Thursday, January 8, 2009

Just for a nickel

A young thought is formed while kicking a can down the road. I was in grade two. It was toward the end of the school year and we were going to be let out in a matter of days.I was looking forward to having the summer off but even at that age I could remember what the last summer was like and it was boring. We had no extra money and we lived in a two bedroom apartment in the industrial area. I remember a coal yard near by and a big wharehouse where I heard a lot of banging and machinery noise. Around the corner and down the street was a corner grocery store.The owner of the store was of jewish descent who talked loud and his wife talked louder. I dont know if each one thought the other was going deaf but along with their loudness was a accent.
He would often say to me when I went in there.Such a boy you got something to say. I never said anything and he would continue.You know such a work we have here. Every day something and some days more than something. His wife would pipe in. Tel me about it. Who could find such work for two people. well there is no way out. Not so good but not so bad. At least we got each other. He would reply. Some people have no one and others have many someone's. This boy he has lots of someones in his family.
I went there often and had a list my mother gave me to give to the grocer and he would fill it out and hand me the bag of groceries and I would bring them home. Sometimes I would be slow in going home and when I got there my mother would ask me are you a slow poke or did you see a circus on the way. She asked me if the grocer had put a slip in the bag. I said yes and I asked her how come he gave us those things with out money. She just said he is keeping track of the items and she would pay him on payday. I didn't understand that and she didn't take the time to explain.
I made a couple of trips a week for my mom. When I was at the store I began to look around and noticed that next to the big cooler was a room where bottles were kept. Once I went in there on a thursday and noticed a milkman picking up all the empty bottles and taking them out to his truck. Thru part of the summer he always was there on thursdays and afte delivering full bottles of milk and other dairy products he would be picking up the empty milk bottles .I wasn't sure of the time but it always happened on Thursdays. I decided one day after finding out that folks got five cents for bringing back the empty milk bottle that I could make five cents without having a bottle. I went to the store awhile later on a wednesday and waited outside until the store was busy with customers and then went in and waited in line. When it came my turn to be served I handed the Grocer a list from my mother and he began to fill it. When he was done I said to him I had put my empty milk bottle in the storage room and I wanted my five cents. He looked at me for a moment and said why dont you show me where you put the bottle. I wasn't worried for the storage room always had lots of empty bottles. I walked over to the room and opened the door and to my dismay there wasn't an empty bottle in the place. I tried to talk my way out of it but he wasn't listening ,he grabbed me by the skruff of the neck . He said some Jewish word and than said. The delivery truck had just finished picking up all the bottles a half hour ago. Looking at other customers he said. Can you imagine this slepp( a new word to me) is trying to get a nickel for something he doesn't have. He held me tight and walked over to the telephone. Looked for my mothers name and called her. After explaining the situation he said to her on the phone. The milkman 's son was having a special soccer game and he came the day before so he could arrange to be at his kid's soccer game. He hung up the phone and yelled at me and dragged me over to a corner and told me to stand there out of the way. The customers in there were staring at me and shaking their heads. I heard phrases like. What is wrong with this kid. Can you imagine he tried to trick Mr Greenberg into giving him five cents for an empty bottle he never brought in with him. One woman pointed her finger at me and said."Shame on you, I hope your mother gives you a good spanking." I was scared and was looking down at the floor as she was talking to me.I was standing there for about fifteen minutes when my mother walked in.She glared at me and walked over to talk to Mr Greenberg. By then the store had few customers and Mrs Greenberg was looking after them. I heard some words from the conversation between my mom and Mr Greenberg. Saturdays will be alright. 10 am to I.00pm. Two weeks will be fine. She apologized to the Greenbergs and than grabbed me by the ear and faced the Greenbergs. She said you little bugger if you ever do antything like this again I'll spank your bottom until you can't sit down.Tell Mr & Mrs Greenberg your sorry. I sputtered out an apology while mom tightened her grip on my ear. She stood flat footed and said you will show up here for the next two Saturdays at 10-oclock. Mr Greenberg will have work for you to do and he will tell you when to go home Is that understood? Before I could say yes she yelled at me to speak up and grabbed me by the arm and started out the door.She was livid and when we got outside she pulled me along and I was having trouble keeping up with her as she dragged me across the street. When we reached the other side she started smacking me all over the place.Yelling at me and saying what were you thinking. You know how I hate lying and stealing.. She then smacked me alongside the head and said quit your crying or I'll give you something to really cry about. All the way home she had me by the scruff of the neck and kept lifting me up and smacking me on the backside.
When she got me home she sat me down gave me a lecture which was worst than the spankings.
Then she said you little S----- and said get out of my sight. Well it wasn't the end of it for when my Dad got home he gave me a spanking and I was mighty sore in a certain spot for a few days.
I spent the next two saturdays sweeping and scrubbing floors at the Store.Finally when my two Saturdays were up Mr Greenberg said: I hope you have learned your lesson. Mrs Greenberg was a little kinder she said. Somethings are hard but see that you behave yourself and then tucked me under the chin and gave me a hug. The next time I went in there. Mr Greenberg said: You maybe have an empty milk bottle. I swallowed hard and handed him the list and said no milk bottle. He laughed and said good. Empty milk bottles are a lot of trouble.


  1. Whatever Nana's faults were, she sure taught you to be honest and respect your elders.(Although I think you feared her more then anything) This story cracks me up though, every little boy I know would probably try getting away with something like that if he thought he could. Although I'm quite sure no little boy now would be made to made ammends the way you had to.

  2. Hey, I think you were quite clever to figure out how to get a nickel for nothing! Did you ever get a chance to really take in an empty?

  3. I was so excited to read this after you told me a little about it. I love your stories dad and I'm always so excited to hear a new one. This is great!!