The Introduction of Albert Livingston
I know it has been some time since there has been any activity on pops, I had to initiate a move and that took some time. But, for those who are patient, I am back again.
Starting this week, there is a new “book feature” coming out. You will like, it’s about Albert and his adventures. He is going to introduce you to some interesting characters, so set back and enjoy the story.
Chapter 1 – Comic Books
“Never a dull moment around here huh Figureola?” Albert said to the dog pond rescued mutt, It was the rattle of the garbage truck and the trash cans that got the dog upset, causing him to bark loudly. “hey said Albert, clam down!” he knew the dog would get old lady Finsterpuss aggravated again and she would be over banging on the door like a mad banshee. “That mongrel is driving me crazy Mr. Livingston, shut him up or I will.” he could just hear her now.
Albert didn’t like her all that much, she was such a crabby old person, walked with a cane and was kinda hunched over. It bothered him to meet her in the hallway, she always looked at him sideways, it was hard for her to look up too high. She gave him the creeps.
He did know that the old woman had a reputation for getting rid of strays and other annoying things she set her mind to, she could be sinister. Albert figured it was her who had poisoned the jays out font in the old oak tree, they were always squawking an raising hell. Those birds would always crap on the front steps and the hand rails because the lady on the floor above would put out a tin pie plate of seeds in the window flower box to feed them and that resulted in the mess on the steps.
Old lady Finsterpuss called her loony tunes Lilly, an old retired secretary who was maybe slightly off her rocker by Albert’s standards, but harmless. She had a cat she named post, said he was dumb as a box of rocks. Couldn’t be because he was given wine as a kitten and fell down the stairs into the basement when he got drunk was it?
He looked up at the wall clock, it was getting late, it was a little after 6 and the stand wouldn’t open itself. The Pop Stand as he called it was the most popular news stand in all of the neighborhood. People of Boston always had to stop by to say hello, Albert was such a character. He could raise your spirits easily or get you going by poking fun at your shoes, it didn’t matter, regular customers loved him lots.
That and the coffee shop that was ran by Reggie from Tennessee, folks got a kick out of his old southern drawl, “howdy y’all, it do be fine ta see ya again.” He was another character like Albert and they fit together in the neighborhood like two peas in a pod.
Albert put down a dish of food for Figureola and said, “you take care of the house mongrel, I will be back this afternoon.” Albert usually closed the stand a little after 3, to avoid the rush of all those going home in the evening. That and to get home before dark even in the winter months. Reggie usually stayed open later but he was always open when Albert came to the stand at 6:30. He had to, there was always a crowd at Reggie’s waiting for the newspaper stand across the street to open up. They were waiting for their morning dose of Albert and the paper.
There was talk on the streets that a bagel shop was coming to the neighborhood, maybe down the street next to the high rise apartment complex and the bank on the corner. Reggie wasn’t sure if he liked the idea, he didn’t like bagels. He had been telling everyone he preferred some grits or maybe some deep fried catfish over this bagel thing.
Albert had been selling papers at a hot pace today, and several magazines he had, it was going to be a great day for sure. He looked down the street and saw a lady coming, the morning rush was over now and it was good to relax for a moment. He was going to scoot across the street and get a cup of what Reggie called Tennessee gold coffee but he could wait a moment. There was something about this lady, Albert had that feeling. He just knew when someone needed a pick me up and this lady looked like she could really use it.
She came up to the counter and fumbled with her purse, she said her son was sick and she wanted to know if Albert had any kids books. Albert looked at her and from under the counter he brought up two Donald duck comics and a Bugs Bunny. He winked at her and said “just the thing Dr Albert recommends for kids not feeling well.” She looked at him and said “Jimmy will be thrilled” he likes to look at the pictures since he can’t read that good. Albert said “how old is Jimmy?” She told him he was 9 and he didn’t like school. Albert asked why and she said it was because of his crippled hand, the kids called him captain hook.
Albert looked at her and said, “would it be alright with you if I got to meet him? It sounds like he could use a friend.” She smiled and said, “you don’t have to do that.” Albert smiled at her and said “ I can never have too many friends.”
I like Albert already, he is such a social butterfly. Maybe a bit eccentric to some and objectionable to others but he has a way.
Chapter 2 – The Cattle Ranch
It was a real busy day at Pop’s Stand today, Albert had ran out of papers before 2 and decided to close right on time today. Albert was looking forward to going home, where he could relax and take off his shoes, of course that was after he took Figureola for his walk. They always enjoyed the trip around the block. It gave Albert a change of scenery and a chance to see if anything was going on in the neighborhood.
He was talking with Reggie the coffee shop owner from Tennessee earlier and he told him that some kind of big developer was looking to buy a big part of the farmland around his old home town of Floppit. His cousin had told him this fella was going to put in a cattle ranch, some Hereford’s. Reggie was wondering if that would turn the town into a big city like Boston overnight. Albert laughed at him and said, “not overnight Reggie but it would eventually draw the attention of other investors.”
It might mean that Floppit would get a real supermarket or maybe a truck stop for the cattle trucks. Reggie asked “Would that mean the property owners around there would be a paying more taxes?” Albert said not unless the town council agreed there was a need to raise more money for such things as more police or other new city improvements.
He asked Reggie if he owned any property in Floppit and Reggie said kinda sheepishly, “yeah, mebbe a few acres, right at the upper end of the new developers planned cattle ranch.” The prop-pit-tee once belonged to my great grand daddy, but he gave it to my pap and he gave it to me. Taxes on it aint much an thass way I was a asking.
Well, said Albert, if that developer fella wants to set up a ranch, he is going to have to buy that piece of prop-pit-tee from you. How many acres do you own? Reggie told him he owned a small piece of the upper valley clear up to the cliffs and just across the river. Folks didn’t like living out there because the land was so rocky and hard to farm. It would be good for letting a few cows run thru though, now that he thought about it.
Albert pointed out that if the developer was going to build the ranch, there would be a whole lot of cattle running around, not just a couple. And that piece of land you own that has the creek running thru it, that makes it a critical piece of the investment. You could make a lot of money from it if you sold it. Reggie said “shucks Albert, I could buy a house here in Boston mebbe then huh?” Albert looked at him and said “Reggie, you could probably buy a real nice house and still have money left over.”
