Shack one-oh-seven has a reputation as being the hardest to manage in the daily newspaper circulation system. The District Manager never visits the shack. The rumour is he’s afraid to. The sub-manager, Dino Testa is a carrier promoted to the position. He’s a nice, easy-going guy who opens and closes the shack and does the paperwork.
The real power is Jim Hartman, clean cut, smart-mouthed, and mean. What Hartman wants Rick Walsh makes happen. Walsh is a sixteen-year-old with a five-o'clock shadow. An auto mechanic shop student, he’s dumb, tough and not afraid of anyone. With muscles bulging beneath the turned-up sleeves of a black t-shirt, nobody gives him lip.
This is how it works.
On his first day as a real carrier, he comes directly to the shack from school. He’s one of the first there and hoists himself on the bench and sits waiting for the truck to arrive. He can’t stop grinning. He feels good, one of the guys, plus he’ll have pocket money. Sometimes his parents spend his allowance at the Legion where they go every weekend.
Soon other guys arrive all talking about the fight after school. Walsh took on a real tough wop and broke his nose with a single punch. Blood was all over the place.
Walsh and Hartman swagger in. Everyone wants to hear the details and Walsh serves them up.
“I heard the guy's nose crack.” Walsh short-jabs the air. “I was going to put the boots to him but didn’t want to get his fucking blood all over my GWG’s.” His white jeans don’t even have a grass stain.
“Terrific, he says.” He wants to be part of the event.
Hartman stares straight at him, lights a cigarette, flicks the burning match on the wood floor. It gets quiet.
He smiles, swallows his fear only to have it rise right back up in his throat.
“You’re sitting in my spot,” Hartman says.
He jumps down, grabs his bags and moves to one of the many empty spots.
“That’s Rick’s spot.”
He moves to another space.
“That’s my spot too,” Hartman says.
He stands in the middle of the shack, all vacant spots on the bench evidently reserved for Walsh and Hartman. He looks at his friends. They either avoid his eyes or are enjoying his embarrassment glad it isn’t them. He feels hot, stupid, and has to take a piss.
“Truck’s here,” shouts Testa.
He’s dizzy with relief as he leaves the shack with the rest of the carriers to help unload the newspapers. He’s got the message. He might now be a regular, but he’s still shit and don’t forget it.
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