From The Jug With Love

On the hairy business of home booze delivery

As she climbs into her battered Ford F-150 for the first true "'hood delivery" of the night (minus Bob, who has gone to his apartment to wash up), Laura seems anything but happy about the coming evening. She is an attractive woman with long dark brown hair, high cheekbones, and a throaty laugh. But her eyes look tired and her gait is a little unsteady. A few years back, she says, she was diagnosed with MS. "I ain't even supposed to be alive," she says, noting that the job doesn't make things any easier. "This work is frustrating. It's nerve-wracking."

The first destination is on an ill-lit stretch of North Fourth Street. Five teenage boys are meandering down the sidewalk. They look like trouble. Laura decides to wait in the truck for them to pass. Once they've made their way to the corner, Laura hustles up to a duplex and rings the bell. She waits for someone to come downstairs and walks them to the truck. As a general rule she doesn't go inside homes. The exchange is quick--too quick it turns out, because Laura has mistakenly given them a package containing a bottle of schnapps intended for the next delivery. She realizes her mistake only after driving away. She doesn't want to return to the duplex, not because of the customer there ("Gangbangers--last night they tipped me 10 bucks!"), but because of the kids on the corner.

No problem. Laura knows her next customer personally, the one who ordered the schnapps. At this point in his night, she thinks a case of Natural Ice should more than meet his alcohol needs. "He was at my house partying earlier," she explains. "He didn't want to go home because he didn't want to deal with his old lady, which I understand. But he was already drunk enough." When she drops off the incomplete order, her friend only speaks a few words to her. "All he could say was, 'Bring back the schnapps! There must be schnapps!' Well, there will be no schnapps."

On the way back to the Jug, Laura tells her saddest story from the delivery road. "This old man used to order once a week from the liquor store," she says. "Some beer. Some whiskey. He was a good old man. Then his son found out he was getting stuff delivered. He beat him up, put him in the fucking nursing home and took his house. Ain't that fucked up? He was a nice old man. A good old man." After a month or so, she heard that the man had died.

"You know, I'm tired and I'm stressed," she says. "I'm looking for a different line of work."

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