It was his father’s fault. Dragging him to auctions and estate sales. Wedging him between boxes in the backseat on the way home. Infecting him with the stench of cotton rag and printer’s ink. Stuart’s fate had been sealed before he could talk. His father had trapped him in this business.
Each morning Stuart made the two block trek to the newspaper shop on Lee Street. The newsstand owner tied one of each city’s paper in a bundle when he sorted them, to save Stuart the trouble of pulling them from the shelves. Not that it was really worth it, but Stuart paid the extra two bucks for the man’s trouble anyway. Stuart took the same route back home, sometimes stopping for a cup of coffee and danish at a diner that changed management so often Stuart didn’t bother to learn names anymore. Not for the people who worked there, and not for the diner itself.
Stuart never untied the newspaper bundle until he got home. He settled in the recliner he’d positioned as close to the east window as he could, a vain attempt to make the task seem more cheerful than it was, then cut the twine and picked up the first paper. Pulled out the classified section and tossed the rest aside. Glanced at the Auctions and Misc for Sale columns, then moved on to his bread and butter — estate sales.
He lived like a vulture, picking scraps from corpses, selling them to the highest bidder to stay alive.