For many years I was not sure if Dooby Jones was really blind. He wore dark glasses and didn’t always notice when pilfering was going on at his little newsstand-bodega in the middle of that big city block where I caught the bus. Sometimes I’d watch in amazement as some sneaky kid would snatch a candy bar or comic book and take off like a jet. Dooby never altered his expression.
He had a deep and happy kind of chuckle that just made you feel good. Sometimes he’d have a joke for me; clean and corny, and for some reason…funny. It was refreshing to see this gentle giant conducting his simple business as if he knew something none of the rest of us knew. It’s like he had a secret that was pushing up from his heart straight to his smiling mouth.
A big sign hung a little crooked on the back wall next to a jar of beef jerky. It read, Golden Rule. I was perusing the headlines one morning when I heard a few smarty-pants youngsters question him with no small amount of ridicule.
“Hey Mr. Doobydoo, you mean whoever’s got the gold gets to make the rules?”
“No, fellows,” he replied with the patience of a saint, “It means to treat other people the way you would like to be treated; to be honest in your dealings the way you want others to be; to give a helping hand…’cause some day you might need one yourself.”
They guffawed and snickered and slung all kinds of sassy retorts. The apparent leader, a kid they called The Wolf, spoke for his band of misplaced and confused adolescent followers.
“In my neighborhood that Golden Rule stuff means get them before they get you.”
There was a chorus of laughter as he strutted around trying to look tough while his shallow fan club made every attempt to copy his cocky behavior and philosophy. Meantime, Dooby’s enigmatic smile remained as he requested payment to cover an ill-concealed chewing gum heist by Little Mac, the smaller of the bunch.
“That’ll be 95 cents, young man.”
The child was close to tears.
“I ain’t got that kind of dough.”
Dooby did not yell or accuse. “Okay, you can work it off. Get your friends to help you sweep up a little and I’ll throw in enough for everybody.”
The Wolf answered for him.
“We don’t push no brooms, Mister. That’s woman’s work. Come on, men. Let’s blow this dump.”
He sounded like a cross between The Fonz and Jimmy Cagney playing Bugsy somebody-or-other. As they tromped out, Little Mac reached up and laid three packs of gum on the counter. He walked away with his head down. Dooby called him back.
“Hey kid, come here for a second.”
He held out his right hand and waited for the small one to respond. The sight of that boy’s tiny mitt clasped in that big paw was a picture worth a thousand words.
“Thank you, son. You’re all right.”
The youngster sauntered off by himself, in no obvious hurry to catch up with his posse of hooligans-in-the-making. I knew something had clicked that would probably stay with him forever. It was in his face.
I put down the paper and pulled out a ten. Dooby reached toward his old cash register to give me change. I told him to keep it.
“Thanks pal. I’ll tell Little Mac that somebody was watching his light bulb moment and bought him some spearmint.”
I moved away soon after that but came back on business ten years later. I was curious to see my old friend. A nice looking young man at the counter asked if he could help me.
“I wonder if a fellow named Dooby is still around?”
”Hey, Mr. Jones,” he yelled to a man in the back who wore dark glasses. “Somebody’s here to see you.”
“Thanks Mac. Hurry or you’re gonna be late to class."
When he heard my voice he laughed in recognition.
“Hello stranger. You lost or something?”
“No…just need to stop by every decade or so.”
He spoke with unconcealed pride. “Don’t Little Mac look good?”
“What happened to the rest of his wayward buddies?’’
He sighed. “Sadly, most of ‘em are in jail…or dead. Mac’s the only one who got it.”
It took me a minute, but as I gazed over his head to the back wall and the old sign, I finally realized…Dooby Jones was anything but blind.
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