O'Manjo's Last Waltz Essay

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O'Manjo's Last Waltz

It was another long week, and I was looking forward to the usual summer rituals of mowing lawns and hammering a few nails into any place they seemed to fit. I usually closed the auto parts store at 5:30 and stayed doing paperwork for another hour or so, but not on Fridays. Fridays were the finish line of a usually marathon week of complaining customers and dissatisfied employees. At 5:31, the place would be empty, dark, and eager for an echo.

The old man knew this ritual, and when he came on Fridays, he usually blew in the door around 5:15. He had been coming in every week for about a year. We didn't know Joe's last name, we only knew him as "Old Man Joe." We call him "O'Mango," and he didn't seem to know the
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There was always a list of parts on his ticket, and I didn't really keep track of everything right down to the penny.

His payment came from his social security check, which found its way to his mailbox the first week of every month. He would pay me ten dollars every month. I knew he would never pay the bill off before his time ran out, but I never let him know that. Taking his ten dollars every month and adjusting the inventory was easier than arguing with him. I would offend him if I were to infer that he was incapable of meeting his responsibilities.

His usually monthly ritual was carefully to pull the tattered index card from his shirt pocket and ask to borrow a pencil. He'd whisper to himself as he licked the end of the pencil and struggled through the subtraction of everything that was eating away his social security check.

O'Mango was every dirty old man wrapped into one. The traffic of the delivery drivers coming in and out started his heart racing. He loved it. When they'd pass the counter and head for the stockroom, O'Manjo would lean his head over to catch a glimpse. He'd give me a wink and lick his lips with his tongue, which looked like the first place his body started dying.

Every time a customer would come in, I would be worried that O'Mango would get to them before I could. His brash greeting was not

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