“If I do good with this mebbe they would let me on the city council huh?” Albert said he could be important to the town, that was a possibility yes. “Mebbe I could be a big shot then huh? Maybe miss Maggie would talk to me then, she do works in the cafe there in Floppit, she be real pretty Albert. I thinks mebbe I likes her a lot. I have always been kind of shy ’round her, she be a fancy looking lady.”
Albert told Reggie to think about it, selling the prop-pit-tee would be important. Reggie said he was gonna sleep on it some. He said “I get back to ya on it,”
As Albert and Figureola were walking, he thought about the conversation he had with Reggie earlier. That property Reggie owned would be worth a large sum of money to the developers plan, if they seriously wanted to build the cattle ranch there, they would need that piece too. Albert thought he knew someone who just might be able to help him with advice to Reggie, Fredric Capstone, the real estate broker that always came by the news stand everyday, Albert would ask him some questions. He didn’t want Reggie to get taken by some shyster developer and sell the land to him for pennies.
The next day, there was Fredric, right on time. He gave him the Times and the Boston Globe, then said he needed some information about where to find an agent that sold property in a little town in Tennessee. Fredric said “name the town and I will find out for you by tomorrow.” Albert told him and he wrote it down. He felt better about things now, knowing he could give Reggie some sound advice. He would go see him after the morning rush.
Poor Reggie, good thing Albert is willing to help him out without taking advantage of him. But that is what Albert is all about, he is a people person.
Chapter 3 – Here’s Jimmy
The news papers a Pop’s Stand came everyday, usually just after 4:30 and the Times came in at 5:00. Albert received his magazine deliveries by 8:30. It was Sunday, and usually not too busy, but the nice weather lately had drawn out folks like flies to honey, they were all over the place. Some on bicycles others on roller blades and the rest on foot.
Business over at Reggie’s was just booming too, standing room only. Mrs. Finsterpuss was in a snit yesterday, the garbage cans were knocked over and there was a mess left behind. It had taken Albert an hour to help the other neighbors pick up the mess. Turns out there was a traffic accident during the night and the cans were smacked by a big old Oldsmobile. Police removed the car but left the mess.
The lady that had came by to get those comics came back again and this time she brought Jimmy. Albert came out from behind the counter and walked over to Jimmy and stuck out his hand. Jimmy just looked up at him and stuck out his opposite hand. Albert leaned over to him and asked what he had in his other hand. “Nothing said Jimmy, I don’t like to use it.”
Albert looked at him and said “I have weird ears, see how they stick out?” Jimmy’s eyes got big and he stared Albert right in the eye. He looked at him and said, “huh uh, those ears aren’t weird.” Albert took off his glasses and turned his head a little, “see how they stick out like open doors on a taxi cab? You don’t have them do you?”
Jimmy laughed and said “I don’t have weird ears and I can hear real good,” then he lowered his eyes and brought out his other hand, “this is the part that is broke” he said..
Albert looked at it and rubbed his thumb on the back of it and said to Jimmy “can you feel that?” Jimmy looked at Albert and said “yes.” Albert said “then if you can feel with it, can you scratch with it?” Jimmy giggled a bit and said “sure I can, but I usually don’t unless there is no one around.” “So”, Albert says “you can feel with it and you can scratch with it but you hide it.” He got closer to Jimmy and said “at least you have it.” Albert told him that he knew of a fella who had only one arm, he knew a lot more folks who only had one leg, others didn’t have any! That one armed fella would just love to have this hand. “The hand isn’t broke,” he said “it just don’t know how to work for you.”
“But it’s ugly and funny and kids call me captain Hook.” Albert stood up and said “people used to call me mule ears” He looked at Jimmy and told him I looked at those kids and said he could hear what their teachers were saying about them, and some of it was not nice. Some of the kids didn’t believe it, but some of them did. They knew about this old teacher named Mrs. Arnold, and she was mean. She had used a ruler on the back of the hand of one of the kids in class because he wouldn’t dance with her daughter in dance class. Albert said he could hear her say she wanted to smack them all, but the principle wouldn’t let her.
“It wasn’t the ears that made me a class hero” he said, “it was because he became the grade school marble champion and almost was the city champ too.” Those big ears had nothing to do with it. Its how many friends you have, those are the ones who stand up for you and make you who you are. Those who make fun of you loose eventually and they usually don’t have many friends. Albert held out his hand again and said “hi Jimmy, my name is Albert, would you like to be my friend?”
Slowly Jimmy took Albert’s hand with his deformed one and they shook gently. Albert looked at him and said “your mom told me you like to look at pictures in the comic books.” Jimmy blushed a bit and said, “I can’t read that well, so that is what I do.” Albert said “I know a friend you have that would be glad to read with you, and give you a chance to become a lawyer someday. Jimmy said he didn’t want to be a lawyer, he thought he would like to be a radio announcer. You know, be on the radio, telling people about the news and commercials. “But I couldn’t read that well he said.” Mom says if I want to be a radio announcer I have to be able to read good. Albert said “that friend I told you about, the one who I know that would like to help you with your reading, what do you think?”
Jimmy looked at his mom and said “What do you think mom, should I?” His mom looked at Albert and said “when will this friend be able to do that?” Albert said “it will only be when Jimmy has the time, and I have lots of it.” Albert said “I bet he lives close by doesn’t he?” Jimmy’s mom said he lives down on the corner at the end of this block. Albert said “and I live in the middle of it.”
Albert and his perceptions, he knew when he saw the lady long ago there was more to the story.
Chapter 4 – Who will it be
Things were really busy this Tuesday morning, people were coming and going so fast, poor Albert’s fingers were sore from punching the cash register. Then it happened, there were 6 folks all at once, all wanting papers and one wanted a sports illustrated magazine, suddenly someone yelled that now the bus was coming! It was a miracle but he was able to take care of all of the 6 folks and they all made it to the bus before it took off.
Albert stood back for a second after the crowd left and took a brief break, that was almost a disaster, this sort of thing happens rarely but when it does it really takes a lot out of him. He needs to rest for just a bit, to get his wind back. He notices a letter on the counter, someone left it behind, but who?. Albert picked up the letter and read the name and saw it was addressed to Albert Livingston, c/o Pop’s Stand. That was his place and that was his name sure, but could there be another Albert Livingston?
