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Wrapping the Sunday Paper for the Last Time

Andrew Bockhold | Longreads | August 25, 2017 | 3,182 words
Posted inEssays & Criticism, Nonfiction, Story

Wrapping the Sunday Paper For the Last Time

Andrew Bockhold finds a new appreciation for the family newspaper route he hated working as a kid, before it was shut down.
Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Andrew Bockhold | Longreads | August 2017 | 13 minutes (3,182 words)

Pulling out of the gas station, the van jerked to a stop. The jolt sent me toppling off the two stacks of Sunday editions I was using as a seat. Panicked, I fell forward and spread my arms to hold back the stacked papers from dumping their folded contents all over the stained yellow carpet. Stopping and reassembling the comics section did not sound fun to me no matter what situation Marmaduke was into now. I kept them upright as my dad threw the van into park and hopped out to see what was wrong. I was behind in my job of wrapping the papers, which would be flung out the window into driveways.

I was almost 13, and there were moments on these Sunday mornings when I thought I’d never make it. With my dad out of the van I clenched my jaw until I heard my teeth squeak. I punched a stack of front pages. But then remembering this would be one of the last Sundays I’d be doing this put me at ease.

It was 3:30 a.m. on a January Sunday in 1993, and I was sitting in the back of the beat-up Econoline van we used to haul and toss the Sunday edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer. Six days a week my dad was alone in a station wagon at this hour, wrapping and throwing as he wove his way through neighborhoods and parked cars. But on Sunday the paper was too big for him to handle alone, and there were too many sections that needed to be assembled that morning. So I would sit in the back of the van and stuff all the pieces together into an orange bag. I’d then throw the paper up to the empty passenger seat, and, if I was lucky, I could outpace my dad’s driving by building up a little reserve.

On this particular day I had to rush because the front page had arrived late. I never had time to read the headlines, but pictures of soldiers standing near an open pit must have caused the delay. Over the course of the morning as the sun slowly rose, I would make out a few words under the photo: “Bosnia,” “Russian soldiers,” “mass,” and “grave.”

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