Somewhere between Ike Godsey’s General Mercantile and Amazon.com, retail history squeezed out a little space for corner groceries like Mr Schulz’s. For a man who clearly hated children, he kept a remarkably child-friendly store, with all sorts of kid stuff you could buy for a nickel or less and grownup stuff for not much more, and all of it free of nutrition charts, health warnings, use-by dates and such. The array of penny candy (under glass, lock and key) went on forever, from the luxury all-day sucker for 5 cents to blackballs 4 for a penny. They tasted vile, but they did temporarily blacken all the teeth they hadn’t already broken from your jaw, so were a great buy. Mr Schulz sold fireworks all year round, to kids of any age, and he thoughtfully displayed them on a bottom shelf, just so he could bark at you for even thinking of theft. If you had a forged note from your mother, he would also sell you, with a bark, the matches you would need, and even cigarettes if they were a ladies’ brand like Matinee. He barked if you took too long choosing your 4 cents’ worth of candy, and he barked at you for not having the right change, not that any of us ever had folding stuff. If you dared to linger over goods for grownups, out you went, his bark following you down the road almost till you were home. His grandchildren probably adored him, but to us he was just a scary, wrinkled, bushy-eyebrowed white-haired monster who inhaled, in the worst possible humour, every penny we could earn or steal. Still, a dime pack of his firecrackers let off all at once inside a post-rigor mortis gopher would make an almighty mess, so I guess he was a little bit OK. The smell of gunpowder never fails to conjure him up, still barking.
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