Saturday, September 24, 2016

Shoeshine Boy (1959)


Chick Evens was walking home one evening, the fall of 1959, he was 12 ½ years old at the time, a strong looking lad, reddish hair, determined if anything to make a few bucks. His trade until he worked for the World Theater, at fourteen-years old was shoe shining, and he went to perhaps twenty-bars a night doing just that.
       This one evening he had made already made $4.35-cents; he charged .15 to .25 cents per shoeshine, depending on the bar, its clientele. He’d go into the establishment, and like a psychologist, make a list in his mind, on what approach to make, or better put, to at least figure out if he could outsell his opponents for there were other shoeshine boys on the beat, so he kept himself neatly dressed, smiled, and never argued about price, if he said 25-cents, and the man said, it was too much, he’d say: pay me what you think I’m worth. On another note, if he another shoeshine boy on the same Street he was working, he automatically charged .15 cents, and more often than not got .25-cents, the going rate.  Some kids even charged 35-cents.
        Not looking about and just counting and recounting his money, on Rice Street, St. Paul, Minnesota, across the street from White Castle Hamburgers, he smiled, he had made: $4.35, a decent sum for the three hours he put into the evening. Dust had crept in, as his bluish-green eyes looked at the coins once more, knowing he had to be home before 10:30, he heard a voice, lifted his head, it was a demand, 
       “Hay boy!” shouted a white lad of about sixteen, “hand it over the money…” stern was his unrelenting voice.
       Then he sized up the lad, he was a head taller than him. And there he stood with a hand full of change.          
       “I said boy, hand it over the money, or I’ll beat your head against the brick wall.”
       Chick Evens hesitated, almost in disbelief, baffled to say a word, then as he adjusted to the surroundings taking in a deep breath, as if he had but a second to deliberate and make up his mind to fight or hand it over, he couldn’t run, he was cornered, said “No-pp!” and the boy stepped two feet closer, grabbing his shoulders and pinning him against the brick wall; now things got a little gloomier. 
       “I said, boy…hand it over or…!” another voice came from behind this tall white robber, it was a heavy voice this time—a strident voice, it had kind of accent to it, and when Chick Evens looked around the thin kid’s lower part of his right shoulder, he saw even a taller person than the white lad, a big tall black man: it all became  a bit dubious (was he going to rob the tall white boy after he rob Evens, so Evens got thinking?) Inasmuch as that was one thought, it was not his only; but often times when such things happen like this, one swears—hours pass by, when in essence it is but a few seconds if not minutes, yes, the time for Chick Evens to give up the money was close at hand. But something magic, something peculiar happened.
       “Leave the boy alone…” said the rustic voice of the black man, perhaps a tinge over six foot tall, and in his thirties; —as the pandemonium thickened the ghostly scene of the evening—mentally for Evens—got eldritch-dark.    
       “You just can’t hear, can you, I said let go of the boy NOW!” and as the huge black man was about to grab the white lad, the white chap turned about, his eyes opened up as wide as White Castle Hamburgers.
       With one hand the black man pushed the tall white lad away from Evens, like a twig: making everything a tinge more dramatic. 
       “You want to make something of this,” he asked the white robber, adding, “If so, let’s get to it… if not then get going before I flatten you on the sidewalk.” 
      The white lad was gone, faster than a jackrabbit being chased by a wolfhound. The black man then turned to Evens
(whom was more concerned about getting home than being robbed, or punched in the face)  
       “You best be getting on home, you’re lucky tonight.”
       Evens thanked the man wholesomely, yet in disbelief a Blackman had come to his rescue.  It was the first Blackman he had encountered, and it left a good impression, that has lasted fifty-six years.

Written: July, 2006/Reedited 9-2016