Mischief, determination, and sometimes hunger lingered in the depths of Paul's enormous mink colored eyes. Bushy brown curls encompassed his earnest little face. The six year old, could disarm the most angry adult with his smile.
Darting and chasing frogs across the green grass of Frog Pond occupied him daily in the summer. Adults didn't see a paradise for boys and frogs. They considered it the wrong side of the tracks, full of shiftless people who wouldn't work.
Truth was the depression was raging and these people were literally dying for a job.
Paul flapped along, coat wide open, shoes untied, the cold December wind chilling his cheeks, glove- less fingers and skinny frame. Morgan's Dairy loomed just ahead prompting visions of dairy products, something scarce at home. He licked his lips and slipped in the side door.
“There's that kid again,” Jake said.
“I saw him,” Cliff said.
“Morning,” said Paul.
“What can we do for ya little buddy?” Jake asked.
“I was getting cold, and I just thought I'd watch the bottles filling."
“Guess that would be ok son, just be careful,” Cliff said.
Segregated lines, one white one chocolate, clinked and bumped along.
Paul scrutinized the bottles of chocolate as his tummy growled.
Near the end of the final run before lunch break, Jake eyed the last quart of brown goodness and spied a problem, an advantageous problem he hoped. One bottle was not as full as the rest.
“Hey, Mister,” he said to Cliff, “I'll drink that milk for ya, no use to waste it, right?”
Cliff contemplated the boys words and recollected his own cheerless childhood. Memories of drunken beatings from his father, his mothers death at twenty-nine years old, and begging for food, played in his mind. Can't let the kid think he got to me though.
“I doubt you could drink that bottle straight down, but if you think you can, it's all yours.”
Cliff's shoulders shook as he tried to contain his chuckle, for Paul was dancing a jig.
“I 'betchu' I can. It will be real easy.” Paul said.
“Hey Jake, take that end bottle off and bring it over here. Got a kid here says he can drink it all, straight down.”
Jake was surprised to see a new spark in Cliff's eyes and the quick wink. He handed the bottle to Cliff, who put it into two little shaking hands. The men smiled anticipating the feat.
Paul's heart bounded and his mouth watered as he raised the bottle of pure brown chocolate milk. He placed his lips on the bottle, tipped it back and allowed the sweet treat to flow slowly down his throat.'Hmm', this is so good.
The bottom was showing, he did a long final slurp, smacked his lips and said,”ahhh that was really good!”
Licking his lips, Paul said, “Thanks mister,”and handed the bottle to Cliff, “I told ya I could do it.”
Paul marched out the door, head high, shoulders back, that was the best deal I ever made. He smiled with pride.
Jake was laughing as he said, ”I think you're getting' soft in your old age Cliff.”
“Cliff shook his head and smiled, ”Maybe so, Jake, maybe so.”
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