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The Paper Route
Short Story Day 154 of 365
Tommy was excited about his new newspaper route. It would be a lot of work, but he could start investing, get daily exercise, and learn customer service skills. He thought of none of those when he took the route. He just wanted spending money.
Besides delivering the paper, he came around on Fridays to collect money from the customers who chose to pay him directly. They had the option of paying weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly to the deliverer or to the newspaper office.
Collecting was a chore because often the customers didn’t have their cash or check handy, weren’t home, or promised to pay next week or next month.
He hadn’t been doing it long enough to face the prospect of the customers not paying at all.
He tried to make it as easy as possible by letting them know in advance that he’d be dropping by, but it still took great effort.
The only anomaly on the route was the Martins.
Janie, his predecessor, explained that the Martins, a couple in their 90s, would be on vacation during the entire two weeks Tommy was learning the route. They would return a week later. She told him to give an extra paper to the neighbor next door to hold it for them.
When the Martins finally returned, Tommy introduced himself and told Mr. Martin he was collecting for the newspaper.
Mr. Martin produced a check and said, “There’s a little something in there for you too.”
“Thank you,” Tommy said, but he was puzzled when he looked at the check.
“Mr. Martin, um, was this for four weeks or just one?”
“For all four weeks we were gone.”
“But the amount is only for one week,” Tommy said. “Here, I made out this rate sheet, and it’s barely enough money for one week.”
Mr. Martin looked at the sheet.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, young man, but I’ll be calling the paper office about this. If you’re trying to pull a fast one on me, you will be sorry, is all I can say.”
Mr. Martin grabbed the check from Tommy and said, “I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow.”
Throughout the rest of the route, Tommy was bothered by the tense interaction. He studied his laminated rate sheet. Everything was correct according to what the newspaper office had given him.
As soon as he got home, Tommy called Janie.
“Oh hi, Tommy. How are things with the route?”
“Pretty good, I think. The Martins finally returned, but I had a little run-in with Mr. Martin. He said I was trying to pull a fast one. Said the rate was much lower, so he’s calling the office to report me.”
“Oops, Tommy,” Janie said, chuckling. “Forgot to tell you about that situation. For some reason, each time the rates went up, I didn’t have the heart to tell them because they were such a sweet couple, so I never raised it. Probably lost money on them every month. I’m sure it’ll be all right when it’s all sorted out.”
“Yeah, I’m here. Glad it wasn’t anything I’d done. Anyone or anything else I should know about?”
“No, I promise.”
The next day Mr. Martin apologized for his rude behavior and paid Tommy the full amount he owed for the weeks they were gone. The Martins have been polite to Tommy ever since the misunderstanding.