Monday, March 12, 2018

Installment 1.6 (Monday, March 12)



Kenny eased the big Diamond Reo next to the curb and set the air brake with a big “Whoosh”.

There was plenty of room for him in front of the restaurant even though Huntington Park was an old, congested former residential area.  There were almost no cars still on the road.

He got out of the cab and locked the doors.  He had not gotten to the age of sixty by taking chances.  He walked into the restaurant and seated himself.  He had made his fourth trip hauling Chad’s corn and the last of his crop would be sold by this time tomorrow.

There was a line of customers at the take-out window.  Kenny was interested to see that the price of tortillas was now one Callor each, down from two callors when Miguel visited less than a week ago.

It was a while before the waitress took his order (two egg burritos and an iced tea).  He told her, “I want to talk to Papa Munoz when he has a minute.”

About twenty minutes later a portly man with a soiled apron came out of the kitchen and said, “What do you want.  I am very busy here.”  Papa Munoz did not like “Okies” on principle.

“Hello Senor Munoz.  I know your boy Jose is a very busy man, so I figured I could talk to you and you might pass the message on.”

Still skeptical, Papa Munoz squinted down at the man.  “Who are you?”  The man did not look like a cop but it was hard to tell.  Still, most cops were not scarecrow skinny and covered with tats.

“My name is Kenny Lane and I have been delivering corn.” Kenny said.

Papa Munoz wiped his hands on his apron and sat down.  “Why didn’t you say so earlier?  I know who you are.”

“Hell,” Kenny said, “I ain’t important.  I am just carrying a few messages.”

“What do you need?” Papa Munoz asked.

“Well, first off, we are running out of bags.  This whole operation is gonna come to a screeching halt unless we get a LOT more bags.” Kenny said.  "And while you are at it, you might as well find us some more pennants with 'P' on them."

“Second thing,” Kenny said “I been watching your people carrying those bags out of the building.  I ain’t saying they ain’t strong but its like they haven’t been eating regular.  I was thinking if we brought you fifty pound bags of corn and hundred pound bags.  Say three hundred of the bigger bags and two hundred of the smaller.”  Papa Munoz nodded his head.  It wasn’t just the hungry men.  There were women and older people who just couldn’t manage a hundred pound bag of grain.
“Third thing is I am hearing that every county in the Central Valley is about to start shipping to LA.  There is no way those two docks can handle the traffic.  If you give me some alternate addresses, say a different address for each county, I can make sure they get to the right places.  By the way, having the trucks scheduled by the driver’s last name is working pretty good.  We should keep doing that.” Kenny said.

“There is one more thing but it is kind of delicate.” Kenny said.

“What is that?” Papa Munoz asked.

“You and me both know that these callors won’t even make good toilet paper in about five years.  I talked to Chad Izzo and he was wondering if I could exchange the payment for the last load into Yuan or US Dollars or Mexican Pesos.  He don’t care about the exchange rate.  He wants to diversify.”

Papa looked at Kenny.  “Why don’t you ask the people at the unloading dock to be paid in Yuan?”

“The thing is” Kenny said “they have a real slick running setup.  People line up.  They pay the man 60 callors.  They pick up a bag and walk out with it.  The trailer is empty in fifteen minutes.  The man pays me half the take.  Asking for anything special would make the operation a train wreck.  Chad figured I could bring the money here, you could count it and give me whatever you think it is worth in hard currency.”  That was a long speech for Kenny.


Papa nodded.  “I will make some calls about the bags and flags.  This is LA.  I am sure we can handle it.”

“How do you want the addresses?” Papa asked.

“I am a simple guy.  Just write down the address on a three-by-five card and label which county it goes to.  I can make copies and will pin them up on bulletin boards at some truck stops in each county.  Easy peasy” Kenny said.

“I have seen some of those bulletin boards.  How do I know they won’t get lost?” Papa said.  He was a very practical man.

“Tell you what.  I will put E. P. on it for El Patrón.  Then I will have a little chat with the head waitress and give her a damned good tip.  The cards will not get lost.” Kenny said.

“Come back here tomorrow after your run.” Papa said.

The next day, Kenny noticed that there were bundles of empty bags.  They were clean and newly made.  The large, purple “P” stenciled on the sides were a nice touch.  The bale of empty bags was tossed into his trailer after the last bag was unloaded.  Today it only took twelve minutes.  Some men showed up with appliance dollies and bought four bags each.

The tally man handed Kenny his bag of money.  “How much is it?” Kenny asked. 

The man said “15 thousand callors.  You came in a little bit overweight.”

A little bit later Kenny handed the bag of loose bills to Papa Munoz.  Papa Munoz handed Kenny a brief case and a bundle of index cards held together with a rubber band.

“Don’t ya need to count it?” Kenny asked.

Papa Munoz smiled.  “We have telephones.”  Then Papa handed Kenny a bag.  “The food is on the house.”

Kenny picked up the briefcase and said, “Son-of-a-bitch!  That’s heavy!  What did you put in it?  Rolls of pennies?”

Papa said, “That is from Jose and for El Patrón.  Tell Chad thanks. You guys made this family a lot of money.”

Kenny was not far from the mark.  Jose’s last payment was made with silver coins and it was at the “official” Callor-dollar exchange rate, not the black market rate.
 
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