Palisades Park
'I Got You, Babe'

Chapter 1

Love is grand even when you can’t define what it is. 

You know it when you feel it.

I was lucky enough to feel it then. Once you've loved, there's no going back. The power of caring for someone more than you care for yourself is life altering. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

I'm a dreamer.

If there was more love there would be less room for hate. Telling you about my one great love is how I hope to spread the love around. Maybe one day love will surge like the tides and engulf the earth forever more.

There would be no room for hatred.

*****

The Mighty Mo was on Pennsylvania Avenue. It's where we went after school, after games, and after hours.

We couldn't go home without a midnight snack. For a growing boy a Mighty Mo burger, crisp fries, and thick shake was just enough to get you through the night.

Then you needed dessert.

I'm going to tell you about a Mighty Mo sundae. You need to see it to believe it but words will have to do.

The sundae went into a large glass. It was more like a high rise bowl on a stem with a base. You needed a big glass for a big sundae.

You start with a layer of hot fudge. On top of the fudge went a layer of vanilla ice cream. On top of the vanilla ice cream you added a level of chocolate ice cream. One more layer of vanilla goes on top of that and a rich level of hot fudge followed. Then you liberally applied the whipped cream and an obligatory cherry on top and you had a Mighty Mo sundae.

I ate my share of midnight snacks that included all the above. I'd been out of school for a couple of years but trips to the Mo were habit forming. You couldn't stop going because you somehow managed to graduated from high school.

This isn't a story about the Might Mo. It isn't even a story about high school. This story is about love. This story is about David. If there is great love, David was mine.

We both liked Mighty Mo food, David and me. It was on the way home from anywhere we went, because it was a habit. David was a habit to. Many a night I sat admiring him as he dug into a Might Mo sundae.

I gave them up. Once in a while I would be overcome by desire. I'd eat one as David ate his. I watched him eat a hundred over the years. My girlish figure would not have held up if I had more than one or two a year. I didn't want to weigh a ton. I would if I ate  many of those. The look on David's face while he ate one was pure delight.

He may have eaten a hundred sundaes but he was as trim as the day I met him for the years we were together. I don't think he gained an ounce. Maybe it was our love that had me believing his stomach stayed flat. The truth was, David was perfect the day I met him and he was perfect the day I saw him for the last time. Perfection is like that.

Some nights David and I put the Mo on our schedule of stops. On other nights once we'd done what we set out to do, David would look at me and say, “The Mo?”

By the time I met David I began to limit my calorie intake. Being an athlete in school, the idea of packing on the pounds wasn't an appealing prospect. I watched David eat one of those sundaes while feeling no guilt. I didn't slack off the burgers and fries. I hadn't been out of school that long. You couldn't go to the Mo and not eat. It wasn't done. It wasn't done by me anyway.

I think I always loved David. No, I know I always loved David. I guess for one or two minutes when he first stepped onto my truck, I might not have been captivated by him. Once he went to work on my truck, the supercharged chemistry was obvious. We liked each other a lot.

I didn't like many people. I could take or leave them. The first time I saw David, I wanted to take him right off. He rang my chimes. He got my attention in a big way.

If you can have only one great love, David was mine.

You know when you’re in love by the way it envelops you completely.  This raging force takes over your life. Rational thought and any claim to sanity is lost inside the love. Your life begins revolving around one person.

When you are together all the stars in the universe are perfectly aligned. When you're apart everything feels cockeyed. You need to be with the one you love.

That's how love struck me.

*****

Why we spend so much time looking for love is a mystery to me. I don’t remember looking for love. One day, while going about my business, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes.

My business was delivering milk for Harvey Dairy. This earned me the monicker, The Dairy Queen, with my friends. I was technically a route salesman. I didn't know what that was so I was a milkman. While marking my route book David moved up to the open door on my right.

I saw his fabulous blue eyes watching me.

The Divco doors folded back and stayed open while I ran my route. The driver stood to drive. There was no seat to get in your way. When I turned to get an order for a customer, I turned back, stepping off the truck, made the delivery, stepping back onto the truck, and driving to the next customer.

