the origin of clouds (a novel)#5

            When they got married the second time, Lincoln promised he would stop shooting dope, give up his hustle, settle down and get a nine-to-five to take care of her and the kids. He took a job as the lead sales clerk at Kings department store. It was one of the few jobs that didn’t require proof of prior experience. Old Man Manopoulis, the storeowner, didn’t ask about the three years Lincoln served in Vietnam or the hell he had been living since coming home. Lincoln didn’t have to explain how he earned a diploma in accounting taking correspondence courses from a business college nearly seven hundred miles away in Omaha, Nebraska while in prison. Old Man Manopoulis didn’t need to know how unlucky Lincoln had been in life. Only that he was Grace Kind’s youngest son and needed a job.

             The name Kind still meant something for those old enough to remember what Liberty was like during the Great Depression. During those lean, desperate years it seemed like every hungry, penniless man in America passing through Liberty, Ohio looking for work in the steel mills found their way to Grace Kind’s boarding house. Anthony Manopoulis was one of those men.

            A Greek immigrant who had come through Ellis Island in 1927 and hoboed his way to Chicago to do pickup work as an unskilled laborer. That was two years before the stock market crash of 1929, when Chicago swelled with jazz and myths of gangsters like Al Capone. It was the winter of 1932 when Manopoulis arrived in Liberty begging for work, the soles of his shoes wearing thin and all the cots at the city mission taken.

            He found himself at The Mansion, an old, rundown, three-story house next to the Mahoning Avenue Bridge. At the edge of the black section of the city, they called The Flats. Grace took Manopoulis on as a boarder in exchange for doing odd jobs and helping out with the bootleg she ran out of the back of the house. During those years, most of what little money was left in Liberty was spent at The Mansion—on hooch, gambling, and prostitutes. Monopoulis never forgot Grace taking him in like that or the money she’d given him on his wedding day to open his first little store.             

            Within a year, Old Man Manopoulis had promoted Lincoln to store manager. For a time, it seemed Lincoln had given up the street life and settled down. He came to work early and left late. He hardly ever took a lunch break. When he did, he never left the store. He’d sit in the employee break room eating the lunch Susan packed for him while going over receipts and inventory lists. After a long day of handling employee disputes and customer requests, he was content with coming home to Susan and the kids. With making everything that went wrong with their day right.

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