Palisades Park - 'I Got You Babe'

by Rick Beck

Chapter 2

Working Over Time

There were eighty to ninety customers on the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday side, depending on the day. It took six hours to deliver my entire route at a casual pace.

With David literally running the mil it would take no more than three hours, if I drove slowly. This arrangement would leave us more time for breakfast.

The next day I found David sitting on his front step after I turned on to his block, I asked him if he'd like to run my entire route with me. There were draw backs.

"You'd need to be sitting on your steps at five in the morning. I'll give you five bucks a day, the chocolate milk, and I'll take you to breakfast at a place where I like to eat."

"Kewl," David said, asking no questions and he gave me the biggest smile.

"Shouldn't you check with your mom?" I asked, knowing there was usually a mom somewhere in the picture.

"I do what I want. She'll get me up to go to work. She already knows I work for you. She likes the idea. She'll love to hear this. It means I'm doing OK with you. She asks me if I'm doing OK when I work for someone."

"If you say so. Today, if you'd like, you can run the rest of my route with me. There are twelve stops left."

"Including this block?" David asked.

"Yes, twelve houses between here and on the next two blocks. Then we'll go to breakfast."

"Kewl," David said.

He grabbed the carrier with the milk for Jimmy's house and he trotted up the steps and he was back in a minute. I wasn't sure how it might go but it couldn't have gone better. I was smitten with David. Now we'd spend more time together. It's what I wanted all along.

David was swift footed and the new arrangement seemed to suit him fine. When I'd turn onto his block at five on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, he'd be sitting there puffing on a Marlboro cigarette. He'd flick it on to his lawn and get up to climb on the truck.

He wasn't quite as energetic at five as he was at ten, when I usually arrived on his street. He went right to work as soon as I loaded the carrier. He was back in a flash and it was on to the next customer.

At first I told him where he'd find each milk box. I instructed him to bring me any notes in case a customer changed their order. Usually they might ask for cream or a loaf of bread. From time to time they'd want less milk because they still had some from the last delivery.

After going with me a couple of times,if I told him where the box was, he'd say, "I know."

David didn't like to being told what to do. I could get away with it once maybe twice.

Then he'd say, "I know."

On Thursday when I didn't stop at a house we stopped at on Tuesday, he'd ask, "Didn't we stop there last time."

"They're only Tuesday and Saturday customers," I'd tell him and he'd remember that once I told him.

He had a good memory and he wasted no time. I wasn't going to tell him to slow down, but that's what I wanted. Having too much time after the last delivery made it necessary to waste time before I went back to the dairy. If I went in at nine o'clock, after wasting some time at breakfast, Martin Whipps would freak out.

I could hear him saying, "No one can run a milk route by nine o'clock. It isn't done, you know?"

So we spent a lot of time drinking coffee once Sara had fed us. She was on my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday route and she was my final stop and I ate breakfast there. It's where I would take David to eat.

David leaned back against the divider between where the milk was kept cold and the open space where we went in and out of the truck. He asked about standing up to drive and I told him it was no big thing. You adapted to it.

In this day and age those Divco trucks that you stood up to drive would get you arrested. It wasn't difficult to see how dangerous it was. I did have a low speed collision once in a parking lot and it didn't even throw me off balance.

It required a bit of adjustment to keep your balance. You couldn't turn at any kind of speed or you might end up running beside your truck. There was nothing that held you in the truck with the doors folded back, which they always were while running the route.

David was never thrown off balance when I turned a corner or turned toward the curb. I had the steering wheel to hold onto and he could have held on to keep him from going out the right side open door, but he never did. He stood his ground and never let me see him off balance.

David had something to prove but I wasn't sure what.

Some times when I was about to turn a corner, I said, "Hold on," but he rarely did. He wanted me to know that he was capable and didn't need to be told what to do.

Nothing threw David. In a week or so he's at ease on the milk truck and he seems comfortable with me. He begins to tell me about himself. I learned he hates school and rarely goes. His mother knows there is a problem but he doesn't listen to her. She isn't able to make him go.

I had no love for school. It was a struggle for me too. I didn't read until long after other kids learned the skill. This gave me incentive to become the class clown. My theory, it's better to be laughed with than to be laughed at. Advising David to do something I didn't like would be transparent. I explained that getting a high school diploma was a good thing to have. It's apparent we've found something to disagree on. I don't mention it again.

David isn't interested in my opinions. I know he's intelligent because of how he works and how he acts. It's obvious he doesn't like anyone telling him what to do. I try to never sound like I'm telling him to do something without giving him an explanation for it.

I'm not a patient guy. I learn to be patient with David. I don't want to lose him.

He works for me. That's it. His life belongs to him. I told him what I thought. I wouldn't tell him what to do.

David did not change how he did what he did even after there was an entire route to deliver. He ran to the milk box, took the empties out, put the fresh milk in, and he ran the empties back to the truck and he put the empties away.

"You can take your time, David," I said, getting the milk ready for the next stop.

"I know," he said, breathing only a little harder than when he sat across from me at Sara's.

I found ways to waste time and David said nothing about my doddling.

I let him go at his pace and he lets me go at mine.

I never heard David complain but at breakfast he liked to talk. I liked listening to him. I'm slowly learning about him. The more I know the better I like it.

