Hey, paperboy!” came a shout. “You got any extras?”
R braked and dropped his foot to the pavement. He straddled the center bar of his bike, leaned forward and grabbed one from his bag.
“Yes sir, I do. Just a dime.” He extended the paper roll to him.
“Thanks, boy,” he said. He flipped a dime with his right hand and retrieved the paper with the other. R pocketed the dime while the man turned to walk up his drive. R looked at me as he stood on the right pedal and pushed off.
“Every day he does that. I don’t know why he won’t just take out a subscription. At least it’s a payment I don’t have to worry about collecting,” he said shaking his head.
There were only a few papers left in the flaccid canvas bag that had been taut with rolled papers. When he turned to go down a side street it hit me.
“I can’t go any further with you!”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“You remember that Pepsi I drank?”
“You mean that new size?”
“Yeah, that pint of Pepsi.”
“It just hit me. I gotta get home fast.”
He laughed. “Just ‘cause it’s new doesn’t mean you have to buy it.”
“Yeah, but it was such a deal. A pint for fifteen cents. And the bottle was so big. I just couldn’t help myself. I had to try it after seeing the ads on TV.”
“Better hurry then. You don’t want to be sorry. Don’t forget the author Willie Makit.”
“Huh?” I looked at him with a blank stare.
“You know the book?”
“The Twenty Steps to the Outhouse by Willie Makit and Betty Doant.” He began to laugh himself silly.
It was my turn to shake my head and pedal off. It could possibly be a Betty Doant story here, I thought to myself. Pedal fast, pedal fast. Feets don’t fails me now. Pedal fast. No Betty, NO!