He opened the envelop and found a letter inside starting out “Dear Albert.” He was shocked, why didn’t they just give it to him, did they want to stay anonymous? The letter told him that a bank account in his name had been established at the local branch just down the street. The account number was listed with conditions it said. The money in the account was to be awarded to a deserving person that Albert identified, someone he knew about that had a serious need. The letter went on to say that it was known that Albert knew hundreds of people and he knew there were a lot of deserving folks.
The purpose here was to find that one special person who would be able to make a life changing decision and the money would really help.
All day Albert thought about the letter, were they serious? They didn’t say who they were. Since he closed before the bank down the street, he went to the bank to see if the letter was legit. It was the bank president who came to talk to him about it and he told Albert that the account was indeed real, it was in his name but it had a conditions clause with it. Albert had to name the person who was to be the one the money went to and it couldn’t be him. So it was true he thought, now the real problem hits, who would be the one who is so much more deserving than any other person he knew of? They were all deserving he thought, all of them.
The account had a lot of money, thirty thousand dollars to be precise, a fortune to any of those that came to mind. That night when he took Figureola for his walk, Albert was thinking about who he knew of that could be that special person. He didn’t like having to be the one to decide something so important as that, he did not like it not one little bit.
It was a restless night for him, he tossed and turned all night long, names and faces kept haunting him all night. He was miserable the next morning and almost stepped on Figureola, he had to stop and get his mind back on track, today was Saturday and everyone would be out in force again. He looked at the clock and it was only 5:30. He couldn’t sleep and now he was up early, oh wonderful.
Breakfast went quickly but the time didn’t, maybe he would go down and open up early just this one rare time. He took off to Pop’s Stand a little after 6, this was a first, he usually didn’t leave until 6:45 and it took him only ten minutes to walk that distance to where his stand was. There were already some people out earlier than usual he thought, and there were several at Reggie’s already, hopefully they were just having a nice cup of coffee.
He looked down the street and saw a little girl coming his way, it was Sarah, Albert called her the puzzle queen. She was only 13 but she was sharp and quick, he knew she loved working word jumbles and cross words. Her mother said she had a real talent for it, she used her waitress tip money to buy her the puzzle books Sarah brought home. All of a sudden an idea struck Albert, he knew of no other person who was as talented as Sarah, he knew her mother couldn’t afford to send her to college. Albert knew it had been her desire ever since her husband was killed in a hit and run years ago. Sarah would be the one, she would benefit the most and Albert was sure she would not waste a college opportunity.
Chapter 5 – The Cattle Barron
Reggie came out on the corner and waved at Albert, he motioned for him to come on over. He wanted to tell Albert he had met the real estate agent Albert told him about, he had heard about the developers idea and he was ready to help Reggie. Albert was pleased that the agent Fredric told him about was going to take care of Reggie, he knew the tip was a good one, he trusted Fredric.
It wasn’t a week later that Reggie stepped out again and waved at Albert. This time he was really excited, waving frantically and hollering at Albert, something was going on he thought. He came rushing over and asked Reggie what had happened, was there a robbery? Reggie gave him a big hug and said “oh garsh no Albert, the agent done tol’ me he already had an offer on muh prop-pi-tee!” The developer was going to buy his little piece of ground for three hundred thousand dollars he said.
Reggie told Albert that was a kings ransom to him and it would set his pa to a spinnin in his grave! “Muh pa an grand pa would be right proud of me” he said.
“I want to buy you dinner tonight he said, I owe ya for this.” All Albert could do was stand there while Reggie did his little jig, dancing around like a little kid on Halloween. It made Albert feel good. Suddenly Reggie turned, “oh heavens Albert, I gotta get me some new duds, would ya hep me get ’em?” He said he wanted to come into town in a big flashy car with the horn a honkin’. I want miss Maggie to see me all duded up like a rock star, it’ll make her eyes bug out like an old bull frog!
Albert took a look at him and said “Reggie, you need to stop and think about all of that for just a minute.” He explained to him that he would soon be worth a lot of money and yes he would be a big shot but that meant he would also be a target for swindlers. Reggie got all pale and said “like the lunkhead who tried to sell the statue of Liberty to me a long time ago?” Albert looked at him and said “there are a lot of lunkheads out there Reggie, and some real smart ones. You have to learn to be careful, do not trust just anyone.” Reggie looked at Albert and said, “you know I trust you Albert, I would swear to that on muh mother’s grave.”
Albert looked at him and said that he knew Reggie trusted him, and said it would be a good idea to find someone who would be just as trusting as Albert was. Reggie stared at him for a bit and then said “oh golly, I never did look at it that way, this would be like runnin’ shine, keepin’ yer mouth shut and trusting only those you really know.” As he stood there, Reggie turned to Albert and slowly said, “ya know Albert, I really do likes miss Maggie, she be real purdy an all, but now that ya mention it, I aint all that sure I really trust her.”
He then looks right at Albert and says “you have always been muh friend, ya never did me wrong an wuz always there ta listen ta me, could ya stick with me on this an keep me from makin’ a mess?” Albert was expecting him to say something like that when he started to talking about this miss Maggie, but he wasn’t going to say anything. Reggie was a friend, that was true but Albert didn’t want to be a financial adviser either. All he could do was to make decisions on what had happened to him, what if that wasn’t good enough?
Reggie looked at him an said “I aint a askin ya ta be muh banker, I want ya ta be muh partner, an I insist on givin ya a cut of the sale. The developer said he was willin ta give me ten percent of the ranch if I was ta sell muh prop-pit-tee to him for the three hundred thousand. The agent said that wuz a good deal too. I want to cut you in for two percent, that way I aint embarrasin you too much.
Albert looked at him and said, “I am not a financial wizard, I can only offer advice and my opinion if you insist on doing this. The only way I want any part of it is for you to totally understand when it comes to ranching, you find someone who understands it better than I do.”
Then came a big grin started out on Reggie’s face, he said that he bumped into the developers niece, and they seemed to hit it right off. “She be a farm gal from Louisiana” he said, “good old country gal.” Mebbe I can ask her bout cow things once in a while he said.
Well now, aint that sweet. Reggie is suddenly going to be associated with a cattle rancher? Worse things happen.
