Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Reading Man steps up

The Reading Man had not led an idle life, had not sat about with manicured nails and uncallused palms.  He had worked indoors, outdoors, in blue collars and white, had external scars and less visible interior wounds from decades of showing up, providing, being reliable and finding any honest day's labor was worthwhile.  When he saw the sign leaned against the weathered board siding of the marine and general hardware store, he stepped inside.
At last he found James, the owner, toward the back of his place, looking physically uncomfortable, trying to get about the cement floor on an office chair that seemed to have time-traveled to Billington's Cove from the early 1950s.  The green leather seat and back sprouted silver patches of duct tape that could be seen under and behind James as he used a cane to propel himself in search of requested merchandise for a fisherman customer.  Not saying the obvious, Mr. Apotienne instead offered to look for the parts so James wouldn't put additional strain on the already-dingy cast that encased his right foot.  The part located, the immediate business transacted, Mr. Apotienne asked if applications were still being accepted.  He didn't ask the hours, the responsibility or the pay.

"Applications," James snorted.  He fanned an imaginary sheaf of papers and tossed it in the air.  "When can you start?"  The Reading Man removed his jacket, which he'd traded for the all-weather coat of earlier, colder mornings, and hung it on a rack just inside the back room, next to James'.

It is a mystery and a bit of a miracle, what one picks up and retains from odd jobs and curious encounters.  TRM did know a bit about boats, even had some familiarity with sailing vessels, and could tell a wrench from a pair of pliers at fifty paces or more.  He walked behind the counter to get a good look at the cash register.  James nodded to him to go ahead and explore its functions.  When the bell above the front door rang to announce the next seeker, they were almost ready.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

The hardware store is such an important part of any small seaside town. Part regular hardware, part bait shop and chandlery, part housewear, and a bit of local arts and crafts thrown in for good measure. One never leaves without what you came in for, a few things you didn't and a good long conversation.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - I wanted to call it the ship's chandlery, for that is what the shop was called when we lived at Channel Islands Harbor. A great place for metal polish. I'm glad my hunch was not too far off course, lumping various things under one roof. Of course I'd forgotten bait. TRM may be on terra incognita. Or not. Thank you. xo