The Sad and Sorry Tale of Mr. Zacharias McKeffy

April 9, 2011
Mr. Zacharias McKeffy was born into a poor family. A poor, poor family whose only goal in life was to see Zack, their little lad, grow up to be someone- unlike his weary old father- and- by the good grace of God to finally get a nice fat paycheck for his pocket book that wouldn’t immediately have to be traded in for a couple pounds of necessary groceries. But for the McKeffy household, the grace of God wielded a vicious hand.

Money was scarce and suffering overflowed the three small rooms of the apartment. Zack nearly suffocated in the pain and hunger that thickened the air around his parents. They had not a penny to spare- ever.

Zacharias was quickly put to work at Eidelman Wine, a tidy little wine shop on the corner of Pent and Larson Avenues with an apartment on the second floor, on account of his father’s having good contacts. Frances Eidelman had gone to school with Senior McKeffy and he’d been a small figure in his youth, easy prey for school-yard predators. McKeffy had been a rather bulky lad, though never overweight, and Eidelman was indebted to McKeffy. It was because of the latter that Eidelman hadn’t sported a new black eye for the sixth week in a row. Though he hardly saw it equal to pay McKeffy back for his goodness by hiring the boy, Zacharias, it was the best way to get the old man some money without actually donating it.

There was something invisible, Eidelman figured, some unseen barrier that prevented hardworking businessmen like himself from giving money up freely without reaping some reward back. And so he saw hiring the boy to work- even at age five- as good a façade as any. But just to make absolutely sure no one would mistake his businessman ways as generosity, or- horror of horrors- kindness to the poorer society, Eidelman set five-year-old Zacharias McKeffy the hardest job of the lot. The most tiresome, uneventful, boring work.

But when Eidelman hired young Zacharias the day after his birthday, he could not have foreseen the threat of a child’s imagination. He could not have known what he was fostering in the boy.

To the one-dimensional eye- as Eidelman’s eyes surely were- Zacharias McKeffy appeared to be a child. A simple child at that. The biggest part of him was his name- but only by a small shot. His adult-sized t-shirt dwarfed him in its hundreds of wrinkles and folds. Serving as a dress, it easily hid the fact that his scuffed-up, moth-eaten jeans too were at least three sizes too wide in the waist and at least six inches too long. As a boy, Zack’s unruly mop of rust-red hair was never subjected to any sort of brushing and stuck up all over his head as a result, and his dirt-crusted fingernails went without washing for days on end. His eyes ran deeper than a person cared to look and they were riddled with tales of hungry nights and hours of feverish illness. When Zacharias McKeffy stood on the immaculate front stoop of Eidelman Wine, staring at the sign over the door, and clutching a small brown, leather parcel of containing all of his earthly possessions, there was no indication of what was to come. Mr. Eidelman merely saw a boy; that was all he should have seen. Zacharias McKeffy was simply a boy, as yet untainted by the monetary-ruled society living and breathing around him.

His imagination soon became his one asset in his dreary existence at Eidelman Wine.

Zacharias McKeffy was set the tedious task of sorting the good grapes from the bad from a wheelbarrow every day. The Eidelman vineyard appeared to stretch out forever in every direction. Eidelman and his two sons, Bradley and Jameson, owned acre after acre of grapevines. And on those grapevines were green grapes, red grapes, purple grapes. They were sour and sweet. And all of these were subject to Zacharias’ judgment at some point or another.

The best grapes were put in the best bottles with the best labels and priced according to the current wealth of the uppermost class of the social hierarchy. The rest were set aside for the “less-fortunate” community, which still proved to contribute to the bulk of Eidelman’s sales.

The McKeffy household, Zacharias knew, couldn’t afford even the wine that, in his humble opinion, should not have been sold at all.

He was paid a dollar a week. Of this, he was entitled to pocket twenty-five cents. The rest went to his parents.

