Category: The Carrier

The Carrier | Part 1 of a potential fiction series

Hugh could be mistaken for being simple.

Hugh lived a simple life.

Hugh is not simple.

There is a difference.

Important differences, in fact. Not that Hugh would correct you for thinking otherwise.

Hugh is too simple for that.

“So, young man, how can I help you?”

The man behind the counter at the Cobalt Falls Gazette circulation counter was Elmer Simpson, circulation manager. He’s long since retired and passed on to that route in the sky, but on that bright fall morning many dozens of years ago, he was the man responsible for making sure subscribers got their papers and that city kids delivered their routes.

“I’d like a job delivering the paper.” A young, lean and focused Hugh replied.

Hugh was young, about 27 Elmer would guess, but he seemed to have purpose. There was something, confidence maybe, that stood out to Elmer. But Hugh wasn’t full of himself nor cocky like so many his age, at least in Elmer’s view of things. And Elmer had views about things. Right off he had a liking for this kid.

And that made Elmer nervous. Elmer generally didn’t like people.

“I assume you’re not talkin’ about having a paper route, like a schoolboy.” Elmer asked, half as a joke, but also to see what the kid had to say for himself

“Nosir. I was thinking of one of those routes where you throw the rolled-up papers from a 4×4, onto people’s driveways.”

This was stated in a matter-of-fact way, but Elmer wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t a joke. He only had a handful of motor routes and they were all handled by old-timers who had once held other jobs at the paper. Old-timers about his own age, but jokers, every last one of them a joker.

The boy kept eye contact with Elmer and there was no humor in his eyes. He had a friendly face, a friendly way about him, but he didn’t seem to be the type to joke around. Elmer decided to take him as being a serious player.

“What’s your name?”

“Hugh Abbot.”

“Ah, let’s see, you must Dwayne and Dorothy’s son, from out County Road 17.”

“That’s right.”

Elmer suppressed a grin, thinking that Hugh would have been right at home on an episode of Dragnet: ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’

“You’ve been in the service, am I right?” Elmer asked.

“Yes. Discharged about a month ago.” Hugh said.

“So, what have you done since you got out?” Elmer asked, leaning forward, resting his elbows on the cold, black marble counter. Black so the buildup of ink was less noticeable. Not so noticeable to the eye perhaps but no less noticeable to anyone who touched it and left with remnants of the day’s news on their hands and shirt sleeves.

“Nothing. That had been my plan anyway for weeks up to my discharge. I just wanted to do nothing for a while. I can’t do nothing.” There was an intense manner in the way he focused his eyes but didn’t waste movement without purpose.

He was wearing jeans and a denim shirt. On his feet were a fresh pair of cowboy boots. He almost looked like he was trying out for the role of cowboy. He had the short military-style haircut and was only lacking a certain style of hat to complete the picture of cowboy. Somehow Elmer didn’t take Hugh for the type who tried to be something other than exactly who he was.

Elmer continued, “Have a rough time in the service and need a break?”

“No, nothing like that.” Hugh said. “Military life was okay. I just knew I was done with it. Needed time to sort out what I want to do with my life.”

“Come on back around here, to my office.” Elmer said, walking to a swinging half-door at the end of the counter and holding it open for Hugh. They took the few steps required to get to the office.

The office was along the wall, facing Bouchard Street. The wall was nearly all windows: glass from floor to 15-foot ceiling.

Dozens of piles of newspapers towered around them. Some, judging by the advanced yellowing of the paper, had been standing watch for many years. They leaned at various angles, held in place by imaginary forces. Other piles looked fresh. And though Elmer never smoked, and had occupied the office for over 25 years, the place seemed to have the yellow film of nicotine over every surface.

Elmer plopped down noisily in his green, worn out Steelcase swiveling chair. It took a special talent to sit in the chair. Elmer joked that his chair was not one to sit it, but rather it was ridden. This was due to its tendency to pitch backward without warning, bucking amateurs to a completely different seat on the cold tile floor.

“What was your Army job? Where did they have you?” Elmer asked.