by John Hardic

In the seventh grade my brother and I became paperboys. We delivered the evening paper six days a week and the Sunday morning edition.

Saturday was collection. I was out around 10 a.m. to collect my money. In the winter I adjusted and collected while delivering papers. Why be out in the cold more than necessary?

One customer on my route had a mental health history that the entire town knew about. My father told me that Ray was a genius and had gone to Carnegie Mellon University. He had suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital for some time.

Ray was about my father’s age. When he was discharged, Ray worked for the turnpike passing out the toll cards. This was back in the early 1970s before EZ-pass and automatic ticket machines.

Ray lived with his two sisters and every time I went to their house they were eating scrambled eggs. Whether it was ten in the morning or four in the afternoon, I’d knock on the door and whoever opened the door would be chewing on eggs.

Because it was a small community, news traveled fast. Ray was in jail for killing his two sisters. The word on the street was that “Ray blew his top” and killed his sisters because he did not like the way they made his eggs that day. Ray went back to the State Hospital.

About a year later the word buzzed around town that Ray was getting out and coming back home. My parents told me that I would NOT be delivering to him. If he wanted the paper that much he could walk to a store and get it.

IMAGE: “Sad egg,” courtesy of pdpics.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I belong to a writers’ group that meets weekly. We critique each other’s work and offer suggestions and opinions. One of the benefits is having creative people around to bounce ideas around and help stimulate and nurture an idea. When the prompt came up for the “My First Job” submission I was initially not interested. “How could being a paperboy be interesting? I delivered papers to people.”. This brought out a discussion among the group and one of my colleagues suggested things that happened while collecting money and delivering papers. Although this was 40 years ago, I began to think of the people on my route and an event immediately came to my mind. I shared my story with the group and was encouraged to submit it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Hardic is a 1978 graduate of Gannon University, where he studied biology and writing. He ascribed to theory of having a backup plan and while writing and perfecting his craft worked in the health care system for over 30 years.  Several of his short stories were recently published in a book about writing titled Prompted, Prodded, Published. John enjoys science fiction/ fantasy and stories that challenge the reader to think. He is influenced by The Twilight Zone, the writings of Albert Camus, and enjoys the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. He is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan and brags about being at Three Rivers Stadium for Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception which he did not see. John lives in a Pittsburgh suburb with his wife and four cats.