For thirteen years, Zack would dash between the two worlds of school and work, collecting a humble income as he went, and never wasting a penny. He wasn’t the brightest of students but ran a decent average and made his aging parents very proud and boastful in their old years. For Zacharias McKeffy Jr. was on his way to do doing what Zacharias McKeffy Sr. had never done- make a huge stockpile of money.

Sometime after high school, once Zack was able to more fully devote his time to Eidelman Wine, he found that he had a great deal more time off the job than before. It was during one of his free periods that he hiked down into the nearby town some few miles away (he didn’t want to waste precious money on the gas it would take to drive there and back) and made his way to Colin’s Bar down on Main Street. He had passed the place often enough to have become aware of it, but had never thought to enter it. Zack did so then and found himself drawn not to the television set, but to the female bartender. She wore tattoos up and down her legs and had shaved her blonde head on one side, affording it only a peach fuzz, while the other side was layered and highlighted a caramel brown, thick and luscious.

Melissa was her name, and Zack found himself falling in love. A deep love from which there was no escape.

Seeking to make enough to marry his love and whisk her away to a better place- and by that he simply meant anywhere but Eidelman Wine, Zack redoubled his efforts back at Eidelman Wine.

And then Eidelman died not a year after his apprenticeship began fulltime in earnest. And suddenly Bradley and Jameson were moved to the forefront of the business and Zack’s status improved as Jameson had selected another young lad from the village to begin an apprenticeship. Tyler was a cheerful lad with a mop of bubbly brown curls and mischievous green eyes. He was fifteen and nowhere near as poor as Mr. Zacharias McKeffy.

For some years the arrangement continued. Zack’s parents passed peacefully away, and Zack had begun a timid romance with the exotic bartender. While not great, life was generally good.

And then everything collapsed. Bradley and Jameson both fell ill with a dreadful disease that had cropped up from nowhere. For months the brothers were bedridden while Zacharias McKeffy became the unofficial manager of Eidelman Wine, and began imagining scenarios in which the brothers disappeared- never died, always disappeared- and Zack was left with the winery. He spent hours at his desk, looking out over the ripe vineyard, as he contemplated a new name. His winery would certainly not be deemed Eidelman. It would have to be different. McKeffy wine just didn’t roll. A name was a very difficult thing, Zack decided, and gave up on the matter altogether. It was a silly business anyway, he figured, seeing as Bradley and Jameson would be quite well soon.

In the meantime, Zack busied himself with the mundane details of the salaries of workers, and the apprenticeship of Tyler Mason.

Tyler learned quickly, and as he already had money to his name, his meager income hardly diminished his happy-go-lucky attitude. “Everything goes my way, Mr. McKeffy,” he told Zack cheerfully to wrap up the tale of his schoolwork fiasco, in which he had been guaranteed a failed grade when he misplaced his highly-weighted assignment and didn’t have it the day it was due. His teacher had simply offered him another week to complete it. “No biggy,” Tyler grinned.

Tyler was lucky, and Zacharias McKeffy had never been.

Until something terrible happened. Bradley and Jameson did not recover. Jameson sent for his young son, Kevin, whose mother was dead, and entrusted the child into the care of Tyler and his family. And then Bradley and Jameson, twin boys, died within minutes of each other, twins in death as well.

And Zacharias McKeffy was left with Eidelman Wine and an apprentice named Tyler Mason.

He hurried into town to switch the deed to his name, and collect the generous accumulation of Eidelman wealth residing in the community bank.

Leaving the bank with a satchel of more money than he’d need for a good few years, Zack felt it begin to rain. He hurriedly made to pull up the hood of his jacket as he stepped out into the street- straight into the thick of the rush hour traffic. Mr. Zacharias McKeffy heard the sudden alarmed blare of a car horn, felt the wet slush of the street seep through his tennis shoes, and knew nothing more.

Mr. Zacharias McKeffy had worked his entire life to become wealthy. Now, laying face down in the street, he had more wealth than he could ever imagine, and he would never use a penny of it.

The next day there was a new sign above the door: Tyler Mason Winery.

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