Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So what do you know Joe?


Joe’s Market was on the corner across the street from our house in Detroit. It was the typical corner store of the 1970's; a saw dust floor and short aisles of potato chips, cereal, toilet paper, pop, wine, and milk.

The proprietor Joe was an older man with a heavy Greek accent, greasy hair, usually clad in work jeans and a plaid shirt. I don’t know how to exactly explain the odor he emitted. The best I can do is say it was hard-working sweaty man, mixed with gamy road killed skunk, topped off with an essence of eye burning ammonia. That stench swirled around with the dust in the air and sank deep into the store’s wooden floors, so it was impossible for soft human flesh to not be affected. The smell stayed with you even after you left the store. The women in the neighborhood were always saying they didn't understand how any woman could stand him. I kept imagining his fat wife screaming and running out of the room every time he took his pants off.

I guessed no one said anything directly to Joe about his problem because he was fair, trustworthy, and willing to give people small amounts of credit when they needed it, but I was surprised no one in his family said anything to him.  Maybe they were used to it.

Many years later, I was back in Detroit for a visit. My sister wanted to go and see what had become of Joe and his market. The market was still there and so was Joe, but it was different. Well there was less product on the shelves and Joe had lost weight,  He had a head full of real, thick glossy real hair and smelt of Irish Spring soap.  When he grinned with geniune gladness to see us again, he was attractive, even handsome. So what the hell happened to Joe?   I did not how to ask him without mentioning his prior condition, but somebody must have said something to Joe. If he could change like that at his age, maybe there is hope for the rest of us.

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