TUESDAY: The Buddy System


Copyright is held by the author.

YOU CAN’T sneak in because of the screen door — a warped old green thing with a rusted handle in the shape of an Orange Crush bottle. And it slaps like a thunderclap when you enter Gus’s Confectionery.

And there’s white-haired Gus, scowling behind the glass display case protecting the penny candies from the sticky fingers and runny noses of his pint-sized customers.

Smitty keeps Gus busy dithering over a five-cent bag of jaw-breakers and licorice pipes. Or should he choose the BB bats, jujubes and wax lips? Meanwhile, I riffle through the rack of comic books nearby.

Gus is ringing up Smitty’s five cents, all in pennies, and, oops, Smitty drops one on Gus’s side of the counter and as the old guy bends over to pick it up, a tingle zips up my spine as I slide copies of Batman, Johnny Canuck and Superman into Smitty’s bookbag.

Back at my place, we’re up in my room, door closed and the Monopoly game set up on the floor with the wooden red hotels and green houses and cards in place, in case of visitors. We’re lying on our bellies, reading our new comics and puffing on our licorice pipes when I hear my mom mounting the stairs. We stash the comics under the bed and pretend to squabble over Boardwalk and Park Place.

She raps at the door and sticks her head in. “Oh, good, you’re both still here. Gus phoned and Smitty’s mother is on her way over.”

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