He climbs the same hill every day and, until there’s a day without news, the papers will keep on coming. At his age, he already knows to come down hard one foot at a time and press his whole weight onto that pedal, to lean his body over the basket, and look uphill, and swing his ropy shoulders above the handlebars and lead with his head forward, to overbalance the load that loves the ground and the machine that wants to roll backwards. He isn’t the paperboy at home, just his mother’s son and an earner. I wonder if she has others. He rides in sun or rain and keeps his bike in shape, and brings me my paper dry and on time, but when there’s snow that melts and overnight turns to ice, he taps on his mother’s door in the cold pre-dawn and when he hears her stir says, Can you take me on my route? She doesn’t hesitate. He starts the car and runs the defroster and makes her an instant coffee, and in her robe and a pair of boots she drives him through the neighborhood and watches him fold his papers and flip them or carry them to porches like mine. Because I’m up, he wants to collect, so I give him the envelope I’ve prepared and hope it will help and tell him to be careful with it, but ten minutes later they’re back. He has the money in his hand and feels his mother behind him. I can’t accept this, he tells me. I meant no harm, I say. There’s very little news in the paper today—barely enough to make it worth the trouble of bringing it to me. Snow again tomorrow, it seems; nothing but hope in the want ads.

Copyright © August 12, 2007 David Hodges