Chapter 6 – Bank Bust
Albert thought what a beautiful morning it was going to be, clear skies and pretty flowers in bloom, a grand day indeed. There was the usual crowd at Reggie’s and a few of them were just waiting for Albert to come and open the news stand. They wanted to get their paper and head off to work before the rush, isn’t that why they got up early, to get a head start on the day.
About ten that morning as he was going over the magazine section, he heard the wail of sirens and knew there was something wrong somewhere, maybe a fire someplace? He looked across the street and didn’t see Reggie coming out to see, so he thought that whatever it is it would not be anything serious to worry about. Suddenly from up the street came a big black car racing toward the corner followed closely by a Boston police car with its lights going and siren blaring. It was going way too fast for the street and there was a city bus in the intersection getting ready to turn. This car would hit the bus if he didn’t slow down surely.
It all happened so fast, Albert saw things happen in slow motion, at least that was how he saw it, not that he would remember much of it later. This big black car swerved to the right and headed right for the sidewalk trying to go around the bus but hit the curb and was knocked back into the street. Albert could see the driver trying to turn the wheel but it was too late, he was headed right for the news stand and Albert.
When the car hit the news stand, magazines and news papers exploded in like they were being shot out of a cannon, some went over the car and the rest just went in every direction. The side of the news stand came right around because it was being pushed by the impact and was headed right where Albert stood frozen, he couldn’t make himself move out of the way. The counter hit him on the side and threw him toward the building near the sidewalk, unfortunately he was knocked over and skidded into the fire hydrant. That was all he could tell the ambulance paramedic anyway, because it went dark after that.
The medic said he had sever cuts and bruises and a badly broken right arm. He would require a visit to the hospital and that was where he was now headed, to Mercy Medical. Albert was still a little woozy and couldn’t focus too good yet but he did ask where the car was. The medic told him after it hit his news stand it glanced off and ran into the side of the bus. The driver was DOA and the police had the passenger, these two had just robbed the bank two blocks away.
While setting in the emergency room, Albert started to think about his news stand, the news papers and magazines all over, who was going to clean that all up? He had insurance sure, but his customers would have to go without a paper while he was hospitalized, now he felt real bad. The doctor came to see him and told him he would need surgery to fix his arm, it was a compound fracture with complications and he was going to be there for a while. Albert sat up and loudly said “how long before I can go home?” The doctor said that it would be at least three days, if all went well. My god thought Albert, that long? His stand would be totally wiped out by then and all the cash would be taken too, now he was real miserable.
What Albert didn’t know was that after the police had cleared the intersection wreckage and took the suspect to jail, Reggie had shut the doors of his coffee shop. He then started to clean up Albert’s place the best he could. Within a few minutes the crowd that had gathered around watching the accident also started to pick things up. Reggie picked up the cash register which luckily only had scrapes, it was still intact. Within twenty minutes everything scattered was stacked neatly in front of Reggie’s door, that was where he told everyone to put it anyway. By nightfall, the news stand was totally empty and dark, but it needed repairs badly.
By ten the next morning, a crew of volunteers had gathered around the stand and by late evening, it had been completely rebuilt, looking better than before! It was ready for business again, but it didn’t have Albert. A new sign stood on the counter saying “temporarily moved across the street to Reggie’s.”
It was not a huge structure and you know that, there was a lot of help from a lot of customers and other volunteers that made it happen, you know that too.
Chapter 7 – Friends and Neighbors
When the news stand was wrecked by the robbery car and almost destroyed, it had only taken the volunteers three quarters of a day to fix it back into a new stand. The next morning, newspapers and magazine orders were stacked on the sidewalk over at Reggie’s. One of Albert’s retired customers was setting at a table selling newspapers but no magazines, and drinking coffee. By mid morning, things had calmed down again, and they moved the rest of the papers and magazines to the original site on the other side of the street.
Ben Pendent had taken the place of Albert, and his helper Beverly had things arranged pretty much from memory. They came by regularly and knew just about where everything went. By three that afternoon, they closed up the shop and went to talk to Reggie. Ben told Reggie that if it wasn’t for Lillian this would have never went so smooth, you know that. Yeah Reggie said, she was the one who got on the phone and started calling all of her friends to come and help Albert out. We also have enough folks lined up to watch this new stand until Albert gets back here to take over. He gonna be real surprised.
When Reggie came to Albert’s room at the hospital, he told him about the new stand that was waiting for him, and that there were a few rookies running it for him while he was laid up on vacation. Albert couldn’t keep it together and started to cry. He said when he was able in a few days, he was going to have a party and pass out cupcakes with his papers, I don’t know what to say. Reggie told him the folks that turned out to help were regulars, and there were quite a few of them, you better buy lots of cupcakes!
It was a few days later before Albert was allowed out of the hospital and he headed straight for the new stand to see for himself how it turned out. As he got out of the taxi he was already bleary eyed again, he couldn’t believe how beautiful the new stand looked, almost exactly the same as before but upgraded. Two new steel doors on each end, and a new storage compartment where he could sit and rest or put in a recliner, Ben said that was Reggie’s idea.
I can’t believe that it all happened so fast he said, “it would have taken me a week to fix things and no where near what was done here, it is wonderful, thank you Ben and Beverly.” She come around the counter and gave Albert a hug and a kiss on the cheek, “they did it for all the good you had done for them” she said. It was their way to say thanks to you for doing what you do for all the others. But be warned she said, a couple of old time customers are going to razz you about going to such lengths to take a vacation.
Albert told them that next week he was going to hold a grand opening and there would be cupcakes and coffee for everyone. Ben looked at him and said there might not be enough room for them to stand, you might have to ask Reggie about renting some space. Albert looked at him and said, “he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s catering it!”
“And something else, I had a case of frozen catfish from Louisiana shipped here”, he said. “Reggie is going to have a fresh catfish dinner served to him by me.” He said “I got one of the ladies from the auxiliary to fix it up special for me. She said she owed me a favor anyway, I did something for one of her sisters grandchildren I guess, she was real pleased to do it.”
Ben looked at him and then to Beverly, he said “you don’t know who helped the most with this do you?” Albert said he had a lot of people to thank, he didn’t know where to start. Ben said “you might want to send some roses to your upstairs neighbor, Lillian.” she was the one who started the volunteer group, and she got everyone going, the rest was easy. You are real well known around here Albert, you are an icon.
