Then There Was The Penquin
It was a small grocery store. Small. When three people came in, that was pretty close to capacity; four was a crowd. Two of us behind the counter got in each other’s way. We knew how to stock the place, and we knew just about how much to keep on hand; never too much, never too little.
Except for the Fatima and Embassy cigarettes. They were still in the rack, harder than a brick, waiting for someone to come in and ask for a pack. As far as I know, and this is from 1956, they might still be there, harder than steel, harder than diamonds, beyond the scope even of the universal solvent.
We sold a lot of bread and a lot of beer. The legal age for selling and buying beer was 21. We carefully checked i.d.’s but this 14-year-old sold the stuff as casually as a loaf of bread. Even to the state cop who came in twice a week for a couple quarts of Piels beer. He didn’t care; he just wanted his beer (“Thank you, sir.” “Thanks, kid.”)
We had a sign on the scale:
“This is the Three Wonder Store. You wonder if we have it. You wonder where it is. You wonder how we find it. But if it is made, we can have it for you within 24 hours.” One way or another, we could and did at the Penquin.