The Beatles pulled me into conciousness, singing Let It Be on my clock radio. Even today, that song reminds me of delivering the morning newspaper as a boy. I dressed and went out on the front porch, I walked down our dark street and looked towards the eastern sky, where the comet was still visible, as if in a photo, frozen at the horizon. The air was so warm and damp, it seemed I was walking through a continous heavy curtain. The two bundles of newspapers were at their accustomed spot at the end of the island, where the street widened. I grabbed an arm load of newspapers and walked down the row of doorsteps, dropping newspapers where they belonged, by memory.
For many years after giving up the route, I would have dreams in which I would be out delivering the papers and couldn't remember who got the morning paper and who didn't, which is a common dream among ex-newspaper delivery boys. Oddly enough, this dream always involves the morning paper and never the afternoon. My father once told me he dreamt this same ex-paperboy dream when he was young.
I was back at the island to pick up the rest of the newspapers. I reached down into the large taxus where I had hid the canister of salt the night before. Off I went, dropping papers on doorsteps: the Northcut's, the Vaughn's, the Gordon's, the Martins....and Mrs. Anderson, the Mrs. Anderson who, more than once, paid for her newspaper in pennies, who wouldn't allow kids on her perfect lawn, who called our parents to report her imagined yard transgressions by us kids. The crumudgeonette who never cracked a smile and wouldn't answer her door bell on Halloween even though we knew she was there, behind drawn shades. I pulled the spout open and as I walked, poured a continuous stream of salt. I poured a large circle that curled into itself until I reached the middle and kept pouring as I walked out of her lawn and delivered the last of the papers. When I got home I threw the emptied cannister in the garbage and slept like a baby.
After about two weeks, the brown circular scars made a quite striking contrast to the rest of her deep green manicured lawn, as if an avant-garde artist were given free rein to her front yard.
I rang her doorbell and she appeared behind the glass storm door, her face a constipated grimace.
"Collecting for the newspaper?"
"Yes ma'am." I conjured a look of concern on my face.
"What happen to your front yard Mrs. Anderson?"
She didn't say a word and proceeded to pay for her week of newspapers in pennies.