Submitted Date 06/18/2022


It took me a couple months but I finally got around to takin' that picture off the wall of His Majesty shakin' hands with the washed up movie star that's in the White House now. I was a little worried the Glory Child might miss it and start askin' questions. I couldn't stand another day of lookin' at the Boss gazing straight ahead with the Gipper smashin' palms with him. Still, I don't think anybody woulda blamed me. When His Majesty left he didn't exactly give us reasons to hold warm memories of him.

I'd been deliverin' 60 pound stacks of Cokes by the can to his machines for goin' on twenty years. For the past thirteen of them years, it was just me, Pablo and the Glory Child doin' it. Us peasants thought when the Duke passed, His Majesty's older brother and lifetime partner, he'd raise the Glory Child up from mere mortal status to full partner in the kingdom, beknighting his manly shoulders with a Coke Bottle Bottom as he knelt before him in all his manifest glory. But alas, His Majesty had a different idea.It shoulda been no surprise from his miserly frame of reference, he didn't think the familial bonds was a thing by which to run the daily operations of a profitable enterprise.

"For the time being," he proclaimed to his loyal subjects, "the Kingery Brothers Distribution Company will become a sole proprietorship, bein' solely owned and operated by yours truly, until such time as young Brock here has proven himself worthy of the title partner, or perhaps owner, if the health of yours truly should take an unfortunate turn."

Don't get me wrong, His Majesty was in many ways a family man, and in his own sorta way he loved that kid. But,as he often said, "bizness is bizness," and he thought in a whole different way when it came to that.

So in HIs Majesty's way a thinkin' the Glory Child had to earn his way up, just like he and the Duke had- by haulin' the bottles outta the back of them box trucks eight-ten hours a day, come rain or shine, snow or heat. For that, I gotta say I got some respect. "No kid of mine is gonna think they hit a triple, if they was raised like they was born on third!," I remember him sayin. "If they get to third base, its gonna be cause they swung hard, connected solid, ran like hell and ate the dirt when they got close."

He coulda just said, kids gotta earn his way, but that wouldn't been the Majesty. You know what I'm sayin'?

But I got no respect for the latest genius idea of his. He comes back from his Rotary meetin', that lunch where he hobnobs with all the other royals down at Boregards. Says he's been named captain of the District Foreign Study Exchange Team and he's goin' off to visit The Holy Land for a year and tell them Israelites all about the mysteries of soft drink distribution whilst they send a team of their best and brightest over this way to study up on our American way of doin' things.

He called us all in to hear this, stood up on a pallet in the warehouse like it was gonna be Holy Writ come down from heaven. I dunno if he was expectin' applause or what, but everybody, including the Glory Child himself just stood there starin' at 'em, obviously thinkin' "what's next for us?"

"Ain't no secret, I ain't gettin' no younger...," he started, "whilst I'm gone seems like a good time to figure out whose got the chops to manage this place and who ain't,so here's what we're gonna do. Right now were servicin' 156 machines at 108 different localities. So I figure that works out to 36 locations fer each of youse. No more guarantees, but you each get 50 percent of what comes in off your location, any new locations you score, ya gettin' 60 of what comes in outta those."

What I need to tell ya is that prior to this me, Pablo and the Glory Child each got a guaranteed $1500 a month and then 10% of all the sales that came in from any machine the business owned, so we had a nice little guaranteed income and an incentive to generate new sales. Now we was gettin' the rug pulled out from under our security and a competition for new sales, all without a moment's notice.

And it turned out the way he divvied up the routes mighta looked like it was on the square, but we found out pretty quick the Glory Child was gettin' all the cherry spots. Brock got all the spots at the college, which we get almost half our sales from. Pablo and I got stuck with the gas stations out in the sticks. And we gotta fill our own tanks when we're drivin' out there ya know. So to say it sucked was bein' nice.

So if that wasn't enough, a month into this travesty, Pablo comes in and tells me the Glory Child scored a new deal with the ShopSpot grocery chain. He's gonna add 48 more machines to his ledger and its a five year deal. Good for the boy, you might wanta say, 'cept everybody in this 'burg knows ShopSpot is owned by the Capello family. Yeah its those Capellos, the mobbed up Capellos. The Capellos that nobody in this state can drive a truck through without payin' tribute to!

I says to Pablo, we gotta tell His Majesty, 'cause if theys one thing I know its that the Majesty would not be down with this. He hates the mob, the mob's contrary to every one of them Rotarian commandments he likes to stick up on the lacquered panels in his office. The mob, as he likes to tell us, shut him out of the Philly market twenty years ago and that didn't sit well with him. Not that he could do anything about it, but he'd never forgive 'em for it.

Pablo and me never figured how HIs Majesty kept the mob from takin' us over, but all I know is for the 19 years I been here, ain't nobody tried to put the squeeze on me or Pablo. Maybe we was too small to bother with, I dunno. If the Glory Child knows, he ain't sayin.' I gotta think some kinda deal went down, you gotta pay the piper to play so to speak, but the Majesty had no love for the Capellos I know that.

Pablo said he'd take care of it, he had some minutes on his long distance plan, so he'd make the call, so I said go for it, my plan was maxed out and money was tight. That was a mistake. I never heard nothin' back.

Two weeks later Pablo comes in from his route with a big smile. "What you grinnin' about?" I says.

"Scored me a deal with Paco's Pantries," he shouts. "They gonna put 16 machines in their joints and its good for two years!"

