December 16, 2021
Reflections, Day 66, Beep—part three
what matters most is how well you walk through the fire”
― Charles Bukowski
Ronnie blew some smoke in the air and took a big swig of beer. I didn’t know where this story was going but I knew that it would end up all right by just looking around me at the beautiful house and pool.
“So, they paid me more extra,” he said. “I was doing what was pretty good for me but I still couldn’t keep up with those rich boys. The next job I got was to take care of the coke machine and keep it stocked. Some people from other places call it “pop” or “soda” or “soft drinks” but here in Georgia, it’s all ‘Coke.’ If you go somewhere and order a Coke, they ask you, ‘what kind of Coke would you like?’ and you can say, ‘co-cola,’ or ‘Mountain Dew,’ or something like that. And a soft drink dispenser is called a ‘Coke machine,’ no matter what’s in it. I would take the key, open the Coke machine, and there were all these channels where the cans were stacked. I would put the hot drinks in the top and they would be cold by the time they got to the bottom in a few days.
“So, every evening, I would clean up the common room and fill the Coke machine. Then I would do my homework for a while until it was time to go do the room check. I cut the grass on Saturday morning, and that was my routine. I used the school station wagon to take the guys to their appointments on Tuesday and Thursday.
“My daddy was one of the oldest kids in a large family and his youngest brother, Uncle Mitchum, was only about five years older than me. The family kind of looked down on him because they said he was “shady.” I didn’t care, I really liked Uncle Mitch because he was fun. He came to see me one Sunday afternoon to see how I was doing. We went out and sat in his car in the parking lot and he poured us some beer into Dixie Cups. Man, that beer tasted good.
“I started telling Uncle Mitch what I did for money but that I never could make enough to keep up with the rich boys. I said that they must be really smart to have that much money at such an early age. Uncle Mitch laughed at me and told me everything was going to be all right. I looked around at that car I was sitting in and at Uncle Mitch’s fine clothes. I said, ‘Uncle Mitch, you must be pretty smart because it looks like you make a lot of money, what do you do to get it?’
“Uncle Mitch acted surprised and said, ‘I thought you knew. I’m what they call a bootlegger. That’s why we are able to sit here in this car and drink beer in a dry county.’ I was astounded.
“And then Uncle Mitch said, ‘We can solve your money problem.’ And he asked me what the schedule was with the school wagon. I told him about being at the barber shop at three o’clock on Tuesdays. He said, ‘leave the back door to the wagon unlocked. I’ll put a suitcase in there, just for you. Don’t let nobody else touch it.’
“Well, sure enough, there was a suitcase in the back of the wagon when I left the barber shop with those boys who had just had the most expensive razor cut that was in style then. I let them out in front of the dormitory and then parked the car in the Dormitory garage. I made sure nobody was looking, and I opened that suitcase. There were 48 cans of PBR stacked neatly in it. A note said,
“Them boys will love this.
Sell them one for two dollars or two for three dollars.
They will pay the price.”
Ronnie stopped and lit another Marlboro. I already had his beer ready…
The end of part three. Tune in tomorrow
Photo by Bill Cox