A man works hard all his life, trying to make something of himself, overcome his poverty-stricken years and achieve security and happiness. And then all of a sudden one day his son takes a newspaper route and the man finds himself back where he started.

This happened to me a while back. My 11-year-old had managed to get himself a newspaper route, but on Saturday he went off on an overnight hike with the Boy Scouts. At 3 o'clock on that rainy afternoon my wife informed me someone had to deliver his newspapers.

"But it's raining out," I protested. "And besides the North is playing the South in football."

"It's all right," she said, putting on her galoshes. "I'll deliver them. A little rain never hurt someone with a cold and 101 fever."

"Okay," I said. "I'll deliver the damn papers. What really hurts is I don't even write for the paper he's delivering."

Here's a list of the houses," my wife said. "Joel's written down the instructions as to where to get the papers and what to do."

I took the list, put on a raincoat, boots and rain hat and went out into the pouring rain.

The truck came along at 4:30. "Where's your bag?" the driver wanted to know.

"What bag?"

"To keep your paper dry, you idiot. How many times do I have to tell you guys to bring your paper when it rain?"

"Well, you see, sir, this isn't really my route. It's my son's route. I'm just filling in for him today."

"That's a lousy excuse. Okay, keep them under your raincoat, and next time don't forget your bag."

"Yes, sir, I'll remember."

he roared off, splashing water all over my pants."

I studied the list, but it wasn't easy. Between the rain and my son's handwriting it was kind of blurred.

The first two houses didn't give me any trouble, but at the third a man came to the door. "We didn't get our paper last Friday," he said.

"That's a shame," I said. "Actually nothing much happened. You didn't miss anything."

"I'm not paying you for Friday."

"Suit yourself," I said, as the rain dripped down on my face. His wife came to thedoor and pulled her husband away. As she closed it I heard her say, "You shouldn't yell at the poor man. It's probably the only job he could get."

In the next block a lady came to the door and said, "I forgot to pay you last week. How much is it?"

"I don't know," I said.

"Well, here's a dollar and a 10-cent tip."

"Thank you, ma'am."

"And the next time, please don't throw my paper in the bushes."

By this time the list was pretty soggy and I couldn't read it any more, so I decided the only fair thing to do was to leave a paper at every other house until I ran out.

It worked until I came to one house where an 11-year-old ran out and said, "Hey, we don't take that paper."

"It's free," I said.

"You get off our property," she said. A boxer came to the door and started growling.

I stopped running a block later.

In two hours, I had gotten rid of all the papers and was back at my house. As I soaked my feet in a pail of hot water and drank a tumbler of hot rum, the thought occurred to me that it's much easier to write for newspapers than it is to deliver them.

And healthier, too.