The Return of Cosmo Draper
“Yes, I was there. As a matter of fact, you could say that I instigated the whole thing,” old Mr. Porter admitted. “Now?” he inquired of his guest, his voice raspy from age. “You want to hear about it. . . now?” He glanced at his wristwatch. “Well, I . . I guess I have time.”
“It was back in the holiday season of ’79. President Carter had recently given his ‘malaise speech’ – saying how the whole country was in kind of a funk. That was certainly true where I was working: A little daily newspaper called The Northbridge Beacon in Massachusetts. It was a nice little paper. We didn’t report much hard news. It was mainly Little League scores and Rotary Club meetings – stuff like that. Northbridge was where I grew up. It was great back then, but lately. . . well, like the president said: Malaise.
“It all started late one evening between Turkey Day and Christmas. A light snow had started falling. My fellow reporter, Andy Carr, had taken a jaunt down to old man Bellini’s general store to fetch us some sandwiches while I held down the fort.”
Carr entered the Beacon’s offices, quickly closing the door behind him. He stomped the snow from his shoes. “Boy, it’s getting cold out there,” he said. “I’m tellin’ you!”
“The snow looks kind of pretty,” Porter responded from his desk, looking out the window.
“For now, sure. After the traffic gets at it tomorrow morning, it’ll turn into a kind of brown, ugly mush that’ll hang around until April.”
“Well, let’s enjoy it while we. . .” Porter rose from his desk and instantly noticed that something was wrong. “Where are the sandwiches?” he asked.
“Back at Belinni’s,” Carr answered unhappily.
“You never got them?”
“Belinni wouldn’t sell them to me.”
“He said he was closing up shop.”
Porter looked at the wall clock behind his co-worker. “But it’s only 8:15,” he said. “He’s open until 9:00 every night.”
“That’s what I told him as he locked the main door. He said there were no customers, and he was closing early to go home and watch a Bonanza rerun.”
“He turned down business?”
“Yep. He said it wasn’t worth his while to open up his deli counter for just a couple of sandwiches. I told him I’d buy more – two Cokes and a big bag of chips – but he still said no. I was thinking of heading over to the House of Pizza, but the roads are getting pretty icy.”
“So what’s for dinner?” Porter asked.
“I guess we’ll have to make due with whatever’s in the vending machines.”
“Stale chips and warm soda? Yum! I swear there’s a Milky Way in there that’s older than I am!”
“I’m not happy about it either, Tim,” Carr said. “Any news while I was gone?”
“No. I was just sitting here, watching the snow fall, and thinking about how great of a town this used to be back when we were growing up. Remember?”
“Oh yeah! And I can sum up those good times in two words.”
“Cosmo Draper,” they said simultaneously.
“Now there was a man’s man,” Carr continued.
“My dad used to say there were two ways you knew everything was right with the world: FDR was president, and Cosmo was the mayor.”Continue reading