I was fourteen that summer and the guy who had the route went to Canada for the whole month of August. He wouldn’t give the job to me; he had his own reasons for that. I did not agree with them. But he gave the work to my buddy and, when the main man was out of town he took me on as a helper for those four weeks. It was the first time I had been outside at four in the morning. Mac would toss pebbles against my bedroom window till he saw the light come on. I’d throw on jeans and a sweatshirt and be outside in a minute flat. We rode our bicycles down the hill in the dark with the straps of the canvas paperbags woven onto our handlebars. We did not speak as we coasted, but soaked up and gloried in the quiet darkness as if we had entered some film noir. Our papers were delivered to the steps of Nick Corey’s Confectionary on Main Street. It was nothing but a beer joint and I don’t know why they called it a confectionary. There was a black rubber mat in the alcove where we laid down and waited for the panel truck to come by and for the bundle of newspapers, baled in thick wire, to be thrown our way. We’d been left a set of needle-nosed pliers to cut the wire and when we did it, the stack of papers popped and inflated half their size again. We knew how to fold them then, into those patented batons that could be thrown accurately past closed gates and over fences. We had the route divided into his part and mine and with the papers standing at attention in our bags we split up and ran our patterns like wide receivers. The only lights downtown were the stoplight that in those wee hours flashed yellow both ways and from the bus station that was in that day still a portal to the outside world.
People were actually inside there, awake, waiting for some bus to take them who knows where.