Another interesting life story from the pen of John Ratliff, a/k/a, “JW.”
When I was a kid I sold papers on the steps of our local church on Sunday mornings. We lived outside of Boston at the time and during those cold New England winters, my fingers would sometimes turn blue in the pre-dawn morning air as I squeezed my wire cutters to snip the tightly packed bundles of freshly printed sections and then assembled them into thick Sunday editions of Boston Globes and Record-Herald Americans.
The mornings passed slowly, for the most part. I read article after article while the pews filled up. Sometimes I would listen to the homily from the back. Each priest had his own unique style. I preferred the younger guys who often illustrated the point they were trying to get across with a humorous story. The older guys tended to reference obscure passages from the Bible and the relevance of their logic often went right over my head.
When the words, “The mass has ended, go in peace.” were finally spoken, I would be surrounded by a throng of customers. These rushes sometimes lasted for twenty minutes and when they finally ended my stacks of assembled product were markedly smaller and my change apron would bulge with green bills and sag from the weight of all the quarters from those regular customers who always came prepared with exact change.
After the last mass of the day, which was usually around 1:30 PM, my district manager would show up in his beat-up old station wagon. We would load the leftovers into the back and then climb in. I felt a tired satisfaction from a good morning’s work. During football season we listened to the Patriot games on his radio during the ride home. Back then the Pats were an embarrassment, but we both loved them anyway. Jim Plunkett was the quarterback and no one would have ever guessed that he would go on to win a Super Bowl with the Raiders.
And now, fifty years later I drive my daughter over to Armstrong University every Sunday during orchestra season for rehearsal. Just before we get to the campus there is a big intersection with a long light where a guy sells Sunday papers to the people passing by. I recognize that look in his eye as he greets each customer and I remember those cold Sunday mornings on the steps of our church in Acton, Massachusetts so very long ago………………..
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