“What is it, kid? Change your mind about the pie, did you?”
“No, sir. It is just, I was wondering, do I really have enough money for a new set of clothes?”
Marv eyed the remaining bills and laughed. “Son, you could buy yourself an outfit, new shoes, get yourself a real bath down at one of the bathhouses, and still have some coins left. How does that sound?”
It sounded amazing, considering rain was the only water he’d felt on his skin since he’d left home. He’d not changed his clothing in the same length of time either. “I think I would like that, sir.”
Marv raised his hand, and a salesman hurried over from the other side of the store. Dressed in a suit, the salesman was eager to help until he saw his client. The man looked at him the way his momma looked at the roaches climbing the wall in their apartment.
“Mr. Kramer, the young lad here would like to buy a new set of clothes. He doesn’t need anything fancy, just something that will keep him warm as the weather cools and make him look a little more acceptable.”
Kramer gave Tobias a once over and wrinkled his nose. “That would take some doing.”
“Now none of that, Kramer. The boy has money. I’ve seen it,” Marv chided.
Kramer sighed his acceptance and turned his attention to Tobias. “Very well then, son. If you will follow me, I think we can find you something with less… aroma.”
He followed to where the trousers were and waited as Kramer took out a length of cloth and wrapped it around his waist. Kramer kneeled and placed the tape near the upper portion of his inner thigh.
Tobias took a step backward. “Hey, none of that funny business.”
The man closed his eyes, pinched at the bridge of his slender nose, and exhaled slowly. Opening his eyes, he spoke. “I assure you I am not in the habit of funny business, especially with the likes of you. If a young man wants a pair of trousers to fit then, he must do one of two things. Either he allows himself to be properly measured or he tries them on. To put things frankly, you sir, stink. One can smell you from across the room. No decent person will have anything to do with you in your present state. And I assure you, no one wants you in their trousers.”
Tobias considered telling the man he was under a fine lady’s petticoat not more than a few hours ago but decided against it. So far, no one had questioned where someone like him had acquired so much money. Most likely, they knew if they made a fuss over it, he might decide not to spend it in their store. He nodded his acceptance, knowing if Kramer did try any funny business, he was in the correct position to kick him in the teeth. When Kramer finished, he told him to stretch out his arms. Tobias did as told, and Kramer stepped behind him and took another measurement. He turned in time to watch the man throw the length of tape in the trash. He wondered if the man did that with every customer and knew the answer to be no. It was at that moment Tobias pledged that one day he would be able to shop in a store such as this with no one questioning if he belonged.
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