I might or might not, mark the book anywhere along the line. I always put the empties away before getting the next customer's order ready.

Except this time, while I marked my book, I felt a presence, saw a motion, and I was looking into those eyes. I didn't know whether to turn or what.

I watched him watching me. There had to be a reason why he was standing there.

I remember David's first word to me.

“Hi,” he said.

Hi indeed. My heart leaped. He'd just materialized next to my Harvey Dairy milk truck. Was he heaven sent or was there a more practical reason he was there.

“Hi, back,” I replied.

The first time he climbed onto my truck his lovely blue eyes sparkled. I calculated why he was there because Jimmy wasn't there. He'd seen Jimmy climb on my truck. He knew I let Jimmy deliver the next two customers on that block and for that I gave him one pint of rich delicious Harvey Dairy chocolate milk. David was there for the chocolate milk. 

*****

At twenty-one I became the youngest route salesman at Harvey Dairy. I was told that I was not going to be the youngest route salesman at Harvey Dairy at the beginning of the interview. Mr. Whipps told me this.

Mr. Martin Whipps was a dapper well dressed gentlemen in a pinstripe double breasted suit. He was tall and distinguished looking with almost white hair. He spoke like a well educated man. He was the manager at Harvey Dairy and he did the hiring. Right away we were talking about my age, or lack there of.

“How old are you?” he asked, looking at my application that I'd been filling out for the last fifteen minutes.

“Twenty-one,” I said, happy I'd reached that age.

“I'm going to tell you right off, I don't hire anyone under twenty-three. You've come a long way and I'll give you the interview and when you reach twenty-three, I'll consider you for employment at Harvey Dairy.

Yeah, and pigs fly, I thought.

I followed Mr. Whipps into his office and I didn't know why. If he wasn't going to hire me he was wasting my time.

Usually I'd have excused myself and left. When I was told no, I accepted it meant no. I needed a job today. I didn't need a job in two years. I could get very hungry if I waited for two years.

I ended up in his office anyway. It was the polite thing to do and he told me to sit across from his desk. I did and he kept talking like I was someone he might hire.

It was easier to go along with him. I answered his questions while he held my application in front of him.

I concluded Mr. Whipps was a fair man and I had no other prospects. I'd looked over the want ads that morning, and the only thing that caught my attention was the ad for a route salesman at Harvey Dairy. Not knowing what it was meant I was taking a shot in the dark. They needed help and I just happened to need a job.

He knows where I live, how I did in school, what my experience in the work-a-day-world was, when he slides a sheet of paper and a pencil across his desk toward me. 

“I'm going to give you a list consisting of three digit numbers. There will be ten numbers. I want you to add them and give me the total.”

Now I knew what I was waiting for. Mr. Whipps was giving me a shot and I was going for it. I slid the paper back to him. He looked at them like they might bite.

Looking at me he was curious about my move.

“You don't even want to try? I'm giving you the standard interview,” he reminded me.

“Ten three digit numbers?” I asked. “I don't need a pencil and paper to add ten three digit numbers. I'm ready when you are,” I said, boldly going for it.

Could I add ten three digit numbers in my head. We were about to find out. My brain had never been an ordinary brain. I'd astounded a couple of teachers with it in junior high school.

Mr. Whipps fell silent for the first time. I don't think he was prepared for this eventuality. This wasn't how his interviews were supposed to go.

“Are you going to give me the numbers?” I asked.

It was my turn to ask the questions.

I could see by the look on his face, Mr. Whipps was caught off guard. His expression said it all.

“Yes, of course,” he said.

He began to give me the numbers. Each time he read a number, he punched it into the adding machine on his desk. The time he took between numbers was agonizingly slow. I was afraid he was going so slow I might lose track of the total. Each time he read a number I had a new total to remember and I added the next number to that.

I figured it would sound pretentious to ask him to pick up the pace a little. I added as he read the numbers.

He finally gave me the last number.

“That's ten,” he told me, and he reached for the long handle on the adding machine to ratchet it down.

The machine chugged and chattered and vibrated as all the mechanisms inside the machine went into action.

“3659,” I said.

