He sat in the window seat of the store.
As sure as the sun would rise in the morning and set in the evening, he was in his spot.
The other men were gathered around.
Standing by the soda machine.
Sitting on the window sill.
Leaning against the coolers.
Every evening. After dinner. Before bed.
They would gather. They would talk. Slow, easy conversation.
The weather. The harvest. The fishing. The paper mill.
Anytime mom needed something from the store during those hours, I was the first to volunteer. ANY opportunity to break into that coveted circle of men, was an opportunity I wanted.
I would walk across the street as quickly as my ten year old legs would go. But as I approached the front door, I would catch my breath and nonchalantly open the door.
I would glance up at my dad who would give me a wink.
I would steal a smile from my uncle who stood behind the counter.
I walked over to the milk cooler with purpose. Grabbed that gallon jug and walked back towards the front of the store. I would reach down and grab the bread from the bottom shelf and make my way, confidently, to the counter.
His hand would reach out slowly. I knew it was coming, but somehow it was unexpected.
“Pren c’est vente cinq cent. Cherche des bonbons pour toi. Juste pour toi.”
I would gently take the quarter from his large, weathered hands and scurry around the side of the counter to the penny candy. What would I get?! Every time was like a new and exciting moment. I gathered five Squirrels, five Fireballs, five Bazookas, five Tootsie Rolls, and five Bit o’ Honeys.
I placed them carefully on the counter for my uncle to count. I placed the quarter in his hand. He grab the tiniest of brown bags and placed the 25 pieces of candy inside of it and carefully folded the top down. I took the bag in my hands and grabbed the milk and bread in the other hand.
As I turned to walk out the door, my Pepere gave me a wink and a small, sly smile like we were sharing a secret that no one else would know. I leaned up and gave him a kiss on his wrinkled cheek and scurried out the front door of the store.
As I walked back home, I wondered when my mom might need me to go back to the store for her.