I high fived 'em and said "good for your brother." But then I got to thinkin', Pacos is run by ShopSpot and you know who runs ShopSpot. What the hell is going on?

It didn't take long to find out, very next afternoon I get a visit from this goon in a fedora askin' me when I'm gonna pay the rent?

I says, far as I know I'm good, I'm square on all my store rents,who wants to know?

He grabs me up by the collar and puts me against the wall, "there's one your forgettin,' ask Kingery if you don't know, but you got 48 hours to pony up, or I'm comin' back and I ain't gonna be nice.

So turns out Pablo knew, I owe the Capellos 500 calms a month for protectin' my machines. I wasn't gonna stand for that. I got on the horn, minutes or not, and dialed up His Majesty.

'Boss," says I, " sorry if I'm wakin' ya up, but there's an emergency over this way. The Capellos is hornin' in on us, and I'm sorry to say your boy Brock seems to know and don't care, they want $500 a month. I ain't payin' that, I know you wouldn't, what can we do?

There was a long pause on the other end. Then the phone crackled and His Majesty's bellowin' bass roared through. "Welcome to the world of business management, son," he says. "There's this idear called overhead costs, some peoples call it the cost of doin' business, whichever you use, its just a part of reality ya gotta get usta. I didn't always tell you guys about all the in and out of our overhead, but the Capellos are just a force a nature that you gotta live with. They was billin' me two grand a month so I think they're cuttin' you a break, seeins' how your new and all. Just pay it, you'll keep all your teeth that way…"

I couldn't hardly believe what I was hearin', the Majesty was tellin' me to pay off the dons. Twenty years of his antimob rage was just b.s. I guess, all that Rotary preachin' was just a front. I was pissed.

My first thought was to find the Glory Child and punch him out. I really wanted His Majesty's jaw to pummel but he was an ocean away. Then I thought that ain't doin' no good, I might need the Glory Child to help me out if the Capellos start breathin' down my neck. But that wasn't settin' too well with me either. "Pay the goons once and you gotta pay 'em a lifetime," the Majesty was fond a sayin'.

I thought about callin' the cops, maybe they could get 'em to back down. But then I remembered one of Capello's sons was the assistant chief of police, not a lot of help there.

For a second I thought of callin' my pal Pinky Stewardson, he worked for the Teamsters, and everybody knows the Teamsters is just another word for mafioso. Different brand than the Capellos. But then I says to myself, how's that different from paying the Capellos? You're still under the thumb, just a different thumb.

I was still turnin' all this over in my head 2 days later when the goon in the fedora comes back. I had the 500 clams in the office safe, just in case there wasn't no way out, and so far I hadn't figured one.

He throws the door to my office open so hard it hits the wall. I was fingerin' the .38 I keep in my desk drawer.Not really knowing what I was gonna do with it, so I keep it hid in my lap. "Change o'plans!," he barks. "Boss says we need your warehouse, clean it out and give us the keys and you can keep your $500."

"What's up wid that?" I barked back," where am I supposed to store my product?"

"We're giving you your product!" the goon shouts back. "2,400 pallets of Old Coke gonna be on your doorstep by this time next week.

"Old Coke?' What the hell you talkin' bout? They's only one Coke far as I know."

He rolls his eyes. "I'm guessin' ya don't read them memos from Coke corporate? There ditching the old formula, genius, as of last week its history. There's a brand new Coke for sale. Dontcha read the papers? Its been all over the news?"

It was news to me. "Anyways," the goon continued, " Mr. Capellos got about three warehouses full of the old stuff. Its bought and paid for, just sittin' there, and we gotta get rid of it to make room for all the new stuff, so Happy Birthday amigo, your gettin' it for free, its thirty grand worth of product and its comin' too youse at no charge, compliments of the Capellos! All you gotta do is figure out how to unload it, which being the sales genius old man Kingery thinks you are, should be no problem."

My finger wrapped around the trigger of the .38 as my blood pressure ramped up. What was I supposed to do with three warehouses full of outdated product? This was my death warrant. The goon might as well have put some hot lead between my eyes. The distribution business is time sensitive, last weeks hot item is this week's trash. I couldn't sell this stuff any faster than snow to the Eskimos. I was toast, history, it was all she wrote.

I had half a mind to finish him off as he stood there, lookin' all smug and ugly in that stupid hat with the grin full of yellowed rotten teeth. But there was somethin' deep in my gut that wouldn't let me stand and fire like I was wantin' to; somethin' that said be patient. This thing ain't over til its over, you're down right now no doubt, but there's a way out. How many people in this business get 2400 pallets handed to 'em free of charge? Maybe 2400 pallets of worthless crap, but still, who knows?

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." His Majesty always was sayin.' "Its like that kid that opens the door on a room full of horse manure, dives into headfirst and starts swimmin', thinkin' there's gotta be a horse in here somewheres."

So I eased up on the trigger, returned a stupid grin to the goon, and was surprised to hear "Tell Mr. Capello thank you for me," come outta my mouth. He nodded and turned to go. I didn't know what I was gonna do with all that outdated Coke, but, by God, I was gonna make it work. Maybe I'd give to the military and get some good free press out of it. Maybe I'd fly it down to the Dominican were Pablo's got a cousin that runs a bunch of bodegas. Or maybe I'll think of some great name for it, something that makes people want it like it was the next great thing, even though they been drinkin' it for years, maybe "Coke Classic" or somethin', I dunno.



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