“Sure boy, why not?” he said and swung his legs down, his feet resting on the wood floor of the hotel veranda. The boy pulled out a well worn rag and an old peach tin containing “blacking”, tallow from the local butcher mixed with lampblack and a touch of beeswax. Lifting Hollister’s right shoe, he placed it on top of the box and began to work cleaning the shoe of the dust and flecks of mud it had accumulated over the last couple of days.
“Ya from around here suh or jus’ passing through?” asked the shoe shine boy.
“Neither,” answered Hollister swirling the bourbon in his glass, “hoping to get a job.”
“What kind of job ya looking for suh?”
“Newspaper,” said Hollister. “Are you from around here?” he asked not really caring.
“No suh, I’s from Georgia.”
“Pretty country, Georgia,” said Hollister thinking about a girl he once knew.
“That it is suh,” said the Negro with a big smile, “that it is.” After making sure the shoe was clean he began to rub the blacking into the leather, hard and steady, sometimes spitting on it while he worked it in.
After ten minutes, he began to buff the shoe, slow at first and then began to pick up the pace, adding more saliva when needed to bring out the shine. After a few more minutes, he was satisfied with the work and replaced the right shoe with the left on the box.
“What paper is you going to see suh?”
“The Daily,” answered Hollister.
“That’s a fine paper, suh. They be lucky to be gettin’ a man such as yourself I’m thinkin.”
Hollister smiled, a nigger who could read. Well, he knew some of them could. Though he didn’t know why he thought it strange in this case. Maybe he just thought menials didn’t care to read.
“You know the Daily?”
“Oh yes suh. Mr. Alfred Alexander, he’s the editor and let’s see …Mr. Malcom, he writes for the paper and Mr. Martin too.”
“And you read the newspaper?”
“Oh sometimes suh, if there be one to read, I don’t buy it mind you, but if I see it, I’ll read what I can,” he said working blacking into the left shoe leather. Fifteen minutes later the boy was done buffing the shoe with a snap of his rag. Hollister looked down at his shoes which reflected like mirrors.
“Fine job boy, fine job,” said Hollister with satisfaction. The boy grinned.
“What’s your name boy?” asked Hollister tossing him two bits.
“MacDonald, suh, Aesop MacDonald,” he replied catching the coins in his hand, “Thank you suh!”
Hollister grinned as he watched the shoe shine boy run off the hotel veranda into the rain and muddy streets looking for another customer. Bright kid and the newspaper man wondered if he would ever see him again. He signaled a passing member of the hotel staff.
“Another bourbon please,” he said with a raised glass.