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Legends of the Steel Road by Cliff Rhys James The boy was nine years old and living his dream, or at least the first act. Each day he’d wake up fast in the pre-dawn, jump into worn clothes, then run outside to breathe in a deep charge of Western Pennsylvania. Each day was fresh, even if the air wasn’t ~ polluted as it was by the bellowing steel mills strung along the river from Pittsburgh to Youngstown. But that was no matter. The boy had more important things on his mind. If his timing was good, and it usually was, he’d hit the Winslow Avenue sidewalks just after the milkman left an extra bottle of chocolate milk on his neighbor’s porch, and just before a bathrobed Mrs. McPeak swung open her door to pick it up. The milkman was simply doing what milkmen of the day did ~ following the delivery orders per a note left by the lady of the house. And in this case, the handwriting in the note on the McPeaks’ porch had been carefully mastered and expertly forged by Billy James. He’d even made sure to use the kind of #2 pencil and envelope scraps favored by Mrs. McPeak for all his forged notes to milkmen ~ at least for the ones involving her. Oh, yes, there were others.

Heck, Mrs. McPea k’s w r it ing was easy, much easier to forge than the ornate cursive of Mrs. Schuler, which somet imes looked li ke a strange combination of English and German. But, the dairy company and the Schulers eventually worked out a counter-strategy to foil Billy. Sooner or later the McPeaks and the dairy company would probably do the same. They’d be onto to his game, forcing him to start all over again with another neighbor. But unt il t hat happened, t here was nothing better than gulping down a bottle of cold chocolate milk as the day burst bright beneath the new rising sun. It was 1937, and in the 55

May 2015 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times May 2015

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