In celebration of Father’s Day: King Of The Bills, Part One

In my youth, my father spent Saturday mornings poring over newspaper circulars, scissors in hand, alert to bargains near and far. The fruit of his labors was a dense, omnipresent stack of coupon clippings stacked neatly together, held firmly in place by a rigorous and complex system involving large numbers of rubber bands. This bundle was my father’s steadfast companion. Home, he nested it in the nook above the junk drawer in the kitchen. On the road (he was a salesman), he lodged it in the compartment next to his car radio.

Twice, in New York City, my father’s car was broken into. Twice, both his car radio and coupons were robbed.

My father grieved.

The crooks saved $300 at A&P.

Saturdays found my father driving from store to store questing for deals. In his element, he bantered with stock boys, cashiers, the guy behind the deli counter. This distracted him from the reality: Whatever he saved at the store, he’d spend refilling his gas tank.

Paying more than $.99 for a two liter bottle of soda cut sharply against my father’s core values. When it went on sale for $.98 or less, he stocked up. At a given time, our basement closet was stuffed full with 2 winter coats, 1 bag of kitty litter and 205 bottles of sale-priced Coke.

My father once became smitten with a pair of shoes in a store window. 50% off, they were. Thing was, one had passed its life in a patch of sunshine; the other, shade. You didn’t need a close look at the color wheel to notice the disparity in their hues — a fact immediately noted by my mother. To my father, this was easily surmounted. Being that my mother was home during the day, he asked her to put the darker shoe in the sun in the yard. From there, all she had to do was rotate it across the lawn as the sun moved through the sky, until it matched its faded counterpart.

As my mother remembers it, she told my father to go fuck himself.

The nexus of my father’s economy and friendliness culminated in the constant presence of a mechanic friend who was willing to do his auto repairs dirt cheap. Oddly, these men were always named Bill. First there was Bill Terrenzoni. He came on board before I was born, and lasted almost twenty years. That arrangement ceased when my father bought a Volkswagen diesel. The first time the Volkswagen had a problem, my father took it to the dealership and chatted up the mechanic. By the time he left, Bill Mayer — Bill #2 — had agreed to do all of his car repairs on the side.

Bill #2 was around for a couple years, until my father discovered that he was selling my sister weed. That put a fatal strain on their relationship.

At this juncture, Bill Simon, the King Of The Bills, entered our lives.

Tune in next time for King Of the Bills, Part II, when Bill Simon colludes with my sister in a nefarious scheme.

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