- 10/29/2007 6:20 PM ET
Neat bit of writing... :)
|He had white hair cropped in a neat and tidy crew cut, a white mustache, and always had an unlit cigar dangling from his mouth. He probably kept the same cigar for years because I never saw him with it lit.
Arnold was the only name I ever heard him called. Doctor Arnold. The pharmacist and owner of Arnold's Drug Store. He knew everything about us because he was the one that filled all our medicine bottles. Anyone who fixes you up with all your medicine knows your history better than your family.
Arnold's Drug Store also had a soda fountain in the back. Three booths and a dozen bar stools around the counter, with a juke box on the back wall.
I think I played Elvis' "Return To Sender" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" [baweem bawop] so many times on that juke box it must have made him sick.
At the fountain they served real malts and honest to goodness cherry smash cokes. On a hot, sweltering summer day we would get all bug-eyed watching that cherry syrup being poured into the glass of coke. Nobody makes a cherry smash coke anymore as far as I know. Even if they did, it wouldn't be the same as Arnold's world famous cherry smash. Oh, what I would give to go back for just one tiny sip of that drink.
Me, my brother Terry, and our neighbor Daryl would escape the heat by walking down to Arnold's and sit swishing back and forth on a bar stool drinking those drinks, listening to Dion and the Delmonts, Elvis, Duane Eddy, Jimmy Dean, Bobby Vinton, and Leslie Gore singing "It's My Party" as I sat and felt her pain.
Daryl was the grandson of our neighbor Mrs. Smitherman. He lived there most of the time, along with Mrs. Smitherman's 20 cats. She had so many cats we never could get a good count as to how many she actually had. There were baby cats, mamma cats, and daddy cats swarming around like fleas.
Arnold's Drug Store was also the place I walked with Anna Jean Winkler, my first true love. I'd carry her books for her from school to the drug store, where she went one way home and I went another.
The drug store was our place to escape the ragged heat of summer when it was too hot to stay outside. Dog days, they call them. We would stay there until our pocket change or welcome ran out, whichever came first.
In the spring time we would all meet there after school, tossing book satchels on the floor by the booths and piling in to talk about who was going steady with who that week, who got sent to the cloak room in school that day for some evil deed, or whatever else seemed to be the topic of the day.
Easter was approaching and there was the smell of marshmallow peeps and new born grass in the yard, and Whitman Sampler boxes lined every shelf at Arnolds. I can still hear Miss Jones, our sixth grade teacher, as she croaked out In The Easter Parade, in front of the class. When that woman sang she sounded like a goat kicking a bull frog.
Easter egg hunts were fun, but when you are about to outgrow them you were pulled in two directions. One, you had a sense of losing something because you no longer got the excitement inside about hunting Easter eggs, and on the other hand, you wanted to be so grown up you pretended Easter egg hunts were silly and just for kids.
We didn't have any eggs to hide, but what we did have was a huge bag of jelly beans. We ate the black ones first, as all kids will do, and we decided to have our own Easter Jelly Bean Hunt with the rest of them.
What we did was, we convinced Daryl that Terry would hide the jelly beans while he and I went into the back yard to wait. I was in on the joke, of course. In about ten minutes Daryl and I were called to the front yard to commence jelly bean hunting.
The plan was, I was supposed to spot one under a gardenia bush and let Daryl know I saw it. He would then pounce on it before I got to it. What he didn't know was, my brother had covered a fresh pile of cat poop with some gardenia leaves and placed a jelly bean on top of it.
I meandered around looking everywhere for jelly beans, and in mock surprise, I shouted, "look, there's one," and pointed under the gardenia bush. The plan worked excellent.
Daryl leaped like a bull frog, his hands stretched out as his fingers clenched the prize jelly bean. He came out from under the bush grasping the jelly bean, a handful of gardenia leaves, and a full hand of fresh cat poop. And he was screaming in outrage.
Of course Terry and I were rolling in the grass howling with laughter. Wouldn't you?
That wasn't the first or the last time Daryl got the short end of the stick, but he came out of it all right. The last I heard, he was a very successful Anaesthesiologist somewhere around Atlanta. I wonder if he tells his patients the story of the jelly bean hunt?
Naaah, I doubt he would.
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