*The following events in this story are (mostly) true. No, seriously, for realzies, this is the tale of my life. This is an ongoing series that will update every Wednesday until the week of October 2nd, right before our October 7th Mastermind.
*No characters – real or fictional – have been harmed in the making of this story. Buckle up; it’s about to get real…
Chapter I: Straight Outta Calgary
“Listen up y’all, as I tell the tale “About the time I started in wholesale “I be buying and selling, bout to make them deals, “But first let’s go back to when I was Lil Jamil”
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
It’s hard being a Lil Jamil in the streets of Calgary.
Known as the ‘elbow’, the city sits at the median of both the Bow and Elbow Rivers to the south of the province, with a beautiful backdrop of the Rocky Mountain Foothills.
The city had just endured the end result of 1979 Oil Shock, the second oil crisis to happen to the western world and only 6 years after the first crisis in the 1973.
Mama and Papa Damji had migrated during that period from Tanzania, escaping the humanitarian crisis happening in the country in order to better provide for their growing family.
They started from the ground up, literally, coming to an unknown country and starting a new with one child and another about to enter the picture.
Mama worked as a data entry clerk and Papa aided in the running a family business; Rhi-Rhi was old enough to be responsible for her baby brother and make sure he stayed out of trouble.
Rhi-Rhi was the coolest person Lil Jamil knew.
Even though he was small, she never really treated him like a child and always pushed him towards making his own way.
And both of them knew their current path lie in helping their parents.
So Lil Jamil got to work.
There wasn’t a lot a kid could do back then, you couldn’t really give a kid a CEO position, but you could give them odd jobs that could fund their candy habits.
But Jamil wasn’t interested in candy – I mean, he was, but only a small amount – he wanted to provide for the family, just like his parents and big sister were doing. It was during one summer that Jamil got his first big break.
Well, as big of a break that one can have when still small.
Down the street from their home was a grocer named Mr. Ashley. It was more convenience store than actual grocery, but it had enough supplies that if you needed the quick can of soup or aspirin, it was the place to go.
While Calgary boosts the most sunny days in the entire country, it didn’t mean that it was sunny all the time and even then, temperatures could get a bit high for the area.
That’s why Mr. Ashley needed help.
In the decade before Ubers, Door Dashes, and Instacarts, if you needed groceries delivered, you had to get them yourself. Or get a young kid looking for part time work to do it for.
“Hey, Mr. Ash,” greeted Lil Jamil. “How’s business?”
“Fantastic!” the proprietor exclaimed. “It’s sunny and a decent temperature, if you ask me, and I got so many orders, not even sure how I’ll get them all done.” Looking at the small boy, Ashley cocked his head to the side.
“You’re looking for something to do, right?”
Lil Jamil nodded, quickly. “Yes sir!”
“Great,” Ashley responded, clapping his hands together. “Excellent. Then I have a bunch of stuff for you to do. How well do you know this neighborhood?”
“Pretty well,” the boy said.
“Good, good,” the man began to walk towards his store room, his muffled voice only coming out in spurts as he rumbled around in the back. When he emerged a few moments later, in one hand was a bag of grocery and the other a handful of receipts.
Handing over the bag and a receipt, he continued with, “Mrs. Johnson is just down the street on 14th. She just had hip surgery and her son had an emergency to attend to; the Flauers are on Westgate with a sick baby, so you can either take both bags or drop off Mrs. Johnson’s and come back.”
“I can do both!” the boy shouted, putting the first receipt in Mrs. Johnson’s bag and taking the other one for the Flauers.
“Great!” Ashley said, again moving to the back of the store. “More kids should be like you. They’re getting spoiled down at the arcades and stuff or standing on the street corners not doing anything. Like, find something to do, right?”
The shopkeeper kept up his rant, though he handed over the second bag to the little outstretched hand that reached for it.
“Hey,” Ashley said, watching the boy leave. “Do a good job and I’ll give you a $10, five for each delivery. And I’ll have more things for you to do.”
Lil Jamil nodded, heading outside into the summer sun of a new Calgary day. Glancing down, he noticed his dog Easton – or as he and others called him, Lil Beastie – who looked up at his young master happily.
“This is gonna be a great summer, Beasto,” the boy replied. Holding up both arms, he continued with, “We’re gonna make some money and then help Mom and Dad. C’mon, boy! Let’s go to Mrs. Johnson’s first!”
Lil Beastie barked in response and trotted after the boy as they began their trek down the sidewalk.