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Mister Kauslin
Flood #10
April 7 1968
Mister Kauslin, the old Lithuanian guy with the grocery over on Gay Street had been looted, and busted up, his stock gone, his wife who ran the store hiding in the apartment upstairs. He had bought in drop shipments with Mister Baines and Israel had driven Mister Kauslin’s stock to him. Now Israel was doing a courtesy, not charging any money, even turning down Mister Kauslin’s offer of pay up front. Heck, Baines was already paying him. No cause to double dip.
As he worked with the old fella, who had decided to close up and sell, Israel asked a lot of questions about such things. Mister Kauslin was going to go work for another market out the way, would not open up again so close to Perkins Homes, where the mobs had come from which had done this. The man had no money to buy elsewhere and start up again—nor the heart. The heart was driven right out of the man and for this Israel felt pretty bad. The man had lost some fingers in the Korean War and this was supposed to be his old age business, and now it was gone, gone with the mob.
The government was all apologetic and didn’t seem to be in any mood to even shoot the rioters, which convinced him that his instinct of opportunity in these so-called big idea affairs, was correct. This was no war. Hardly anyone was being killed, so folks would need all the same stuff they had always needed, and probably want even more than that.
It was in cleaning out and boarding up this small Lithuanian Grocer on the eastside, not Israel’s normal territory, that he figured that back on the west side and especially central, he’d be able to go into the slum lord business. Once these fools had finished burning out the businesses they depended on to get their needs, and driven the people who actually had stuff and knew how to get things done as far away as possible, then they too would find that they had the need to move.
They stood, two men working in passing, together. The tall, bent and pale immigrant who first got shot for this country and was now being fucked good by it, stood starkly in the empty doorway of his dashed dreams. Next to him, shouldering the heavier portion of the hard work of cleaning and boarding what had been broke, was the broad young worker who knew that notions such as brought Alvin and other college brained types alive with ideas, were nothing but grifts for the bosses who always stood to profit from honest people’s losses.
After eight hours of work they finally stood in the alley doorway of the grocer. There had been nothing—that is no stock—left. But at least they hadn’t burned it, for the old couple lived upstairs, their son over in Vietnam getting fucked as well by the same system. Fortunately the looters had no eyes nor use for tools and had left the butcher block, wrappers, scales, the dollies, the hand truck—but not the shopping carts, which they knew how to use—for their owner to stand over as his last few remaining business possessions.
“Israel, thank you and thanks to Mister Baines as well for the help. I’d like you to take him my remaining equipment—the insurance will total it and he might as well have it for letting you come over for the day. And here, for your help,” and Mister Kauslin held out two $20 bills.
Israel shook his head, “Naw, Mista K, I’ll take one of the dollies, could sure use it in my work, and the trash cans and bone and fat cans. I’ll be able to use them when I’m doing restoration.”
As the old man stood and hung his head, looking idly at his hand with the three missing fingers, Israel took that hand and shook it and said, “Mista K, if y’all need any help, let me know. And if you hear of any sales, equipment, cars or even houses, I might be interested.”
The man smiled softly and in some pain and said, “You got it, young man. Anything good I get wind of I’ll send your way.”
Israel would use the work van to haul his and Mister Baines’ portions of the salvage and that little grocery store would be no more. All of those little grocers getting wiped out in the riots would swell the supermarket business and give him plenty of side work for getting the cash to buy more investment property. He could literally smell it in the air, the smell of burning tar roofs from last night, hanging like an invisible blanket over the town.
As Israel watched the looted out grocer lockup the shell—for night would soon be falling and they’d have to remove the salvaged equipment tomorrow to avoid the mob—he was reminded of his Mamma, the way she looked in her empty eyes after Daddy had died. That’s how Mister Kauslin looked, like something in him had done died.
For a lot folks, like Alvin, the world was here to be fixed. For folks like Larry, the world was a game you played. But for Israel, from where he had lived and from where he sat now behind the wheel of the van, the world was a place that was here to eat you. He mused out loud within the cab of the work van, as he drove off, and saluted the state troopers on the corner:
“No, Israel, you can’t let those rotten fools do you like that. Your eggs will never be all in the same basket.”
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HuerfanoDecember 23, 2020 6:54 AM UTC

Hi James: The Flood story is excellent. Thanks for posting these. Happy holidays (in spite of the elites best efforts to keep us all off balance, all the time) and do stay toasty out there.
responds:December 23, 2020 12:08 PM UTC

Thanks for reading. I'll post another Flood chapter in Christmas eve.