When he came home that afternoon, his first stop was on the second floor, he went to see miss Lillian, and he had a dozen roses in his hand, “these are just for you” he said, “thank you for all you did.”
See, I told you that there was a surprise, Miss Loony Tunes Lillian wasn’t so loony tunes after all, Mrs. Finsterpuss is just bitter.
Chapter 8 – No Small Town Celebrity
Reggie was waiting for Albert to show up at the news stand, he had been watching for him all morning, come on Albert, hurry up, he was thinking. Reggie had the contract he wanted Albert to look at from the developer about selling his piece of prop-pi-tee, this was really going to be a big day for him.
There was the usual amount of folks also waiting for Albert, but to Reggie, it seemed like the whole town had turned out, he would never get a chance to go see Albert with all these customers. Reggie rang up the next coffee sale and looked over to Pop’s Stand and there he was, Albert had finally arrived! Reggie asked Mary if she would keep an eye on things for him for just a little bit, he told her he wanted to go talk to Albert for a second. He almost got ran over running across the street, but fortunately the driver was going slow.
When he got to the counter, Albert was laying out a stack of newspapers getting ready for the morning when Reggie suddenly appeared. He reached under his apron and brought out an envelop and handed it to Albert, “ya gotta take a look see at this” he said, “its the sales agreement deal!” Albert took the envelop and opened it up. He took a few minutes to look over it and said “Reggie, that is a generous offer, three hundred thousand dollars and a ten percent share of the new cattle company, that’s real good.”
Reggie was so excited, he paced back and forth in front of the new stand, he couldn’t stand still. “Ya think it really be a good one?” Albert looked at him and said “I like it.” Reggie took the envelop back from Albert and ran back across the street. He had to call his agent and tell him he was a gonna sign the papers, it was gonna be a done deal.
It was about a week later when this slender brunette walked up to Albert’s news stand and asked him if his name was Albert Livingston. She told him her name was Sophie Tanner, and that her uncle was Lucas Tanner from Louisiana, a cattle rancher. Her uncle owned a huge ranch there and had bought some property from the fella across the street over there, and she pointed to Reggie’s shop. She said that Reggie wanted you to have a two percent share of his part of the company, and so this is your contract for you to sign. I told Reggie that I would handle it for him.
Albert took a look at the papers and figured it couldn’t hurt, it would make Reggie happy, so why not. He signed the document and handed it back to her. She said “ya know, I told Reggie that he should put that money to good use an buy himself a home here in Boston.” Albert was surprised to hear that coming from her, was she looking out for Reggie, or was she sneaking in the back door here? The answer to that came quick when she said “I don’t want my uncle to screw Reggie over this, and those folks in Floppit aren’t gonna do it either. I think he be much better off right here in Boston where he belongs.”
She said there aint much to running a big cattle ranch, uncle Lucas is going to raise them to sell at the slaughter house in Virginia anyway, so it be like a revolving door so to speak. All Reggie would have to do is put his money in the bank and let ‘er ride. Albert was beginning to like this miss Sophie, she was starting to impress him.
Albert, Reggie and the real estate agent from Floppit went looking at some residences around the neighborhood in the Burroughs to see if there was something Reggie would like. It was Albert that said Reggie needed something that would not need a lot of work and one that would be a good investment if he decided to sell it later on. The agent said he had a few in mind that just might fit the bill and that they needed to go look at one he had in mind right now. It was only four blocks away, in a good part of town, quiet and pretty sharp looking. It was an old English colonial 3 bedroom, it had belonged to judge Moreno and he was moving to New York. Reggie said he just loved the porch, kinda reminded him of the one he was brought up on in Floppit. The price is exceptional too said the agent, only a hundred twenty five thousand. Albert nodded and Reggie said “I’ll take it.”
Reggie the new home owner, lots of room and its his. Things are starting to move right along it seems.
Chapter 9 – Technology Update
The new Pop’s Stand has been getting a lot of attention lately, all the regulars say this was long overdue. You give it character Albert they said, other than that it’s just another building. Albert knew the folks who were his regulars appreciated his news stand and the convenience.
One afternoon, a fella walked up to the counter and asked Albert if he had a power source. Albert looked at him and asked him to explain. The guy said “I have a cell phone and I need to plug it in to charge it.” Albert told him the only power source at the news stand was him, no electricity. This young man walked over to the fire hydrant and stood there for a bit then came back.
“Sir, would you give me a minute of your time I have an idea and I want your opinion.” Albert came around the counter in the afternoon shade and said to the fella, “go ahead, I have the time right now.” this fella told Albert his name was William Styx and he was attending Boston College. He went on to say his major study was communication and he thought this was just the place to set up a wi-fi center. Albert just looked at him and said “a what?”
It would be like a communication center where people could set and use their computers to get on the internet. He said it could also be a charging station. Albert wasn’t too sure he really understood computers all that well, but he was willing to listen. William said he could set it up easily but he needed a small spot to mount a solar panel. Albert knew what a solar panel was, but he didn’t know where it would fit. William looked around a little and then said “a small panel would fit right up there on the roof, completely out of the way and easy to get to.”
“This communication thing you are talking about, why my place?” “I mean wouldn’t it be better across the street?” Said Albert. William told him there was not enough sunlight for one thing and no place to put one either. “This would be the preferred site, if you agree.” Albert thought for a minute and said “what does it cost me?” William laughed and said “there is no cost for you, there is nothing you have to do either.” “This station is compact and efficient, they could maybe pop up all over someday he said.” Albert thought some more and said, “I think you can use the stand, if it is going to be useful.”
William told Albert that those people over at the coffee shop would use it most, that place would become a hot spot for the neighborhood, lots of folks would be able to use it, making it more convenient. William had to explain “hot spot” to Albert, then in made sense.
Albert told William to go ahead and set it up, he said “I am kinda curious how it will look.” William told Albert he would not see too much from the street, but he would see a lot more people on the corner. Reggie would sell more coffee and Albert would sell more papers, but that was a plus for both of them and it gave William the study information he needed for his thesis.
William was right, it didn’t take long to set up, the crew was in and out in an hour. The panel was set up and the plug in was attached to the side of the stand with a small shelf installed to hold the phones or lap tops. The rest of the equipment was stored inside Albert’s small storage room, up and out of the way.
