That night Gary laid in bed. He worried about being found by Old Black Maggie. He conceived a plan to change his routine. He would no longer go to Russell’s Market. He would now start hanging out at Walton’s Drug Store. It had a soda fountain, comics, and the odor was better. The drugstore had a lady’s counter with perfumes, shampoos, bath oils, soaps, and scented lotions. There was the odor from the small soda fountain with a grill and deep fryer. There was also a magazine and paper rack that held the odor of newsprint and paper. Russell’s place smelled like rotted vegetables and old meat.
Gary sat at the soda counter and ordered a cherry Coke from a skinny teenage girl with hair pulled tight in a ponytail.
A curious looking dapper man with wire glasses sat two stools away reading a comic book through bifocals and sipping a coffee.
The girl brought the coke to Gary and he took a sip through a straw.
A few moments passed and during that time Gary thought it peculiar that a man at least 50 would be reading comics. Suddenly a comic slid in front of Gary – Superman.
“You like Superman?”
“I really don’t read comics anymore,” Gary said.
“Oh, you’ve kind of grown out that, huh?”
Sensing it might insult a man who was still reading comics Gary said, “I never really liked them.”
“What do you like?”
“I like to read about sports and cars,” Gary said.
The man got up from the stool and grabbed Hot Rod Magazine. He tossed a quarter on the counter where the register sat. He sat back down at the counter and slid the magazine to Gary.
“Thanks,” Gary smiled.
The man slid over to the stool next to Gary and extended his hand. “Walter Beasely.”
Gary shook his hand. “Gary Tanner.”
“You can call me Beez, everybody calls me that.”
“I’m just Gary.”
“Enjoy your magazine,” Beez said standing and left the store.
Gary smiled and thumbed through the magazine. “What a nice man,” he thought.
Gary finished his Coke, rolled the magazine, and tucked it in the back pocket of his pants. As he reached the door a woman from behind the counter said, “Aren’t you going to pay for that?”
“The magazine!” Gary said.
“Yes,” the woman said.
“There’s a quarter on the counter,” Gary said. “A man named Beasely paid for it.”
“Walter Beasely?” she said drawing her head back.
“Yes,” Gary said.
She gave a sour look and flicked her hand at him as if to say it was okay to leave.
“She must not like him,” Gary said to himself.