Dusty Shoes and Dirt

Since the stop was nearby, I decided to check in with the one man who had listened in on half the goings on in Boston, a legend in these parts, Shoe Shine Jack.  Jack had been wiping the dust off of shoes for three generations, first on the streets and then at his famous four seat stand in South Station.  Story has it that back in 1935 whiskey baron Joe Kennedy was so impressed with a shine that he got from Jack that Kennedy set him up with this shoe shine stand, giving him life-time lease for this site in South Station.

When you walked into that station, you could hear Jack's whistling echoing through that cathedral of comings and goings.  Located across from the landmark four-face clock, Jack would bounce from one stool to the other, slapping on polish with his fingers, beating out a rhythm with his shoe brush, snapping  that towel, dancing, singing, whistling, making chatter, but for me the most important thing, he was also listening in on private conversations.

As i neared, I was surprised to find that Jack had apparently picked up an apprentice along the way, a young fellow, maybe eighteen years, maybe more, more likely less.  All four seats were filled with four young lions in the business world, all reading their copies of the Wall Street Journal, each folded back in the manner railbirds at Suffolk Downs do with their Daily Racing Forms, pencils in hand, searching for that hidden edge.

So I bided my time until the chairs cleared. 

"Hey, Jackie."

"Good afternoon, my man.  Those shoes look like they could use some work.  Step right up."

I took my place and mounted my feet in the cast iron stirrups.  Jack handled the introductions.  "Lieutenant Ian MacKenzie, let me introduce you to my great grandson, Lenny.  Shoe shine man by day and blues singer by night.  And Lenny, this is the law in this neighborhood, Lieutenant MacKenzie.  Mess up and he'll make you pay."

"Nice to meet you, Lenny."

He gave me a beautiful smile and the look of someone that had that something special in his soul.  "Good to meet you, sir."

Jack quickly appraised the why of my being there.  "Lenny, how about you go get us a soda and hot dog.  Lots of mustard on mine. And, let's see ... a Seven-Up."  

With Lenny gone and the shoe shine begun, Jack started our process for my gathering a few tidbits of news and for his gathering a few dollars from the city coffers.  "What's you need, MacKenzie?"

"I was wondering if you've heard any talk about the Archbishop's recent passing.'

"Yea, for sure, they're talking about it.  You know all those wild rumors about illegitimate sons and playing house with rich, old widows.  Outside all that nonsense, the only thing that caught my ear was from a couple of priests in from out of town."

"Now that's interesting.  What was that?"

"They were wondering if the upcoming church trial had anything to do with it.  Something about charges against the Archbishop for something that took place over in ... daggumit, where was that?"


"Yea, that was it.  It seemed to have to do with some financial questions concerning church funds.  It sounded as if it might have something with bribes or hush money, something along that line."

"Jeez, Jackie."

"I think these priests were in town to testify at the trial or maybe they was going to be judges.  That's about all I got from it.  Really didn't think much about it until I read about the Archbishop's death."

As he finished the shoe shine, Jackie gave me an update on his seven children, twenty-nine grandchildren and a host of great-grand young-uns.  And as far I knew, they all were doing pretty well, not one in jail and all working.  Why even one of his grandsons had just recently graduated from law school.

"Five dollars, MacKenzie."

I know.  A rather pricey shoe shine but it did come with a news report.




The End

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