Every kid loses his innocence. Every kid experiences life’s complications and loses something in the translation. Eddy Dunnaway wasn’t an exception. As he tumbled into the tumult of adolescence, Eddy’s admiration of his grandfather gave way to amusement.
Sometimes Papa Jack’s eccentricities were tough calls.
Eddy was handy with a couple Magic Markers and some poster board, so Papa Jack always trusted him with the task of creating signs for display in the produce department. Eddy would take notes and draw up the signs, using red as a base and black as a trim. He outlined words, shadowed others, and generally held a high regard for himself as a sign painter. He dreamed of brushes and bottles, feeling as if Magic Markers were starting to limit his artistry.
“All right,” Papa Jack would say, as if Eddy were his secretary, taking dictation. “Onions … twenty-nine cents a pound.”
“Check,” Eddy said.
“Lemons, seven cents each … four for twenty-eight.”
Eddy scratched his head. “But, Papa Jack, seven cents each is four for twenty-eight!”
“That don’t matter,” he said. “Woman come in here, she ain’t thinking about math. She’ll say, ‘Well, I just need one lemon, but, well, since they’re four for twenty-eight, I believe I better get four!”
Then Papa Jack started laughing, and Eddy could see his false teeth going up and down on his lower gum. Eddy felt very embarrassed when he printed the lemons sign, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized Papa Jack was probably right.
“Well, what if somebody who’s smarter than that reads it?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Papa Jack said. “I’ll say, ‘Lord have mercy, Mrs. Prescott, Eddy must’ve made a mistake.’ Then I’ll open the cash register drawer, pull out a little slip of paper, and pretend it’s a list of prices. ‘Oh, yes, here it is. It’s four for twenty-five cents.’”
That’s when Eddy learned how to take one for the team.
Papa Jack often regaled Eddy with tales of his days in law enforcement. Eddy loved those old sepia prints of a young Papa Jack, wearing a double-breasted suit, looking like Elliott Ness or Melvin Purvis. G-men.
What he left out was that he’d had a drinking problem in those days that cost him his job as a deputy sheriff. For ninety percent of the time, Papa Jack was now a teetotaler, but when he fell off the wagon, he did so with a thud, most dependably around Christmas.
One morning Granny Dunnaway – Papa Jack’s wife was named Mena – answered the phone, and it was Thom Robinson at the liquor store up on top of the hill, about a quarter mile farther out West Broad Street from Dunnaway’s Curb Market.
“Mena, you need to come up here and get Jack.”
“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I come up there and drag him home,” Granny said.
“Mena, Jack’s sitting right out front, in the Cadillac, and he hasn’t got a stitch of clothes on.”
“I’ll be right up,” Granny said. “Thanks, Thom.”
When Papa Jack went on a drunk, it just had to run its course. Sometimes, he’d go off to some hospital to dry out, but most times he just stayed locked up in his room at the big house, empty bottles lying on the floor, stinking and unshaven, until, finally, he came out the other end and got straight again for six months or so.
TO BE CONTINUED