Diary of a Demented Store Owner

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A Man Called Gus

While the glass business has been good to us, the real upside is the people you meet, and the lifelong friends you sometimes make. This is the story of one of those people.
This is the story of Gus.
Twenty five years ago, I watched as this hulking, stern looking, Mike Mazursky look-a-like mountain of a man came into our store. 

All weathered and gnarled, with a voice like he chewed gravel all day, he asked for an ashtray (yes, folks, it was that long ago- we all smoked and we did it wherever we felt like doing it). But I digress. He told me what he wanted, and with trembling hands I gave it to him. 
His accent was thick. I asked him where he came from. We chatted, but just a bit. He eventually warmed up, as did I. We shared a few stories. I learnt that his sense of humour and ability to tease was unsurpassed. 
I began to like him. I think maybe he tolerated me. I never caught his name as he left.
The next time he was in, I asked his name. 

He said I should call him whatever I felt like. So I did.
"Gus it is" and for twenty five years he was known to us as Gus.
I met his wife and his daughters. I saw them grow up as we all grew old. 

Gus and I both quit smoking. He, after losing half a lung. You see, he was so tough, he worked in a brickyard, with asbestos, smoked 2 packs a day, and quit at seventy. 
I extended him credit, always keeping a scrap note that simply said 'Gus' on it. I didn't know his address or phone number, I just knew Gus was good for it.
I didn't see Gus for a few months.
Then Gus' wife came in to the store.
I feared why. I was right.
I'm not ashamed to say that a tear welled up in my eye. And again now as I'm writing this. 

As it did to Pat and Zenia, because we all were there when Gus' wife looked at us with her tired eyes.
Gus' wife came to see if he had paid all his bills with me. She wanted to make sure his debts were all paid in this world.
It made us tear up again.
I'l miss Gus.
His name to everyone else?

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