Within a week, Albert had three people show up to ask about the password to the new internet connection, and fortunately William told him it was newspop22. Easy to remember and easy to type. No one had asked to use the outlet yet, but the interest in the internet was really starting to make a difference, for both Albert and Reggie.
Reggie stopped over to chat with Albert one afternoon when things calmed down and asked Albert if there was anything he could do to pay him back for all the extra customers his communication center brought. Albert couldn’t think of how but he would ask William about it and get back to him on the offer. What William told Albert was that if Reggie wanted to do something, he could pay for a sign that would say The Free RA communication center, named after Reggie and Albert. Albert told Reggie about the idea and he was all in favor, “that be a right good idea Albert” he said.
A new communication center, and a newspaper stand? How groundbreaking can that be? Convenience and smart marketing all wrapped up in one. Some one should give that a try if they have a news stand somewhere.
Chapter 10 – Welcome To Albert’s Corner
The morning was crisp and chilly, fall was definitely in the air and in a couple of weeks, winter would hit. Albert had a small propane heater he used when it got cold, but unless he closed up the stand it didn’t do to much to keep him warm. It was just after 10 in the morning and the crowd had gone off to work and only a few stragglers were wandering up and down the street.
He was straightening up the news paper rack when he spotted a shabby looking fellow come from the alley behind Reggie’s coffee shop. Albert thought that he was probably a homeless person, there were a few around but not many. As he watched him, the homeless person dug through the trash barrels next to the coffee shop probably looking for maybe a half eaten pastry or something from Reggie’s.
This guy didn’t look like a the normal ragged or scruffy individual, it looked like he tried to keep himself halfway decent looking. Albert was a little impressed because he looked like he tried to be the best he could under the circumstances. He came across the street to Albert’s news stand and was looking at the newspaper on the counter. Albert asked him if he could help with something. The man looked up and said “do you have an old newspaper that I can read?” Albert had 5 day old papers that didn’t sell, so he offered one of them to him. Albert asked him what his name was and he replied his name was Stan Piedmont from Jersey city.
They got to talking about the weather and traffic and as the morning went on, Albert was beginning to like talking with Stan, he felt like he was not a looser, just someone who had lousy luck working in the now closed steel mill. Stan was a wanderer and didn’t have a home anymore, no family and no relatives either. He was just living from day to day, making it the best he could, working odd jobs when he could find one. But Albert noticed something about Stan, he had a natural way of listening to you and making you feel comfortable just being around him. Albert asked him what his plans were for the rest of the day and Stan said he was looking for any kind of job doing anything. He said he would try to shear sheep if he could find any, or polish shoes if he had a shoebox. Albert noticed this guy had a weird sense of humor, and he was beginning to like him.
He told Stan “I am going to do something I usually do not do, I am going across the street and get me a cup of coffee, would you watch my stand while I do?” Stan looked at him wide eyed and said “but you don’t know me from Adam, I could steal all your money and run!” Albert looked at him closely and said “Stan, if you are here when I come back, I will bring you a cup of coffee and a roll, I don’t think you are a thief, you’re just hungry.” Stan grinned at Albert and said, “I never did steal from a friend before, why should I start now?”
That’s how Stan started out staying in the newspaper stand at night, staying warm and watching the shop, Albert told him he was the ‘night watchman.’ Albert said he couldn’t pay him much but he would be sure Stan did not starve. Stan said that was good enough for him, a place to stay and a warm meal once in a while would be just fine, so much better than the streets. The two started off as just average folks, and before long they became like brothers. Best of all, business grew and it became more busy than when Albert was by himself.
Reggie would ask Stan to come over and help him when things were slow at the stand, usually a couple of hours a day, and he paid Stan a few dollars and made sure he had all the coffee he could drink on the house. When it got real cold outside, Reggie asked Stan if he would accept the offer of a small room in the back of his shop at night, he could stay there if he wanted. He could be Reggie’s ‘night watchman’.
That’s how it all started, Stan eventually became Albert’s relief man, he ran small errands for Albert, kept the place neat and organized. But best of all, he too was soon looked upon as much of a character as Albert was. The regulars started to like dealing with Stan too.
The best part for Stan was that he had a place to stay now, he had a whole bunch of friends, and above all he was finally respected once again.
For those who are willing to trust, sometimes there is a diamond in the rough. Stan was that diamond, he became a real close friend to Albert.
Chapter 11 – Kerr-splat
Albert had just arrived at The Pop Stand that morning and was chatting with Stan when the ambulance went screaming by them toward the other end of the street. “Something’s wrong somewhere” said Albert, “I hope whatever it’s nothing serious” and Stan replied “me too.” they both had stepped out of the stand and were watching as the ambulance pulled over to the curb. Albert said, “looks like they are stopping at my apartment complex, it might be one of my neighbors!”
Stan told Albert to go check, he could watch things while he went to see. When Albert got to the apartment the medics were putting the stretcher in the ambulance in and on it was Mrs. Finsterpuss. Albert asked the medic what was wrong with her and he said she had fell on the steps and broke her leg. She would be fine in a couple of days and back to the apartment within a week. Mrs Finsterpuss waved over to Albert and said, “please Mr Livingston, would you take care of my fish for me while I am gone?” Albert said that it would be easy for him to do and he would be glad to do it for her.
After the ambulance left, Albert went up the stairs to her apartment and went inside. When he opened up the door, he was surprised to see five large fish tanks arranged around the room and it looked like some of them were real fancy.
Albert didn’t know an angle fish from,a gold fish but he knew these fish were special, especially when he saw the elaborate air pump system and the drain system she had set up to replace the water in the tanks. He was relieved to see that the water was real clear in all of the tanks, the only problem he had was what the hell did he feed them? Poor Albert never thought about asking because he was so wrapped up in her accident he forgot to ask.
So, it was off to the hospital to visit Mrs Finsterpuss to find out what the schedule was. It was such a shock to see something alive in her apartment, he thought she didn’t usually like anything living near her. There were some nice plants too, but those would only need water. Hopefully they were not special like the fish.
When the bus dropped off Albert at the curb of the hospital, he went to the desk and found out what room his neighbor was in. She was on the third floor in a ward with two other people. He came in and saw that her leg was already in a big cast. Of course she was not happy about the situation because the doctor told her it was a compound fracture, it required surgery and would lay her up for a full week just because of that. She was not happy with the room mate either, his name was Alvin King and she said he told her he was a king.
