Hello, Surf Reporters! Wednesdays are a little tough, because I have to be at work an hour early — and try not to be too sarcastic during a meeting. But I didn’t want to miss yet another day here, so I’ve decided to post some more stuff that’s been cut from my new book.
The project is coming along nicely, but I had to tighten the focus a bit. The way it was going, the thing would’ve ended up being the size of a Stephen King novel. So, some pages are hitting the cutting room floor, including the anecdote below.
To set it up… This is from the section where I write about my old paper route. The brothers, who I call the Kesslers, made my life a living hell. They were three psychopaths, who were capable of just about anything. And Russ was my district manager, in case you’re not able to piece it together.
Have a great day! I’ll see you again tomorrow.
A few months after I started, I began running out of papers. I’d get to the last few houses, and be left standing with an empty shoulder bag and a cartoon question mark hovering above my head. What the heck’s going on??
The first time it happened I walked back to my house and called Russ. He told me to report shortages to the circulation department, and gave me the number. So, I called and said, “Yeah, I’m short.” And the guy on the other end replied, “Don’t be so hard on yourself, young fella. How tall are you?”
Hours later an unknown man showed up at my front door with the additional papers, and I had to walk back to the route and deliver them. It was almost dark, and the customers were not amused. And neither was I. My face was hot with embarrassment. Despite the way it might have appeared, I was trying to do a good job.
During the next week I came up short three or four more times, and just couldn’t understand it. Nobody else seemed to be having the same problem. I discussed it with the guys at the stop, and they said I should put my foot down, that I should call circulation and set them straight on the matter.
I didn’t want to earn the reputation of a complainer, especially so early in my career, but it was becoming an issue. I’d still be dealing with my route at eight o’clock every night, and some of the customers were starting to raise hell. Many days there would be an envelope attached to my paper bundle, filled with reports of phoned-in complaints. Something needed to be done.
“It’s the Kesslers,” one of the other carriers told me in confidence. He was looking all around as he said this, obviously concerned someone might overhear. “They’re stealing your papers and selling them to Cliff’s Market.”
I was shocked. The Kesslers were three brothers I didn’t really know, but who seemed OK. Sure, they were wild as all hell, and one was especially scary in a psychopathic sort of way. But there was no known problem between us. During our paper-folding sessions beside the pizza joint I thought we got along fine. In fact, they were the ones who offered advice on my shortage problem. They seemed to actually care about my situation.
I didn’t know what to do. Any one of those brothers was capable of just about anything, and I sure didn’t need any trouble with them. They were always into something, and I didn’t want that something to be me.
Several times I’d watched them climb the oak tree and hide amongst the leaves, then throw mud balls at passing cars. The drivers would invariably stomp their brakes, jump out, and blame whatever boy happened to be handy. And the boy, always afraid of the Kessler brothers, would just take the heat.
One day the oldest of the three, Butch, started a lawnmower and dropped the whirling blades onto the corner of some kid’s bundle, sending chopped-up newspaper flying across the blacktop. When the kid arrived he asked, in horror, what had happened. And I saw the Kesslers instantly change from snickering pricks into caring and sympathetic characters. They told the kid it looked like the bundle had been damaged by some sort of machine at the factory, and he should call circulation and give them an earful about it.
It was true! The Kesslers were stealing my papers. They’d used the exact same caring tone with me.
And here’s where I should be reporting on the grand revenge scheme I engineered, but nothing like that happened, I’m sorry to say. I started racing to the paper stop every day after school, in a wild attempt to get there before the brothers, and that’s about all I did about it. As long as I arrived first, everything was fine. But if a teacher held me after class for a few minutes, or anything like that, I’d come up four or five papers short at the end of my route.
It was maddening. I told Russ about it, and he didn’t seem willing to intervene. It was my route to manage. I told my parents, but begged them to stay out of it. And one evening, while I was almost crying with frustration, I quit. I called Russ, and told him I’d had enough. He talked me down from the ledge – which was easy to do, since I didn’t really want to give up the route, anyway. But, nothing was resolved; he offered no solutions.
Needless to say, I hated those guys, and stopped participating in their little pizza shop folding sessions. They could kiss my ass. I secretly wished for something bad to happen to them, something involving a street sweeper or a runaway threshing machine. I concocted wild fantasies where I heroically doused their bundles in gasoline, and set them on fire in front of all three brothers and the other paperboys. But that stuff only happened inside my head, of course. Because suicide isn’t really my style.
One day after school I desperately sprinted to the stop, as usual. Must get to my bundles before the Kesslers… But the brothers were nowhere to be seen. The other carriers also didn’t know where they were, and that was fine by me. I hoped they’d all died of sudden-onset penis shaft cancer.
I started getting my papers ready, and Russ showed up – which was rare. We never saw the man, except when our bills were due. He asked us to gather ‘round, and delivered the greatest news possible. He’d finally had enough of those three assholes, and sent them packing. The Kesslers were fired!
It felt like the clouds parted, and a single ray of sunshine came down on us. We all cheered, and pumped our fists in the air. Russ seemed to be taken aback by this reaction, as if he was just then learning how miserable those future convicts had been making everyone. I think he felt slightly guilty that he hadn’t handled it earlier, while also enjoying his new status as a hero.