MY OBSERVATION AFTER several decades of life, many of them traveling around this fine country and others, is that many, if not most, towns around the world have their own “wrong side of the tracks” neighborhood. Some of those neighborhoods are actually on the other side of the railroad tracks that divide the town’s haves from the have-nots. Such was the case with Foster Flat’s section known as the 7th Avenue area. The section started on the north side of Foster Flat where the old railroad station and 7th Avenue sat within a short stone’s throw of the Foster Flat Rescue Mission. There, anyone down on their luck could get a hot meal and a place for the night as long as they understood they’d have to vamoose the next morning.
And as was true for most of the wrong side of the tracks parts of town, 7th Avenue had the reputation as the roughest section of Foster Flat; somewhere to go only if you were accompanied by an adult, preferably of the large male persuasion, and even then only during daylight hours. My uncle, Bo Rawlins, who was more of a dad to me than my actual alcoholic father, would have had a conniption fit if he knew how often I visited 7th Avenue without such a companion. For 7th Avenue had more than its share of undesirables – drug addicts, ladies of the night, alcoholics, homeless people down on their luck. That is, until something happened to change all that.
Reporter for the Foster Flat Sentinel
IT started innocently enough. One could say it all started with a random act that had no real logic and not even much thought behind it. In fact, if you believe we live in a world where mistakes and accidents are commonplace, you’d say the transformation of 7th Avenue was a pure and simple accident. You see, Marcus O'Leary was the owner of O'Leary's Tools & Hardware; one of the stores just barely on the right side of the tracks. Marcus received, among his monthly delivery of nails, drill bits, paint brushes and the like, a statue. Oh no, not a statue of a garden elf or a woodland animal like you might expect in a hardware store order. No, this statue was of a laughing Buddha, though to be honest, Marcus O’Leary, who was not a Buddhist, or for that matter even a Christian or any other religious persuasion, didn’t know it was a statue of Buddha. To him, it looked like a funny fat man with a large belly and man breasts that almost equaled his own.
It was Mrs. O’Leary who set him straight.
“Why that’s the Buddha, don’t you know,” Molly O’Leary remarked from behind her husband where she stood as she checked off the items on the invoice to be sure they’d received everything. “He’s supposed to be good luck. I am a bit surprised that you ordered it, though. Was it a special order for someone?”
“No,” Marcus answered as he slowly lifted the large statue out of its crate and set it on the counter. “Damn heavy thing, I know that. Can’t wait to see how much the extra freight charge will be. Even though I didn’t order it, I’ll be expected to pay to ship it back as well.”
“Well, you might just consider keeping it in that case,” Molly replied. She held up the invoice. “It’s not on the list here.”
“You sure?” Marcus asked as he walked over and took the invoice from her. “Maybe it’s listed as something else.” But as he studied the items, he finally had to agree. There was no such item on the list.
“What are you going to do with it?” Molly asked as she circled around the statue. Sitting on the counter, the eyes of the laughing Buddha were almost level with Molly’s own emerald green eyes. “You know, he’s kinda cute in his own way.”
“Well, now, if I’m going to have to compete with this damn statue for your attention, I’ll just have to toss it in the trash heap and let someone else worry about it.”
“Nah, you can’t do that,” Molly replied. “That would be bad luck. It’s a blessing that’s been delivered to our doorsteps, and it’s our duty to treat it as such.”
“Well, what do you think I should do with it?”
Molly considered her husband’s question for a minute before replying. “I don’t rightly know, but give it a little time. I’m sure it will come to you.”
And so, for the next two weeks the statue of the laughing Buddha sat on the end of the counter where Marcus had placed it, never saying a word. But that’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of words said about it over that time. In fact, it seemed to be a boon for business. Everyone who walked through the door noticed it first thing. They found themselves mysteriously drawn to the laughing eyes and impish smile. A few of Marcus’ old card playing friends suggested he buy it a bra or use one of his own to support the ample breasts of the statue. Marcus smiled and pointed the way to the door.
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