Extra! Extra! Read all about it! I started telling you about my paper route yesterday.
For the most part, I liked being a paperboy. I could be in my own world delivering papers in the early morning. I’d ride my bike up and down Elliot and Oak and Maple – yes, those were the actual names of the streets – and, aside from one vicious collie on Oak that occasionally took me out of my reverie by charging full speed out of his backyard and trying to bite me, it was kind of fun flinging the papers and seeing how close I could get them to the door while riding by. I actually had to interact with people when collecting, however, and that was work.
Considering some of the things I divulge here, and the fact that my current job involves nothing but communication, you might find it hard to believe that I was a very shy kid. I was. I really hated knocking on doors and asking people for money. It didn’t matter that I knew they owed me. I still felt somehow like I was begging. Most of the folks were friendly enough, but I was still ill at ease. I especially dreaded the customers who would tell me that they didn’t have the money this week and ask me to collect double the next time. Half the time they didn’t remember that they owed me double. When I reminded them, they gave me a look like I had just peed on their carpet. However, there was one woman who always paid when it was due and, on one occasion, gave me more than money for a tip.
She was an older woman. Of course, at the time I was 14, so somebody 15 would have been older. I think she might have been 40. She was dark blond, pretty in a mature way, very soft looking skin, and she smelled of lavender bath powder – not overpowering, but just always sort of hovering in the air around her when she came to the door. She was always nicely dressed and she had the slightest hint of a southern accent, an odd – but charming – thing in this neighborhood near Boston.
Whenever she answered the door and saw me there, she smiled very sweetly. I smiled back, of course. She’d ask me to step inside the front hall while she got my money. While I waited for her to return, I’d often hear her singing softly while she went through her purse or whatever. It was a pleasant stop each week. And she always tipped me a quarter - a good tip in those days when the paper itself cost about $1.00 for the week.
Well, one week she came to the door and she was in a robe. It was mostly red, appeared to be silk and had floral patterns on it. She asked me to step inside, as usual. I couldn’t help noticing that she was barefoot. She had painted toenails. She went to get her purse and then she asked me to come into the room where she had gone.
I was no dummy. I grew up in Dorchester and went to Boston Public Schools, so I had certainly heard my share of dirty jokes concerning lonely women and traveling salesmen, milkmen, mailmen, and so forth. I started to wonder if I might be in the middle of one about paperboys.
The room she called me into was her kitchen. She asked me if I might like a piece of cake that she had just baked that morning. Well, sure! I’ve never been one to turn down a free piece of cake. She put a big slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting on a plate. She got me a fork and asked me if I’d like something to drink. I suppose if I had been surer about what was happening, I might have been all suave and asked her for a snifter of brandy. Instead, I told her that a glass of milk would be fine. She poured me a tall one.
As I ate the cake, she sat next to me and asked a couple of innocuous questions – where was I from, where did I go to school, stuff like that. Then she excused herself from the room, saying she’d be right back.
She hadn’t done anything overtly sexy, but I was 14 and horny. I did start to wonder if she might return to the kitchen naked or something. I wouldn’t have been unpleased. She wasn’t bad looking. She was also very nice in her mannerisms – gentle, sweet, soft-spoken, and graceful. I finished my cake and pondered the possibilities.
She returned to the kitchen as clothed as when she had left it, but carrying a few items in her hands. She put them down on the table just slightly off to my side.
She said, “I thought you might like these things. If you want, you can have them.”
There was a ruler, a small notebook, a nice ballpoint pen, and a couple of other small school-type items. As I regarded them, she leaned over my shoulder to show them to me more closely. I could feel the heat of her body. My face was close enough to her to see a few small, fine blond hairs on her neck. The smell of the lavender bath powder was no longer hovering; it had landed.
After a minute or so of showing me the items, she casually straightened up. She asked me if I wanted more cake. Well, I can always hold more cake, but I didn’t want to look like a pig, so I said, “No, thank you, ma’am.”
She went to the other side of the kitchen, got a small paper bag, and came back over to the table. She put the ruler, notebook and other things in the sack. She handed it to me and I thanked her.
I stood up from the table and, as I did so, she said, “Oh, I forgot!” and she went into the pantry that was a few steps on the other side of the kitchen. She returned quickly, before I could start thinking any more Mrs. Robinson thoughts, and said, “I almost let you leave without your money!”
She handed me the regular collection and a half-dollar tip. I thanked her profusely then. That was the biggest tip I had ever received from any of my customers. She said, in that slight southern accent, “You’re very welcome. You’re a nice boy.”
Then she walked me to the door, giving me a very slight touch of her soft fingertips to my cheek - the only actual physical contact in the entire meeting.
I’ve never quite been able to deduce whether it was an attempt at a seduction or not. The way my hormones were raging at that age, almost everything had a sexual undertone to it in my mind. I think she may just have been a very nice lady, a bit lonely, perhaps at one time with a boy of her own whom she missed. I truly don’t know.
After that day, she never answered the door other than in regular clothes. She still smiled, but she never invited me inside again. The tip was always a quarter, which was a good tip but not as good as a half-dollar. I spent quite a few spare moments thinking about her. To this day, I can recall the smell of that bath powder and whenever I see small fine hairs on a woman’s neck, I think of her.
Soon (tomorrow, as a matter of fact) with more paperboy stuff.