“He is a royal pain in the butt that’s for sure” she said, “always raising a fuss and squawking about his situation.” He too had broken his leg, and one arm. “Makes him miserable and obnoxious” she said. Albert said he was there to ask about what to feed those pretty fish, he didn’t want them to starve. She told him where the fish food was stored and that she had a little container she used to measure the amount she would put in each tank, she had it all set up to almost take care of itself. Albert told her he had looked at the operation and was impressed with the elaborate air pumping system for the tanks.
Mrs Finsterpuss told him her husband Harold had put it together for her years ago, and she maintained it because she raised exotic fish for the pet store over on Washburn street. Albert had heard about that shop because it was a well known pet store, and featured lots of exotic pets, especially the aquatic section. What a strange connection. She and Harold had been raising exotic fish for many, many years, they had quite a reputation, but when he died, she stopped advertising and dropped from the market place.
Albert told her the exotics would be just fine, he would make sure of it. He wished her well and told her to hurry and get back because the fish would start to miss her if she didn’t.
How ironic Albert thought, as he was riding the bus back home, she hates cats and birds but raises fish. Strange indeed.
For one thing, fish are quiet. Old lady Finsterpuss doesn’t like noise, that and the fact that cats would eat fish.
Chapter 12 – Fire!
It was about 2:39 AM in the morning when the sirens wailed down the street headed to a fire a block away from where Albert was, it was at Stub’s Bar. The whole thing was almost totally engulfed by the time the fire department got to it, so there wasn’t too much they could do. Marty, the owner had gotten out before it got real bad but almost didn’t because he was looking for his dog Ugly.
This was a pug dog and had been living upstairs with Marty for several years. But Marty couldn’t find Ugly anywhere, he went and hid somewhere. The whole first floor was a total loss, because of the alcohol mostly, but the second floor wasn’t quite as bad but still a disaster too, everything was scorched or burned beyond recognition. The fire department found Ugly, he was found under the bed in the bedroom where he died.
This had been an old favorite for the folks in the neighborhood for quite a few years, lots of memories for lots of folks. Marty said he would try to put it back if there was a way to do it. “Just like it was” he said. But right now all he had was the shirt and pants that he had on, but he didn’t have any shoes either, and that was bad.
By the time things settled down and everyone left, it was just Marty standing there. Reggie came by to see what had happened and found Marty standing there watching the still smoldering remains of his bar. Reggie said “whole-lee cow man, what happen?” Marty said it was a fire in the dumpster in the back that started it, or so the fire department thinks. Someone must have been smoking back there or something.
Reggie looked at him an said, “where be yer shoes man?” Marty said, “all I had tome for was to put on my shirt and pants, I lost Ugly too, I couldn’t find him,” as he started to cry, “he was my best friend.” Reggie said “lets go to my place, we can have a cup of Tennessee gold to make you feel a little bit better.” Marty said “what kind of hooch is that?” Reggie laughed and said “nah, it aint no hooch, this be some of my good coffee.”
When they got to Reggie’s shop, Marty sat down at the counter. Reggie had started brewing the coffee and told him that he would be right back, “just wait a sec” he said. When he came back, he had a pair of old shoes, and he gave them to Marty, they aint the best but they be better than runnin aroun without. Marty told Reggie he would have to look for an apartment now too cause his place was gone. As Reggie poured him a cup of coffee, he turned to him and said “I think I know where ya could stay for a bit if ya like.”
Marty looked at Reggie and said “and just where would that be?” Reggie laughed and said “ya can stay with me, I got a place with 3 bedrooms!” Reggie told him that would save him some money until he get his place put back together. Marty said that would be okay with him but only until he got the bar rebuilt, his insurance should cover that hopefully. Reggie broke out in a big grin.
The rebuild on Marty’s new establishment took off without a hitch, it was all looking real good but Reggie noticed that when Marty was home, he still looked like he was missing something and Reggie knew exactly what that was. It was a week later when Marty came home from overseeing his construction that he found a note on the door. It said that Marty was to come to the coffee shop when he got home, it was important.
When Marty came in the door, Reggie told Maggie to go get Albert and Stan, they were needed. The Pop Stand was about to close up anyway so it would be easy. There were quite a few people in the coffee shop that Marty recognized, and was glad to see them again. Several of them came up to him and said the new bar was looking real good and couldn’t wait to get back. Marty said it was going to be just like the original Stubs, just newer. When Albert and Stan came in, Reggie went to the back room and came back with a box. He sat it on the counter and told Marty “this is for you, we all chipped in on it.” When he opened the box, inside was a small pug puppy with a tag that said Ugly 2.
Couldn’t have a new bar without a new mascot now can we? Yeah the mutt came from the exotic pet shop that Mrs Finsterpuss sold fish to, why not? And to find out more come on back to find out more on “whats happening at Pops perspective.”
Chapter 13 – Supporting A Friend
Well here it is the first part of May and the weather couldn’t be any better, so much sunshine and birds singing with people everywhere these days, especially the younger kids. Albert was standing outside of the stand looking at Reggie’s coffee shop thinking he might go get a cup for himself and Stan when he noticed a pair of youngsters coming down the street. He didn’t recognize them, but that didn’t matter to him, they were kids. The curly haired boy about the age of maybe 14 came walking up first and the shy girl sort of stayed back a little. He turned to her and said, “come on up Sarah, this is the guy I told you about.” Albert turned to look at Sarah who had nice long curls and deep blue eyes, he thought she was about the same age as the boy. The boy said his name was Jeff Maddox and this was Sarah Wilson, his girlfriend from school. He told Albert that he had met Sarah several months ago and they had became good friends. Albert stuck out his hand to Jeff and said “I am pleased to meet you Jeff, he turned to Sarah and held out his hand to her.
She reached out, smiled and shook his hand but didn’t say anything. Jeff told Albert he had met another student at school that told him about his way of looking at people differently and not making them feel strange. Albert looked at Sarah and said “you are an awful pretty young lady, and this fella seems to be real smart but what is it that I can do for you guys?” Jeff spoke softly to Albert and said “she stutters a little and it embarrasses her, so she doesn’t talk much.” Albert turned to her and said softly “I am always talking and not making much sense, but I am not embarrassed if people think I”m a gabby goon. I don’t think you are a goon, can you prove it to me that you are?” Sarah didn’t say anything, she just stood there watching Albert.
