Even before Daddy died, I didn't have a strict bed time. I can recall my mother once pushing me off to bed and I declared, "But it's not even MADNIGHT!" Such was the routine in our house.
One morning we slowly got around, having slept in like usual. Mother went to the front door to retrieve the milk and, like many other days, we hadn't gotten up early enough to save it from the morning's cold fingers and it had frozen since being placed at our doorstep. The milk, having no where to freeze but up, was standing at salute out the top of the bottles with the caps crazily resting on top. Barbara and I set them on a towel on the kitchen table, waiting for them to thaw before we could have our breakfast. Waiting was worth staying up late and sleeping in.
I suppose all the coconut is what made me thirsty for milk.
Barely taller than the bushes out front, I would throw on my jacket and walk up town. Daddy didn't like me to cross the highway, but to get to the grocery store and the restaurant I didn't have to. And it wasn't like I was the only five year old wandering around town.
I rattled the bell as I heaved the door open and tumbled into Clarence Pickart's store. I meandered through the aisles, but knew where I was headed. I stopped by the baking goods and saw it, like freshly fallen snow. I scooped up the coconut and headed to the counter. Daddy never used money at the grocery store, and that seemed to be okay. He would just show them his items, they would scribble a note, and out of the store we would go. So that's how I bought my coconut.
I sat on the sofa, my book in one hand, my bag of coconut in the other. I would take a bite for every page I turned. I was on page 17 when Mother walked in.
"What are you eating?" It didn't take her long to notice.
"Coconut." It seemed rather obvious to me.
"And where did you get this coconut?" I guess she did know everything that was stacked in that crowded pantry after all.
"Pickart's." I turned back to my book, assuming the conversation was over.
It wasn't. She informed me that I could no longer "buy" coconut from Clarence's store, or any of the grocery stores in town. She said "buy" funny, drew it out a little longer than the other words in the sentence. And that was that. I didn't bring coconut home anymore.
The next time I bought some, I put it in a brown grocer's sack. Taking a few pinches of the fluffy, sweet flakes, I made my way to the corner of our street where a culvert jutted through the ditch. I licked my fingers and carefully rolled up the sack. Dropping down onto my belly, I scooted into the culvert up to my shoulders. I reached forward and dropped the sack.
It was always there when I needed a little snack.
And Turk was always there when I needed a little coffee.
Around the time my coconut could be found in the town's drainage system, I could often be found at Daddy's restaurant. Barbara and I spent many hours upstairs, roller skating around on the wooden floors while customers were served below our spinning wheels. But I'm not referring to those times; I'm talking about the times I needed coffee.
The dark liquid, with it's unequalled smell, had been present in my house since I could remember, but Daddy and Mother didn't let me have my own. I suppose they believed the old axiom that it would stunt my growth and figured I needed all the help I could get in that department. Even though I was just five years old, they must have been able to tell height was not to be gifted to me.
At the restaurant I would climb up a barstool, tuck my feet under me, and plop my elbows up on the counter. I watched Turk, one of Daddy's employees, fly around on the other side. When he wasn't busy though, I'd ask him to pour me a cup of coffee, please. I made my voice confident and sure, so he wouldn't suspect that I never drank it.
And on that barstool I learned how to appreciate the bitter taste; learned how to grip the warm mug in my small hands.
And on that barstool was the only place I drank coffee for three years, until I was finally allowed to start drinking it at home.