Cheryl Hughes: Sunday Morning Paper Route
On Sunday mornings, I rise at five a.m., have my coffee and Pop Tart, wake my husband, Garey, and we head out to pick up our papers for the Sunday morning paper route. On the way, Garey always sings some little diddy that becomes stuck in my head for the rest of the day. This particular morning, it’s “Hot Dog! Hot Dog! Hot Diggity Dog!” (from the Mickey Mouse club—one of our granddaughter’s favorite viewings).
Monday through Saturday, the papers are wrapped up in two small bundles that fit easily into the passenger seat. The route can easily be handled by one person. Sunday mornings are a different story. There are several large bundles. Sections A and B have to be combined, and some papers have to be rolled and slipped into plastic sleeves so as not to damage them when they are tossed onto a driveway from a moving car. I really appreciate Garey’s help, and I always look forward to the conversations we have on these three-hour mornings.
I drive while Garey hands me papers to stuff into paper boxes. Other boxes are his territory, and I ease as close as I can to the paper box on his side of the road; all the while he’s telling me that I’m getting too close, and I’m going to take off the mirror on that side. I tell him I know what I’m doing, and I have the scratches and scrapes on both fenders to prove it. I never say, “Why don’t you just drive then!” because I know he would take me up on it, and we would be until noon delivering papers—he is far more cautious when driving than I am.
I always have to repeat things when I’m riding with Garey. His hearing was damaged while he was in the military. He has hearing aids but rarely wears them. He says he doesn’t like much of what he’s hearing when he has them in. When I get testy because he misses a driveway, and the paper rolls into a ditch, he says, “And you wonder why I don’t wear my hearing aids.”
Because I know, there will probably be a day now and then when I need a substitute driver, I go over each stop with him, offering little memory triggers like, “the house with the animal statues” or “the box with the red flowers on top” or “the driveway with the twisted columns.” I notice that he has constructed his own triggers.
“Do you remember which house is next?” I ask
“Yeah, it’s twisted sisters,” he’ll say, or “flower child” or “concrete jungle.”
Then just when I think he has all of the stops down, he’ll miss one. “No, it’s not the gray mailbox by the driveway that goes left,” I say in exasperation, “That one’s not even ours. You forgot Amanda. How could you forget Amanda? It’s the box by the swimming pool.”
“Amanda in the swimming pool,” he repeats to himself a couple of times.
We move on to the next box. Garey is singing “Hot Dog” again. I join him. It is a brain worm of a song that will stay lodged in my head until sometime Monday afternoon. As we go on our way, I tell him about this odd little animal I’ve seen a couple of times. It crosses the road in front of me when I’m going down Cook Cemetery Hill.
“It’s small and really fast,” I tell him.
“A chipmunk,” he guesses.
“I know what a chipmunk looks like,” I say, “And this animal is larger and doesn’t have but a nub of a tail and short little ears. Maybe I need to ask Rick if he’s seen it.” (Rick is our friend who lives nearby.)
“Rick’s probably shot at it,” Garey says.
“No, if Rick shot at it, it would still have a tail,” I say.
We both laugh. We’re remembering when Rick shot at the rogue chicken that kept scratching up his garden. He emptied a clip in a handgun and never nicked it. The chicken wasn’t even alarmed. I guess, Rick’s reputation with firearms precedes him.
I return to my description of the illusive little critter. “Maybe it’s a creature that hasn’t been documented, like that new species of monkey that was just discovered in the Congo (the Lesula).”
“Like Big Foot,” Garey says, “No, wait! Little Foot. Call the National Enquirer. ‘Little Foot spotted on Cook Cemetery Hill,’” he heralds the fictitious headline.
We are still constructing tabloid headlines for Little Foot when we deliver the last paper.
“Let’s go to the Farm Boy for breakfast,” Garey says.
I have only one thing to say to that, “Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!”