“What?” he asked, distracted from the adding of his adding machine.

“The total of the ten numbers you gave me is 3659,” I said quite clearly.

Once the adding machine vibrated itself into the middle of Mr. Whipps desk, he tore off the total it came up with.

Mr. Whipps looked at the total on the sheet of paper he tore off the machine and then he looked at me.

“What is the total?”

“3659,” I said.

“What's the trick?” he asked.

“No trick. I added the numbers in my head.”

He looked at the paper, he looked at me, and he smiled.

“Welcome to Harvey Dairy. When can you start?”

“I can start right now,” I said.

“Let me explain what you'll be doing for us,” he said.

That's how I became the youngest route salesman at Harvey Dairy and if I hadn't been able to out fox an adding machine, I would never have been there to meet David.

*****

“Jimmy isn't here,” David said. “Can I deliver the milk?”

He already knows the deal. He's watched my interaction with Jimmy or Jimmy has told him about it.

“Sure,” I said far more casually than I actually felt.

Jimmy is as slow as molasses. Now here's David. He's older, tougher, and he literally runs the milk. Of course I let him deliver the two houses he's seen Jimmy delivering to. It takes David all of a minute to deliver a stop and bring back the empties. David knows what he's doing. He's watched Jimmy do what he does for a while and he intends to show Jimmy up every chance he gets.

Each time he steps on the truck he gives me a big smile. I'm looking into those beautiful blue eyes again. Whatever David has, I'm signing up for it.

Jimmy who?

I related to sad and seemingly unhappy kids. If there was something I could do to help, I did it. I didn't know if I was helping Jimmy. He never said anything. He did what I told him to do and he took the pint of milk without a word.

Nothing changed.

David obviously knew how things worked. He'd seen Jimmy delivering milk for me and he waited to get his shot.

David is a clever older boy who knows what he wants. He wants the same deal Jimmy has. I didn't need anyone humping milk for me. Letting Jimmy deliver two houses was my good deed. David delivering milk for me was an entirely different ballgame.

Was it ever.

I understood what David was after. I let him deliver the next two houses. I handed him the chocolate milk. Now, I knew there was more. I just didn't know what yet.       

He looked at the pint of milk. He looked at me. He started to get off the truck and then he hesitated, and then came the shot heard around my world.

“Thank you. Can I deliver for you on Thursday? Jimmy won't be back until next week.”

“Sure,” I said, not needing to think it over.

In five minutes David cut Jimmy out of the deal. I worried I'd hurt Jimmy. He was a boy who looked like he had a familiarity with rejection. I'd cross that bridge when I got to it. The deal I had with Jimmy was a deal I created for him. The deal I made with David was just for me. I'd already been trying to think of a way to get to see David again.

I saw Jimmy after he returned home. He never came over to the truck again. If he was in the house when I took the milk up to the box, I said, “Hi.” He doesn't mention delivering milk for me again. The job belongs to David now.      For all I knew, David told Jimmy, “This is my gig now, Butterball. Steer clear of the milkman.'

On the second time David delivered the two houses on his block, he offered to add Jimmy's house to the deal. He asked for no increase in fee. He'd do it to save me those steps or maybe to keep me away from Jimmy. 

David was always waiting for me when I turned the corner onto his street. One curious thing I noticed: he never drinks the milk. He got off the truck with the milk in his hand. Jimmy had the milk half gone before his feet hit the ground. Instant gratification. Maybe David saved it to drink with lunch. I didn't ask. He didn't say.

After a month the deal with David was about to change.  I'd been working on a way to spend more time with him since the first day he stepped off my truck with the pint of chocolate milk. The answer was obvious.

Were their rules against employing someone to hump the milk for me? Probably, but if there was a rule no one told me. It was my milk route now. I'd run it the way I pleased. I wanted to see a lot more of David.

Letting David deliver milk to three houses on one block certainly  didn't violate a rule any less than if I let him deliver my entire route and that's what I wanted. 

What's the worse that could happen?

I had been looking for a job when I arrived at Harvey Dairy. I'd be looking for a job when I left.    

I just happened to have a milk route at the moment.

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