The Soupster remembers a determined little fellow.
Originally published August 22, 2002 and June 5, 2008
“Crash!” the Soupster heard as he stepped from the café, clutching a cardboard cup of java.
Across the street furious construction activity was under way – the systematic dismantling of portions of a large hotel for a major renovation.
This being Our Town, teams of workers scaled the building from ladders and scaffolding — working quickly to take advantage of an all-too-brief period between downpours and squalls.
“Crash, bang, ticka, ticka, bang!” sang the various fixtures and materials as they were removed and carted away, piled on the ground or, most musically, sent plunging through three long tubes that ran from the roof down to a dumpster. “Ticka, ticka, clack, clack, crash!” the tubes sang.
Striding purposely from one part of the site to another was Mel, who the Soupster still called “Little Mel.” Now six feet tall and 40 years old, “Little Mel” was the general contractor for the entire renovation. To the Soupster, however, “Mel” would always mean “Big Mel” – Little Mel’s late father, who had been the high school shop teacher.
Big Mel always had been surrounded by an army of students. Now Little Mel had his own army of tough and competent construction workers. As Little Mel moved among his worker-troops he exuded the confidence of a commander who does not need to argue but leads naturally.
It had been almost 30 years earlier to the day that the hotel was originally built, and the Soupster remembered seeing the two Mels back then. Father and son walking down the street toward their car. Little Mel, lugging inches off the ground a red fire extinguisher that was half his height and more than half his weight.
Big Mel had a much larger fire extinguisher in his arms. Father and son were carrying safety equipment back to the school.
Little Mel could make about five steps before he had to readjust the extinguisher’s position in his arms. The child had to pull with all his might.
“It’s okay to put it down,” said Mel. “I can’t believe how strong you are carrying it this far.”
“No!” said Little Mel. “I want to take it all the way!”
“Well, good job!” said Big Mel. “I am quite amazed!”
With another loud “Crash!” the Soupster was jerked back to the present.
Although he could not hear any voices from the construction site, he watched as one young worker strode angrily across the work site and confronted Little Mel. The young worker said something; Little Mel listened and nodded. As the young worker talked, he seemed to calm down. Little Mel kept nodding, then reached across and patted the young worker’s shoulder.
The young worker broke into a smile and Mel beamed back at him. They shook hand and the young man bounded happily back to work. Little Mel yelled something after him.
Through all the “bangs” and “ticka, tickas” and “crashes” the Soupster couldn’t make out what Little Mel had said. But he guessed it went something like “You sure are strong. Good job. I’m quite amazed!”