My mom and I moved here in ’78, just the two of us. I was twelve years old. Mom waited tables at the truck stop diner. We couldn’t make the rent on her pay alone, and so at the tender age of twelve I got a job as a stock clerk at Madame Sundry’s Sundries Emporium.
Madame Sundry was an elderly Bahamian lady who ran the store from her home. She lived upstairs and had converted the first floor into her shop. No one in town liked her much because of her idiosyncrasies. For one, she was a black lady in a predominantly white town. She was also a successful entrepreneur. While not wealthy by any stretch, she wore her pearls every Sunday. That lady had a mind for business. Anything Madame Sundry wanted, she got. She was a regular at the estate sales and always paid in cash. Already well advanced in years, she had an ancient face that creased like dry leather. Among my friends I called her Madame Sun-Dried, but always glanced over my shoulder beforehand to make sure she wasn’t within earshot.
She hired me on and I started work on a Thursday, thinking the job would be easy. No one in town ever stopped by the store. Everyone knew everyone, and it would be awkward for Hankerson or Comstock to buy a brooch for his wife that once belonged to their deceased neighbor. Our only customers, the days we had any, were people driving through town. It got me into thinking how Sundry could afford to stay open. As it turned out, there wasn’t much time to think. Sundry was a tough boss, quick to remind me that she didn’t pay me to stand idle.