Strawberry (flash fiction)

I was a farm boy, still in high school with a car and a girlfriend during the early 1950s. She lived fifteen miles from my front door, so cash played an important role in my social life. But my choices for earning money were limited – storing a farmer’s hay in his barn or digging his wife’s potatoes. Both or either paid five dollars per day whether that day lasted a few hours or dark-to-dark. That was when I met Strawberry.

Strawberry was name of a Korean War Veteran, one he’d earned from his complexion, the result of shell-shock, someone told me. I don’t know how much his mustering-out pay amounted to, only that it enabled him to buy a used Chevrolet truck for hauling hay to farmer’s barns. I was paid for loading and unloading. Our relationship worked out well. I always had enough cash to get to town and take my redhead to the movie. Sometimes I even had enough to buy her a hamburger.

I knew little about Strawberry’s personal life. What I learned seemed strange.

Late that summer he bought an aging 1946 Chevrolet sedan. He told me he got it cheap because the paint looked so bad. At the first opportunity, he bought a gallon of black paint and a brush. “Where the masking tape?” I asked. “Don’t need no tape. I got me a forth grader.”

Strawberry painted everything – chrome and glass. The forth grader, with an apple box to stand on, wiped the paint off the chrome and glass. They both got done about the same time. Strawberry stepped back to admire his work.

It was crazy. I was glad I watched.