|Writing short stories beats chasing after altar
A story is always about “something”. It could be about people, places, ideas, events or a combination of these subjects. It could be dramatic, comical or informative. It could be based on one of your life experiences or just a story conjured up by your imagination. But whatever it is it should be a story that attempts to hold your reader’s interest. So here’s a story about Harry and one of his summer jobs.
Harry was seventeen and had just completed his junior year in high school. It was summer and Harry’s parents, as usual, expected him to have a summer job. After his freshman year Harry had worked on a snowball cart which he would peddle around town selling different flavors of syrup poured over cracked ice in a paper cup. After his sophomore year he had worked as a busboy in a beachfront restaurant called “Park & Swim”. So it was that in the summer after his junior year Harry was found working in a local wholesale tobacco company.
In addition to cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco the company also supplied chewing gum and several types of candy to their customers. Their customers included grocery stores, supermarkets, hotels, bars, restaurants and a few other retail establishments.
Harry’s job was to pick up and read a store’s order list and then find all those items in the warehouse and pack them into a box or into several boxes. For instance Joe’s Market might want ten cartons of Marlboro, 3 cartons of Camels, 3 cartons of Chesterfields, 4 cartons of L & M’s , 6 boxes of White Owl cigars, 2 boxes of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum and 3 boxes of Baby Ruth candy bars. After reading this list Harry would walk up and down the aisles pulling these items off the shelves and placing them in boxes. Harry would do this for the entire workday except for his lunch break.
There were 6 or 7 guys doing what Harry did. One of these guys was a high school classmate of Harry’s but all the others were much older guys. Working hours were 8:30 am to 5 p.m. with a half hour for lunch Monday through Friday. For lunch there was a small restaurant a half block away from the Tobacco Company. Harry and the other guys would dash over to this place, order a sandwich, gobble it down and be back at work just 30 minutes later.
Since the job was in a different, but nearby city, from Harry’s home he would take a bus to and from work.
During Harry’s second week on the job one of the older guys he worked with asked Harry what kind of cigarettes he smoked. Harry told the guy he liked Marlboro’s. The guy then suggested to Harry that he could take a carton of Marlboro and hide it somewhere in the warehouse. Then he could take a pack of Marlboro out of the carton when he needed cigarettes and when he had smoked the whole pack he should simply take another pack. And when the whole carton was gone he should just take another carton and put it in the hiding place. The older guy assured Harry that “all the guys here are doing the same thing”. That very day Harry grabbed a carton of Marlboro and hid the carton in an out of the way location in the back of the warehouse.
For the next 4 or 5 weeks Harry enjoyed his free cigarettes. One day when Harry boarded the bus for his ride home he ran into his friend Phil on the bus and sat down next to him. After some small talk Phil asked him where he was working this summer. Harry said “Apex Tobacco Company”. Phil then asked, “How much do they pay you over there?” Harry replied “$60 a week and all the cigarettes you can steal!”
Harry had just started smoking a few months before he obtained the job at the Tobacco Company. His parents had gone to Europe for a month and Harry had begun to take some of their cigarettes and “practice” smoking. Why? Because shortly before his parents had left Harry had been at a party with his girlfriend, Helen. During the party another girl had offered Helen a cigarette. Helen had told the girl, “No. thanks.” The girl then said, “I know you smoke so how come you don’t you want a cigarette?” Helen replied, “I just don’t like to smoke in front of Harry”. With that Harry said to Helen, “Go ahead and have a cigarette, Helen, and I’ll have one, too.” The other girl then gave each of them a cigarette and lit them with her lighter. That was the night that Harry had his very first cigarette. Of course he didn’t know how to inhale and he really looked rather stupid sucking in smoke and blowing it right out. So after that night Harry was determined to “learn how to smoke”. When his parents took off for Europe Harry’s learning process began by him taking his parent’s Camels out of their cigarette drawer and “smoking” them. Over the next couple of months he learned to inhale without having a coughing fit and soon Harry had become a smoker. “Nothing wrong with smoking”, Harry thought, “Hell, his parents were both heavy smokers and many of his friends smoked. It made you look kinda sophisticated.”
Harry also bummed a few cigarettes off some of his friends. He learned that cigarettes that had filters on them were preferable to his parent’s Camels because you weren’t always getting pieces of tobacco in your mouth. He also learned that he didn’t like Menthol cigarettes like Cools or Salem. He found that L & M’s really didn’t taste that good either. He finally decided that he liked Marlboro cigarettes the best.
So it was that a summer job at a tobacco company fit right in with Harry’s newly acquired habit. Several days after Harry had chatted with his friend, Phil, on the bus, Harry was busy at work when Mr. Goldberg, his boss, called him into his office. Mr. Goldberg said, “Harry, I know you’ve been stealing cigarettes here, but if you show me where you’ve hidden them and promise that you’ll never steal cigarettes from here again I won’t fire you.” Harry was shocked but he quickly figured that he better “fess up” and tell the truth. He knew that his free cigarettes routine was over but at least it wouldn’t cost him this job. So he took Mr. Goldberg over to where he had hidden his carton of Marlboro, handed the half empty carton to Mr. Goldberg and assured his boss that his stealing days were over.
Mr. Goldberg kept his word that he wouldn’t fire Harry and Harry continued working at Apex Tobacco Company for the rest of the summer. At some point later that summer Harry learned that one of Mr. Goldberg’s secretaries had been sitting behind Harry and Phil on the bus and had overheard Harry tell Phil that he made “$60 a week and all the cigarettes you can steal”.
In September Harry returned to his high school for his senior year. After high school he attended an Ivy League university and graduated with honors. After college, with the draft board breathing down his neck, Harry became a U.S. Naval officer and served over 3 years. Towards the end of his time in the Navy Harry took the LSAT exam and applied to a number of law schools. He was accepted at several of them which even offered him full scholarships.
In that summer between the Navy and law school Harry applied for a summer job at the local County Employment Office. He knew he would get the job because the manager of the office was the father of one of his closest friends, Jim. He did get the job and worked there all summer. But shortly after he began to work there, his friend, Jim, told him, “Harry, my dad told me to tell you to stop listing Apex Tobacco Company as one of your references.” Harry asked Jim, “Why?” Harry remembers Jim’s response to this day. Jim replied, “They say you’re a thief.”
Three years later Harry graduated from law school where he had been elected president of the Honor Board. He then practiced law as a trial attorney quite successfully for over thirty years --- and he never stole anything else for the rest of his life.
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