Stan was behind the counter and he was listening to them when he said “do you know that I used to live in a dumpster in the alley? Now, I work here and I am respected, and best of all no one thinks I am a bum.” Sarah spoke up quietly, “s-s-s-s-some p-p-p-people are n-n-n-nice. I-I-I s-s-s-stutter when I-I-I get nervous.” Albert said to her “did you know there was a factory owner in London back in 1932 who stuttered so bad he used an interpreter to talk for him. He couldn’t speak clearly or very loud either because he sounded like a tiny child in a high pitched voice. As he got older, his voice changed a little but he still stuttered.
It took a patient person 3 months of working with him before he could speak clearly and precisely to a crowd of factory workers who were going to strike and leave the company in ruins. He was able to tell them that they were important to him and he thought of them as family, not just numbers. It took a lot of courage for him to speak to them. They all knew he had a bad stutter problem but they listened to him anyway. They were so amazed that he took the time to learn how to talk to them that they all gathered around him and made the factory a jewel of London.
Albert told her he couldn’t speak to crowds before, they scared him until a friend told him one day to imagine them all naked out in the audience, and he was the only one who knew it. That thought gave me the courage to try and I have been babbling like a brook ever since. Sarah giggled and said, “they weren’t really naked were they?” Albert said “no, but the idea drove away the fear and made it funny.”
Jeff spoke up and said “Sarah is a math whiz, she is real good at it and takes advanced algebra, and we are only 10th graders!” Jeff blushed and said he was barely able to do regular math. That made Stan laugh, he said he too was lousy with numbers. Then Jeff turned to Albert and said that he wanted to ask Albert if he would speak at graduation for the senior class in June, you tell them that all they have to do is to to try. He told Albert that he was an inspiration to several people already and several kids referred to him as the magazine soul who could make you see who you really were inside.
Sarah slowly said “you made m-m-me think of things d-d-d-differently.” She stood there for a bit and then clearly said “I am willing to try if you really think I can.” Albert winked and said “ah, you see Sarah, you didn’t stutter. You have such a great personal gift, you will be successful beyond your dreams.” Stan spoke up and said “do you remember what president Kennedy was famous for saying? Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. The world can always use another smart person who doesn’t hide under the table, you have this Sarah, go with it.”
Sometimes you just have to push the right button or nudge someone to go in another direction, and once they get going, they become somebody.
Chapter 14 – Albert Says Good bye
The mail man was right on time as usual, and Albert saw an official looking letter from the mayor. This was a surprise, why would the mayor send him a letter? When he opened the letter he found out that he had been selected as the citizen of the year, this was shocking, he had no idea. The letter said there was to be a formal ceremony where he would receive the award in the mayors office at 10 AM on Tuesday the 17th of July, that was just a week away.
Albert just stood there, holding on to the letter and not moving, he was in shock. He went back into the apartment and sat down. This had just as big of an impact on him as when Figureola passed away almost a year ago. Now he was to receive a public award. He was thinking about this while he was working around the stand when a local news reporter walked up and asked him if he was Albert Livingston. He turned around and looked into a TV camera and almost fell over. After he regained his composure he spoke up and said “I am Albert Livingston, how may I help you?” The news reporter said “we are from KQRX, channel 9 here to interview the citizen of the year and that person is you.” Albert couldn’t find the words to reply, he just held out his hand and said “I am pleased to meet you sir, what is your name?” The reporter took his hand and “said my name is Rodney Clark.”
Things were starting to spin, Albert was getting dizzy. Looking around for Stan, he said “would it be alright if I sat down, this is quite a surprise, I just found out about it this morning.” He went behind the counter and picked up a chair and came back out front. Rodney told the camera man to shut it off for a bit, and told Albert he did look a little bit pale. He said he could edit the film to make it look better once the interview was over.
Stan came back from Reggie’s with a cup of coffee for Albert and himself. When he saw the TV truck he asked Albert if there was a problem. Albert said they were here to interview him, and it was all a shock to him about the reason. He explained the letter and introduced him to Rodney. Stan asked him how did all of this happen? Albert said he didn’t know. Rodney said that several people had contacted the city council about how Albert had been such a positive influence on the community, and especially to the younger generation with the speech he gave to the graduating class.
Albert said it was just his nature to talk to folks, it came naturally. Rodney said “if you feel better, now we can do the interview.” Albert looked at Stan and said, “lets get this going, we have customers coming at noon and it will be real crowded quick.” Rodney asked Albert lots of questions about how he started the news stand and how he came to be so successful. Albert went on about how the people made it a success, it wasn’t because of Albert. With that, Rodney signed off and told Albert that he indeed was an engaging character, no wonder he was so respected.
After the TV crew left, Albert turned to Stan and said “we have to talk Stan, over a cup of coffee and a pastry over at Reggie’s. As soon as the noon rush is over, lets close up for a bit and go have a cup. The noon rush was over by 12:45 and Albert put up a sing on the door that said “out to lunch”. Then the two of them went to Reggie’s.
Albert sat down and Reggie came over, looking at first Stan and then Albert. He had a puzzled look on his face and said “ what the devil happened now Albert?” He smiled and said, “I was interviewed by the local television station, I am going to be citizen of the year.” Reggie almost fell over, he flipped up his apron and said out loud “free coffee for everyone!” All of a sudden folks stopped talking and stared at him. Reggie then explained what the reason was and everyone broke out in applause for Albert. When things calmed down again, Albert told Stan that he was going to retire and he had thought about turning over Pop’s Stand to him. Albert had received an invitation to be a guest consultant for the community outreach program the city sponsored. He said with that and the retirement he long put off he would be real happy if Stan would keep the shop going without him. Albert would stop by occasionally but the stand was his. Stan just looked at Albert and said “you are a hard act to follow Albert, but with a little help from Reggie here and the family on the street, I think we can continue to make Pop’s Stand the jewel of the neighborhood it has became.” Albert looked at Stan and Reggie, and stood up, he said “come here, both of you, I need a hug.”
Its been fun working with Albert Livingston, but his story has came to an end. But don’t fear, there is another story coming along. I would like to introduce you to Lucas Kindal, from Mud Bottom Georgia.