He packs it away at breakfast. He's worked and breakfast comes with our deal. He eats his fill. I could eat more but I don't. I've already learned how fast the pounds add up if you don't pay attention. Staying slim is far easier than getting fat and then trying to get slim again. I watch what I eat but I still consume more junk than I need.

Maybe I can get away with it for a little longer.

We don't eat that far from David's house. My habit is to run him home and than waste a bit more time before showing up at the dairy, where I do my books for the day.

Some days I don't total out my books, I go home after putting in tomorrow's order. I'll catch up on the book work in a day or two. By then I could leave my route book at the dairy and mark it when I got back, but I didn't. I was supposed to settle out every day, but I didn't do that either.

Actually they was a good reason for that. One of the route salesman went and got himself killed one day after leaving work. When Frank, the relief driver, took over his route it took a week to straighten his books out. I wasn't going to die any time soon and I did my job my way. No one had complained yet.

Sara was the last delivery on my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday side of my route. After putting her order away, I'd come out of the kitchen and take the first booth on the left. I could get my carrier out of the way and I started doing my books there before returning to the dairy.

Sara was middle aged with a head full of red hair and I'm sure customers came into her restaurant because she was so pleasant to be around. She talked to everyone like they were family and she made them feel right at home.

No one treated me nicer than Sara did and you couldn't beat the food at her restaurant. She'd long ago hired cooks to do most of the cooking but she kept her hand in and once I sat in the booth, she came to take my order and then she went into the kitchen.

The next time I saw her she was bringing me my breakfast. I'm sure she fixed it for me but it's another one of the things I never ask.

She was my customer and I was her's. Once David was running my route with me breakfast was part of the deal. That's when I began eating at Sara's on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays too. I'm sure she noticed that I ate there almost every day.

The first time I took David into Sara's restaurant, she came over and spoke right to him before she spoke to me. She didn't get a delivery that day and that could only mean we were there to eat.

"And what's your name?" Sara asked him.

"David," he said wide eyed.

"He's my helper. Part of our deal is buying him breakfast. I wouldn't take him anywhere else," I said.

"I'd be disappointed if you did," Sara said.

"You've won my heart and my stomach. I can't imagine better food or better treatment anywhere," I said.

Sara did a quick curtsey.

"We aim to please," she said.

"You do that," I said.

"What would you like today, David?" Sara asked him as if he'd come in alone and he had her full attention.

David's order wouldn't vary. He ordered the same breakfast every morning we went into Sara's.

"Two eggs over easy. Sausage, home fries, toast and coffee, please. No onions in the home fries, please."

"No onion in the home fries. What a polite young man," Sara said, admiring David with her words.

David absolutely beamed. I'd never seen him so pleased with himself.

"Very polite and fast on his feet," I said. "What would you recommend this morning?" I asked.

"French toast is good. I have fresh maple syrup. The sausage is from a new wholesaler. It's particularly tasty. I'll make sure you have plenty," she said.

"French toast and sausage it is," I said.

Sara left the table and went through the door on David's right. She didn't write anything down but I never failed to leave satisfied. There was a pleasant atmosphere to Sara's and that had a lot to do with her.

David's manners were better than mine and he ate everything on his plate. He was a well bred young man.

As we were finishing at Sara's one morning a few weeks later, David wanted to make a new deal with me.

"Can't I help you tomorrow?" he asked.

"No. I'm only near your house on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday," I said.

I didn't lie to him. I just didn't tell him that the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday side of my route was in Riverdale, which was across Route 1 from his street on the other three days.

Wednesday was my day off and I spent that day with David if I didn't have something else to do. There was a limit to how far I was going to go out on the David limb at the time. Three days a week and my day off were enough.

It was only a few weeks before that I asked him to go with me after work. We started off playing pool, migrated to playing pinball, and when I took him bowling, David found his game. He loved bowling. We went at least once a week. What wasn't there not to like about bowling? What wasn't there not to like about David?

This required me to turn the truck down the street before we reached Harvey Dairy. I let him out where I parked my car. He waited until I did my books and put my order in for the next day's milk. It rarely took more than a half an hour and then it was time to have fun.

David and I were together three days a week and on my days off. It wasn't too much for me because being with David was the best thing I did and I was very good at it.

I learned more about David as time went on. When we talked, we mostly talked about him when we went out together. He told me what he liked and what he didn't like. I already knew he liked attention and I knew he wouldn't tolerate someone telling him what to do. I gave him as much attention as I could and I didn't tell him what to do and we got along great. I was surprised that the more we saw of each other, the better David liked it. It's what I liked.

Oh yes, he hated raw onion. If we stopped somewhere and I went in to bring out burgers, fries, and Coke, he always said, "No onion on my burger."

Every once in a while, at places like Burger Chef, they'd still put onion on his burger and I heard about it.

"I said no onion. There's onion on my hamburger," he'd rage.

"David, I told them no onion. Do you want me to take it back and get one without onions?"

"No," he'd say disconsolate.

He'd proceed to sit there and pick every sliver of onion off his burger before he'd eat it.

I didn't say anything else about it. He was great to be around. We liked all the same things and he was a hard worker. I wasn't going to let his tantrum over onions change what I found in David.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead