14 TH S TREET G OLD WRITING FROM THE 14TH STREET Y
EDITED BY Susan Fedynak & Tory Meringoff
ART BY Edi Holley & Ann Quintano
NY W RITERS C OALITION P RESS
14th Street Gold Writing from the 14th Street Y
Edited by Susan Fedynak & Tory Meringoff Art by Edi Holley & Ann Quintano
NY Writers Coalition Press 3
Copyright Â© 2014 NY Writers Coalition, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-9911174-2-0 Library of Congress Control Number: 2014936445 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Upon publication, copyright to individual works returns to the author and artist. Editors: Susan Fedynak, Tory Meringoff Layout: Rose Gorman Cover Image: Edi Holley Interior Images: Ann Quintano 14th Street Gold is a collection of writing and art from NY Writers Coalition workshops at the 14th Street Y. NY Writers Coalition Press, Inc. 80 Hanson Place, Suite #604 Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 398-2883 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nywriterscoalition.org
CO N TE N TS I N TR OD U C TI ON S
S usan Fe dy na k Tory Me ri ng off
O R I GI N A L W R I TI N G
My ra Ba um Ma ry Bla s John Ca ppe lletti A ntoi ne tte Ca rone Hunte r De mos Muri el Gray E di Hol le y E il ee n D. Kelly Da i sy Me nke s Kle in C eci le W e rtheim Krame r S uza nne Lapka S y d Laza rus A nne tte Lew is Judi th M. Lukin Y a suk o Na ga sawa E mma Phoja na kong A nn Quinta no Bob R osen Ja ne Sc ha rfma n Ly nne S tolpe r Lorra ine Theordor Be a tri ce Wye tzne r A l la n Ya shin
13 14 16 22 24 25 26 29 33 42 46 50 53 55 59 60 64 70 79 81 86 89 93
A CKN OW L E D G E ME N T S A B OU T NY W R I TE R S C OA L I TI ON
I n t r o d u c t i o n , Pa r t I Susan Fedynak NY Writers Coalition Workshop Leader
We sit around a patchwork of folding tables and metal chairs set up on the second story of the 14th Street Y. The setting is far from elegant, but somehow, it seems just right. We share the floor with a preschool, and on most days a procession of singing toddlers marches past the door of our workshop just as we are getting started. If you have the right perspective, and the kids are particularly melodic that day, you can hear it as a kind of fanfare for our group, for the work about to begin. And while the setting may be unexpected, maybe even a little humble, I see our sitting down together each week as a grand feast. On a good day, which is most, we have a full round table and everyone has arrived hungry. Hungry to write. Hungry to share. Hungry to listen to fresh stories. Hungry to meet new characters and get reacquainted with the ones we’ve already fallen in love with. Like any good meal, the proof is in the silence, only to be punctuated with those truth sounds escaping from a deep place of acknowledgment. It is hard to describe what the collective Mmm (as in Mmm mmm good) sounds like, but when you’re at the table, leaning in to catch every word of a minutes-old piece and so is everyone else, you can feel it. This group has been cooking together for a long time, and it shows. Thank you ladies. I’ve never once gone home hungry.
I n t r o d u c t i o n , Pa r t I I Tor y Mering off NY Writers Coalition Workshop Leader Two awesome things about Thursday’s writing group: Many of them have been writing together for almost a decade, and that they’ve been writing together that long and still know how to surprise each other. The surprise is evident in the collective sigh we let out when a writer has finished reading their poem or story. That’s the more thoughtful kind of surprise. Then sometimes there’s a low key applause after someone reads — that is the lovely kind of surprise that is also a celebration. Like a back slap. Then there are the moments of laughter or tears. Those are always a surprise — the kind that means a writer is doing something right. “I didn’t know you were such a ______,” they say to each other. (A comedian, a romantic, a poet, etc.) Sometimes the writers have surprised even themselves. And suddenly this long-established workshop feels like something new, something different than it was the week before. In recent weeks, we have seen a smaller, more intimate group. But our smaller numbers have not held us back. We are still there every Thursday in that little art class room surrounded by portraits made of popsicle sticks, with our pens moving, brains sparkling, busy with surprise. Like Susan, I would like to use this space to extend my gratitude to the group. Thank you, guys for letting me partake in your sacred Thursday ritual. For teaching me things about writing and the world, for being so wise. And for smiling and nodding when I try to sound wise, too. No, really. Thank you for that.
AFTER I. It was the middle of the day Sunday Brunch Meat Packing District Celebration 80th birthday A good friend Surrounded by Young people, her age Good feelings, Good wishes Good Speeches Great Day
II. It was the middle of the night, Monday Like the commercial I fell and couldnâ€™t get up My left leg lay Like a log, stiff And still. Waiting to be lifted onto a truck Lifted it was With the rest of me Onto a stretcher And rushed to hospital Poked, x-rayed Fractured hip Fractured spirit Fractured life. 13
P A RT Y Myra Baum
SWEET WILLIAM Mar y Blas I have known a number of Williams in my lifetime: Cousin William who was forced to play the accordion at family gatherings, William Walsh who in third grade refused to carry my books home from school I’d seen boys do this in the movies of the day, but somehow I ‘d missed fact that for the act to be considered chivalrous it had to be voluntary on the boy’s part. And, later in my twenties, there had even been a not-so-sweet boyfriend named William. But, it was William from first grade who was truly Sweet and whose name and angelic face will never fail to bring a smile as I remember him. It was that particular William who at the age of six said the words most girls love to hear -- and said them with such spontaneity, that he will always have a special place in my heart. My story starts on a Sunday morning in May. The year is 1950. As was the tradition at our house, my brother and I would attend the 9:00 children’s Mass at our local parish church while my mother prepared Sunday dinner — spaghetti, meatballs, sausage...the works! My father would meet me in front of the church when Mass was over. He then would take me for a long walk through the neighborhood before returning home for dinner. But this particular Sunday was different. When I awoke that morning, I was delighted to see spread upon my parents’ Chippendale-style mahogany bed a lovely pink organdy dress complete with flounces at the sleeves and hem. Beside it lay a yellow straw hat with a cluster of red cherries nestled in the grosgrain ribbon hatband. It was truly a charming ensemble — something Scarlet O’Hara might have worn at a Tara picnic. The dress was soft from many washings, but the softness simply enhanced its elegance. Obviously these were the gifts of an anonymous donor from a more prosperous branch of the 14
family, but I was thrilled. The evening prior to this surprise, my mother had wrapped my hair in strips of sheeting which when unwrapped produced the shiny banana curls I seldom had, but dearly craved. Standing on my parents’ bed I glimpsed my full-length loveliness in their dresser mirror. I thought myself quite fetching -- a vision in pink organdy! A fairy-tale princess like the paper dolls of my cutout books! Throughout Mass that morning I self-consciously enjoyed my newfound beauty. As a scrawny six year old with Anna Magnani hair — each strand having a mind of its own — I was unaccustomed to the admiring (or were they bewildered?) glances of my classmates. Finally Mass was over and we children poured out of the church onto the sidewalk to find our waiting parents. As I shielded my eyes from the sun on that glorious May morning, a small voice — definitely not my father’s called my name. Through the milling crowd the owner of the voice — my classmate William Feagle -- inched closer until he was within earshot. And then he said those words that still, more than sixty years later, bring a smile to my lips — “Mary,” he whispered. “You look pretty!” I had always liked William, but in the glow of that moment I understood why. He had spoken from his heart — something that even at age six I knew to be rare. In that moment he confirmed what I had already suspected: He was the sweetest boy in first grade, and perhaps he is the sweetest William I have ever known.
P E R S O N O F T H E Y E A R , 12 19 In honor of Pope Francis, Person of the Yea r 2013 John Cappelletti AT RISE: The elegant study of a physician in a town square in Italy. The study is filled with expensive furniture and paintings. The physician wears the finest Italian fashion of the 13th century while his young and barefoot patient wears a homespun robe which is worn and tattered THE PHYSICIAN: Well, before we begin I have one most important question to ask of you. I know my secretary said you had paid for this session but are you sure you can pay for the entire course of therapy. Most of my patients have been with me for months, years, even decades. We will not be able to help you with your situation in just one session. THE CLIENT: God will provide. THE PHYSICIAN: So, you believe in God? THE CLIENT: I would say I know rather than believe, but, yes, I have faith. THE PHYSICIAN: Well, as long as you realize that your treatment will require months of therapy and are able to pay I guess we can begin. So. What brings you here? THE CLIENT: My father insisted I see you. THE PHYSICIAN: And your father is...? THE CLIENT: The one who paid for this session. 16
THE PHYSICIAN: Oh, then you have someone to provide for your welfare. This is good news because when I regard your clothing and your bare feet and, forgive me, your general appearance and, well, your odor, I assumed you were among the large and growing poor population in our village and thus would be unable to pay for my services. As your father probably knows, I am the most famous physician of the mind in all of Umbria if not indeed in all of Italy. THE CLIENT: You are correct. I am poor and unable to pay for your services. THE PHYSICIAN: Yes, but you have a father — THE CLIENT: Who doesn’t? THE PHYSICIAN: I meant you have a father who still provides for you, even though you seem older than a child who lives at — Do you still live at home? THE CLIENT: No. I left home. THE PHYSICIAN: Because you were unhappy. This is most usual. THE CLIENT: No, I was very happy at home. My mother and father were most kind and generous, except for when I... THE PHYSICIAN: Go on, you can speak freely here in the sanctity of my study. THE CLIENT: Is this like confession? Continued 17
THE PHYSICIAN: Exactly. It’s just like confession. You talk, I listen. Then you pay me and go. THE CLIENT: I left because my father humiliated me in the public square in front of the Bishop and all the villagers. THE PHYSICIAN: Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. The classic father-son conflict. How did he humiliate you? THE CLIENT: He accused me of stealing fabric from his store. He called me Thief. THE PHYSICIAN: And did you... steal it, that is? THE CLIENT: No, I threw it out the window. THE PHYSICIAN: You threw it out the — Why on earth would you do such a thing? THE CLIENT: The poor needed it. There are so many who have no place to live, nothing to eat or drink and no warm garments to shield them from the cold winds that howl down the streets of our village like wolves in the woods. THE PHYSICIAN: So you threw fine, fashionable clothing out the window? THE CLIENT: No, fabric. My father has the largest supply of fabric in the village. THE PHYSICIAN: Ah, so he is a wealthy man and thus able to pay for these sessions, which I now surmise may last for—who knows?—months, maybe years. But why throw perfectly good fabric out the window? THE CLIENT: Because the poor could then sell it or 18
barter with it for food and shelter or perhaps make clothing from it. THE PHYSICIAN: Didn’t your father know you weren’t stealing but giving to the poor? THE CLIENT: Yes, but he said it wasn’t mine to give. He shouted to the villagers that I was mad and that he wanted his fabric returned. THE PHYSICIAN: How do you feel about this? THE CLIENT: I was sad, but angry too. So I took off my clothes, which were made of his precious fabric, and threw them at him. THE PHYSICIAN: All your clothes? THE CLIENT: Everything from my hat to my shoes. THE PHYSICIAN: Are you saying you appeared naked? In public? THE CLIENT: I was wearing my birthday suit given to me by God when I was born. It still fits. THE PHYSICIAN: Then what happened? THE CLIENT: The Bishop threw his cloak over me, put his arm around me and asked me to come to his home. THE PHYSICIAN: The Bishop, eh? Now why would this older man invite a young and, may I say, handsome man into his home? What did he want from you? THE CLIENT: To provide shelter, I imagine, as I had nowhere to live. I had told my father in front of all the 19
people of Assisi that I was renouncing him, my father on earth, for my father in heaven. He was furious. He said that if I was going to throw his fabric out the window I was no longer welcome to live with him and my dear mother. THE PHYSICIAN: So where are you living now? THE CLIENT: In the woods. THE PHYSICIAN: In the — You mean, you are living outdoors in the open. Isn’t it dangerous there? There are wolves and bears in the woods, and the lepers live there as well. THE CLIENT: I live in an old chapel that had been abandoned years ago by the church when they built the new cathedral with its stained-glass windows and tabernacle of gold. But this old chapel in the woods, crumbling and in such terrible disrepair is nevertheless the home of God. God is there. He keeps me warm and my belly full like the birds that’ve built their nests there. And he has asked me to do something for him. THE PHYSICIAN: He asked you to — Are you saying that God speaks to you? THE CLIENT: There’s an old crucifix there, made of wood. And Christ hangs on this cross with his holy blood dripping from his hands and feet and ribs. And when I look up at him, his eyes. THE CLIENT: his big, sad brown eyes seem to be gazing straight at me. And I heard him speak. THE PHYSICIAN: What did he say?
THE CLIENT: “Repair my church!” THE PHYSICIAN: Hmmm. I think we shall have to meet twice a week for quite some time. You should count your blessings you have a rich father. THE CLIENT: It’s true I am blest. But not in the way you think. THE PHYSICIAN: See you next Friday, same time? THE PHYSICIAN stands and opens the door. THE CLIENT walks to THE PHYSICIAN. THE CLIENT: I’m sorry but I have much work awaiting me. Goodbye, Sir. THE PHYSICIAN jaw drops a s T HE C L I E NT l ea ve s.
T he End
J OHN C A PPE L L E T TI ’ S play In the Footsteps of the Lord: Saint Francis in Egypt has been translated into Italian by Satyamo Hernandez, who will present his work in 2014 in Rome. In the Footsteps is the story of St. Francis’ 1219 journey to end the War of the Crusades by converting Malik-el-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, to Christianity — a crime punishable by beheading.
E t e r n a l Re t u r n Antoinette Car one The villa was not my place of birth, but I was beginning to view everything through Sebastian’s eyes. An extension of my training as an actress, I suppose. And I wanted to understand him — to be absorbed into his essence. The villa is in Umbria, Italy and far from Greenwich Village. Another place, another time. Sebastian was looking toward the past. He was born in New York — so he says. Yet he is drawn here as though he had missed (slept through?) an entire era of his life. The villa appears not to have changed since the time of Sebastian’s father. He, Sebastian, is of the generation that was passed over, displaced because of the War. It is 1967, and we come to Italy to pick up life as it was around 1939. We long to learn French or Italian as if their melodies and idioms were an abandoned part of ourselves. Sebastian does not want to renovate the villa; he wants
to restore it. Since we have come here, he seems younger, re -vitalized. Even the old caretakers are more energetic. The art deco furniture will stay. Sebastian will have the walls repainted peach and apple green. All day I roam the villa, imagining Sebastian walking through the rooms, regarding his precious objects d’art, caressing tortoiseshell chairs, lounging on the terracotta silk sofa. Time stops. He is like natura morta, the Italian for “still life.” There is a pool on the grounds of the villa. Murky it is and covered over with water lilies. I yearn to dive in and submerge myself in this quasi-alive vegetation and emerge re -born into Sebastian’s time. Dinner is served after sundown — nine or ten o’clock. This is the first time I see Sebastian for the day. He eats little, in fact I don’t recall ever seeing him eat; but I am famished. I hear the clock strike nine. Dinner will be served soon. I will put on my peacock pearls over my light blue crepe de chine cocktail dress and descend.
REALIZING A DREAM – O N S TA G E Hunter Demos A beautiful black woman slipped quietly into the theater and gave the playwright a hug. Her straightened black hair glistened as it fell to her shoulders. She was happy, she said, to finally realize her dream of appearing on stage before an audience. She explained how she had retired after a twenty year administrative career at the gas company and then had boldly applied to an acting class at a nearby college. Finally, Cecielly said, she was ready to pursue her dream of pursuing her dream of a life on the stage. After class one night at the college, the acting coach took Cecielly aside and told her that a community theater in the neighborhood was at — the last moment — looking for someone with just her qualifications Cecielly told the assembled group of actors. After Cecielly spoke, the director stepped forward smiling to greet Cecielly and introduce her to the rest of the cast. Then from backstage the stage manager appeared bringing an iron and Cecielly’s costume for the play. The stage manager quickly set to work ironing out the wrinkles of the apron of what was obviously part of a maid’s uniform. Cecielly beamed with pleasure.
BABY BLUE Muriel Gray The stork was definitely in on this delivery. The young couple flew their adopted baby boy by air from the opposite side of the world. The soon-to-be grandparents milled about the airport waiting for all papers to be stamped. Finally the new family walked towards their old family and presented the long-awaited relative. Wrapped in a fuzzy white and blue blanket, a tiny head appeared. Dark hair topped his pale face. Watching dark eyes darted from one person to another. Then the babyâ€™s perfect features broke into a smile as a balloon was offered to the miniscule hand that poked out of the blanket. His sky blue one-piece outfit, adrift with printed white clouds and stars, ended in matching feet. Countless kisses fell on this enchanting being. The family was swept home on waves of a perfect storm of love.
THANKSGIVING Muriel Gray My son and his wife took a course on how to cook a turkey. Now they feel like expert chefs. After countless years of cooking thanksgiving dinners, I am out of business. So is the other mother-in-law. This necessitates a trip to Washington, DC every year by the older generation. Since we all convene on Wednesday evening at the home of our children, the question of dinner must be solved. Although the kitchen is laden with food, it is not to be prepared until thanksgiving Thursday. Continued 25
We usually go out to a nearby Asian restaurant for a light bite. Naturally, our mutual three-year-old grandson is included. He loves to eat and is quite a sociable fellow. Each time we dine out, the same scene occurs when the bill arrives at the end of the meal: My son and his father-in-law each try to be the only one who pays. The ladies of the family keep totally quiet. This year the tiny tot put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a dollar. “I have money” he announced. He learned that this is definitely “A Guy Thing” and he knows that he belongs to the “Guy Team.”
G R AY H A W K Edi Holley Dr. Pill hummed a little Mozart as he stroked the soft caramel feathers of Lady Patricia, his favorite Rhode Island Rock hen. “Hens always lay better when they hear music,” he said. The hen clucked, appreciatively, and soon a pale blue egg rolled into his palm. Then two little white paws appeared over a large bale of winter hay lying on the barn floor and two gold ears poked up. The barn cats loved to make nests and play in the hay. And there was work for them to do to keep down the rats and mice and English sparrows, “Project birds,” Dr. Pill called them. They swarmed up to the rafters driving out the barn swallows, and dropped nasty gray globs of poop all over the hay so that it was ruined for feeding the cattle and horses. “Cats!” shouted Dr. Pill. “What do you think you’re here for? Killum! Killum!” But the cats just stared at him and at the rain of poop and continued. “Meow, meow, we can’t climb up there to get the 26
sparrows, we would be risking our lives.” They meowed in unison. Then, as if an answer to a prayer, a huge gray hawk sailed silently through the open barn doors and up, up, up to the rafters, and then waaaaay up to the cupola! You should have heard the chatter and terrified twitter, and tiny shrieks of the English sparrows as they tried to flutter out of reach of their number one enemy. But he was like a Kamikaze pilot zooming across the top of the barn, snapping up all those nasty little sparrows. “Badda bing, badda bang, badda boom!” He whirled and flew and grasped and crunched like hell on wheels. And down below Dr. Pill gazed up with a big smile on his face as a storm of feathers flew down, like a winter snow squall. It was like a feather mattress had been ripped open and all the feathers flew out, and began to cover the whole barn – the rafters, the bales of hay, the cows, and the chickens who squawked and spluttered to get the feathers out of their beaks. Even the cats thought it was some kind of game to bat around. Dr. Pill gazed up at the cupola at the top of the barn and offered a silent prayer of thanks, and Lady Patricia laid another blue egg for his breakfast.
ICE FISHING Edi Holley The cold dawn broke with a few flakes flying down onto the frozen lake. Three boys, Jake, Jimmy, and Shawn were setting up a tent for ice-fishing. They cut three holes down into the icy water where gray shapes of fish were moving. Above, the shadow of a huge eagle swooped across the lake. On the embankment were other shadows. Wolves, like phantoms, with yellow eyes, stared out at the three boys. 27
“I’ve got one!” said Jake, as soon as he felt a pull on his line. “Pull! Pull!” Up came a disappointing little sprat. He unhooked it and threw it out on the ice. Down swooped the eagle, screaming with triumph as he sailed back to his nest high up in the big oak tree. Not much for the two young eaglets to eat. Now Jimmy sank his line into the hole, and soon began to feel a tug. Up he yanked – another sprat, just a tad bigger than Jake’s. He was about to throw it out onto the ice when he thought he felt a strange presence nearby. Turning around, he gazed into a very startling pair of eyes belonging to a fox – one eye was blue and the other brown. And then, to his astonishment, the fox began to speak. “Give me that fish and I will reward you with the biggest fish you ever saw.” By this time, Jimmy’s eyes were as wide as they could be and he was shivering both from cold, and the shock of meeting such an unusual fox. But, of course, he agreed, and threw the sprat to the fox who caught it in midair and crunched it right down with his sharp little teeth. Now it was Shawn’s turn. He sank his line down and right away felt a big tug. He pulled and pulled, but whatever it was, it was too big, or too strong, to come up through the hole, and the ice began to crack and shudder. But Shawn was determined to stick it out and get whatever it was, up. Then, for an instant he looked up, and saw that he was surrounded by a circle of gray wolves. Suddenly, they all lifted their heads into the air and began to howl. This caused a big crack in the ice. And then, what should happen, but a giant head – the head of a dragon fish poked out of the hole followed by its huge slippery, scaly body which writhed and thrashed all over the ice. Shawn grabbed his harpoon and ran after it and plunged it into the back of its head. All the wolves yelped and howled and rushed around Shawn to 28
show him their admiration for this amazing feat. And, from high in the oak tree the eagle shrieked his congratulations, while down below, the blue-eyed fox took advantage of the moment to rush in and grab Shawn’s Big Mac lunch.
H A R RY ’ S W A K E Eileen D. Kelly It was a sudden death, Harry’s, and of course, unexpected. Lisa, Harry’s wife, did her best in those early days of shock and bewilderment to arrange a suitable wake and funeral for him. Mr. Heekin, the owner and director of the Jerome J. Heekin Funeral Home, gave her a written schedule of what would happen and when. Lisa glanced at it, inhaled and put it in her purse. The viewing of Harry’s body would begin at two PM on Tuesday. “You and the immediate family should come at one o’clock to make sure we did everything all right, okay?” said Mr. Heekin. Lisa nodded, thinking, how can they make everything all right; nobody can. She managed to squeak out, “That would be fine.” On Tuesday, promptly at one PM, Lisa and her daughter, Karen, from her first marriage, arrived at the funeral home. Mr. Heekin wasn’t there; another staff member greeted them. Looking puzzled, the pale young man in a dark suit, said, “Oh, we already showed the body of the deceased to the immediate family. They’re inside.” Lisa wondered why everybody who worked in a funeral parlor was so pale, and thought, maybe they’ve seen too many Frankenstein movies or spent too much time in foggy Continued 29
graveyards. Karen asked her what they should do. “I’m paying for this,” her mother replied. “It’s my show. I don’t know who they let in first, but we’re the ones to decide if Harry looks okay.” And in they marched. Before she reached Harry’s open coffin of gleaming oak that Lisa knew he would have liked, Roger, Harry’s son from his first marriage, rushed over to her. Right behind him was an older, heavy-set woman. Roger quickly explained that his mother wanted to come; after all, she’s the mother of his children. A completely stunned Lisa nodded politely towards them, took a deep breath and proceeded on her way to Harry. This was something totally unexpected. She had never even thought about Harry’s ex-wife. My Harry, my sweet Harry, she thought, as she looked him over in the white satin-lined bier. He’d have had a chuckle over the delicate satin; tweed was more his style. Who are those people over there, Harry? she asked in her mind. Okay, I know who they are, but they’re nobody to you and me. Roger you haven’t seen in years and your ex, Claudia, was nothing but trouble. All right, I can see why Roger’s here, but her, I mean, she? Harry was a stickler for grammar. You’ve got to help me, Harry, and don’t turn over in your coffin! Suddenly, the eyes on Harry’s dead face opened and looked straight at Lisa with a twinkle; the right one winked while his still full, though blue, lips turned up in a familiar impish smile. Lisa laughed. She turned to the pale young funeral employee who stood nearby, and said, “Everything’s fine.”
H U M P T Y D U M P T Y ’ S R E C OV E RY Eileen D. Kelly You’ve all heard the story of Humpty Dumpty’s accident and how all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. Here’s what happened after that. Needless to say, Humpty was very disappointed they couldn’t fix him up. He lay there on the ground in pieces, thinking. Luckily he had held onto his cell phone. How about the King’s ladies helping me out, he thought? If anybody can do it, one of those gals who works in the castle can. Things are always breaking over there and I know they don’t tell the King about it, or the Queen. They fix those cups and saucers somehow, and chairs and tables too! So Humpty made a call to his friend Esmeranda in the kitchen. She came post haste with a bevy of other gals and after they oohed, ohhed and moaned at poor Humpty lying on the ground, they put their heads together and came up with a plan. They all rushed back to the castle kitchen. All the women didn’t need to go, but they liked to stick together. Besides they didn’t want to just stand there looking at poor Humpty with his head in one place and arms and legs in another. Then, just as fast, Esmeranda and her friends returned to Humpty, carrying flour and water, which they mixed to a perfect consistency they called Crazy Goo. They quickly applied it to all the detached parts of Humpty’s body – his head, arms and legs- then pressed them back where they belonged. Humpty giggled as each part was applied and more so each time a woman came to sit on it while it set. By the time each part was re-attached, Humpty was laughing so uproariously that all the women started laughing too. Continued 31
Blocks away Mrs. Humpty heard the commotion and went out to see what was going on. She hadn’t heard about Humpty’s accident, so when she got there and saw five women sitting on her husband and all six laughing hilariously, she went to pieces. Get the crazy goo, shouted Esmeranda! She and the other ladies fixed up Mrs. Humpy and some of them sat on her to set the crazy goo. But Esmeranda quickly went back to sit on Humpty. She wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotion that came with seeing him all patched up with her crazy goo and smiling at her with such gratitude. She had always liked him, but he was married and off limits to her. She didn’t care for his odd shape though, like a giant egg, but now, since she’d been sitting on him for half an hour and felt and heard his powerful, infectious laugh, she was in love! It didn’t seem to matter that Humpty’s wife was lying nearby, patched up with crazy goo. Mrs. Humpty was a nice woman and Esmeranda wished her well, but she hoped she’d realize the marriage was over and go away. What do you think, Humpty? she asked, still sitting on him even though the crazy goo had set long ago. The still laughing Humpty said, What? You know, about getting a divorce and marrying me, said Esmeranda. What are you talking about? You mean because you put me back together? I’m sorry Esmeranda, but Mrs. Humpty and I are always falling apart, both of us, and we always put each other back together. We’ve been doing it for years. We’ve been using a tapioca paste we call jolly goo. Maybe that’s why we keep falling apart. Your crazy goo must be better than our jolly goo. I’m sorry Esmeranda, Mrs. Humpty and I are staying together. Mrs. Humpty, who had been enjoying the kitchen women and the King’s men sitting on her, heard him and said, “Not so fast, Humpty!”
MY FATHER IN N EW YORK Daisy Menkes Klein He definitely was not my idol. My father was given to temper tantrums and thought nothing of slapping me in the face, even when I was already an adult. He was highly opinionated and would shout and scream at whoever disagreed with him. On the other hand, he did have some admirable qualities. He got our family of four out of Nazi country. My mother’s family money helped, but she would never have been capable of doing this on her own. He hardly spoke a word of English when he arrived here but immediately enrolled in night school, where he diligently did his assigned homework. It was hard for a man of fifty who only had an eighth grade formal education, no knowledge of any other language except his native German, and bits and pieces of Yiddish learned from his mother only. His father did not know any Yiddish. My grandfather was born in Vienna and had been disinherited by his family for marrying a Staetel (Jewish ghetto town in Poland) girl. My father’s scant Yiddish proved to be a big help in communicating with potential customers in a variety of his subsequent enterprises. In Vienna he had imported merchandise from Japan, which at the time had the cheapest prices. In New York, he imported parts for ironing cords which we, his family, assembled. He must have paid for the first imports with part of the few dollars which we had been allowed to bring here, only a minuscule amount of my mother’s family’s former vast fortune. My father would cold canvass various neighborhoods, offering his wares at low prices and occasionally scoring an order. He paid my brother and me one penny for a completed set and sent us out to make deliveries with strict orders never to leave the merchandise unless we were paid in full and only with cash. We would Continued 33
walk long distances through strange neighborhoods in the Bronx or Brooklyn, always trying to save carfare while lugging heavy packages. I could never bring any friends to my house, as our home was a factory. Eventually, we moved into a bigger apartment in the refugee section of Washington Heights and dedicated one room to the factory, By that time, I was in college and had no time to work in the factory and was replaced by a Yiddish -speaking lady who was willing to work for low wages but required that the radio was tuned to the daily Yiddish soap operas. I was trying to study and do my homework and study in the adjacent room and the loud weird noises on the other side of the wall drove me nuts. My protest was of no avail because the noisy soap operas contributed to our financial survival and my homework didn’t. I was much relieved when the whole operation was moved to a loft on Spring Street, in the heart of what is now known as Soho, but then was home to light manufacturing lofts like the one run by my father. I was no longer part of the operation, which had switched to assembling Christmas tree lights, but my mother and brother still worked there. My father also employed various Puerto Rican high school dropouts, with whom he developed an unusual bond as they reminded him of his own factory experience when he was their age. By this time WWII had been in progress and the economy was such that our family operation earned us a decent living, although, of course, we were never rich. My father was happy that he no longer depended on his wife’s rich relatives, who had always made sure to let him feel like an absolute failure. While in college, I always had to raise enough money to cover my books and the lab and registration fees required by otherwise tuition-free City College. Rather than work in my father’s sweat shop, I would do private tutoring and work in all kinds of minddeadening summer jobs. Over the years, my father’s English improved 34
tremendously. He could express himself clearly, albeit with a strong accent and occasional grammatical errors, especially in his sentence structure. He was once randomly interviewed at the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. We have a recording of the interview somewhere, to which I listened a few years ago. I was impressed by his sense of humor and charm, a characteristic of most Viennese men, who know how to be gallant without being condescending. He once told Bella Abzug, who was campaigning on a Washington Heights street corner, how much he loved her because she reminded him of his super energetic sister. But, back to the interview: “What do you do for a living, Mr. Menkes?” “I sell Christmas tree light strings” “Are any of these (pointing to the tree) yours?” They weren’t, of course, but I loved listening to the familiar voice, now gone forever. What is still amazing to me was the fluency of his adopted language, with all its flaws as well as his poise and self-assurance. My father also wrote “poetry” in English as he had once done in German for birthdays and other congratulatory occasions. They were always amusing, surprising rhymes that sort of worked. He was original and much better than Hallmark. He lived to be ninety and mostly enjoyed his eight years of retirement. “Take me to Vienna”, he would beg me, but I never did. He was a remarkable man despite his many flaws. I am proud to be his daughter, also endowed with many flaws, but possibly, here and there, with some fairly decent qualities too.
MARSHMALLOW WHITE Daisy Menkes Klein Not that I like marshmallows, but I do like their color for my walls. According to the color chip, it was exactly what I wanted and had never been able to get. Previously, everybody tried to talk me into some kind of off -white when what I really wanted was stark naked white to show off my colorful modern art. My Miro and Calders would never look as good with a non-white background. When wishing for my marshmallow white walls I had a boyfriend named Bob. Bob had flaming red hair and was an ex- merchant marine, currently a free-lance movie electrician whose endearing qualities were his left-leaning politics as well as his highly skilled manual capabilities which, despite my technical background, I sadly lacked. Bob had promised to paint my apartment any color I chose. No interfering landlord to dictate which cheap paint to use and limit my color choices. I had Bob at my beck and call. The painting project would strengthen our bond. We would become closer and closer, and who knows what happiness that marshmallow thing would bring about? We were off to a good start, buying the proper amount of paint, paintbrushes and whatever else was needed. We were ready for action. Bob started to paint somewhere in the hallway. What he did looked fantastic. I was not quite sure of my role in this venture. Somehow Bob had neglected to give me any instructions. I was a complete novice in the painting department. All I knew was how to choose a color. I just stood there full of admiration for Bob, who by now definitely was a candidate to become the love of my life. Bob handed me a brush. How exciting, though a bit confusing! â€œW-w-w-what am I supposed to do?â€? I stammered, expecting detailed instructions. Instead: 36
“I can’t stand helpless women,” he screamed, throwing down his brush and creating a huge marshmallow-white spot on the floor. “But Bob,” I tried to explain, “Just tell me what to do. I have never held a paint brush in my hand in my whole life; neither did my father or either of my grandfathers. Never mind my mother. I am not helpless. I have always earned my living.” He didn’t hear me. He was already out the door, which he had slammed behind him. He also was out of my life. And now I had a new problem: What’s a klutz like me supposed to do with four gallons of marshmallow white?
19 3 4 : A N E S S AY D E D I C A T E D TO R U DY Daisy Menkes Klein 1934 was the year I learned that crying was not the prerogative of children only – adults were capable of crying too – and adults sounded much worse, which was very frightening. In 1934 I was only in third grade but knew all about politics, as I was an excellent eavesdropper and absorbed all the scary details. 1934 was long ago but nevertheless an unforgettable year of my life with permanent consequences for the future. February 1934 – a right-wing coup violently overthrows the democratic government of Austria. There was fighting in the streets and the menacing sounds of gunshots were heard even in the outlying 13th Bezirk (district) of Vienna where I lived. After two days of bloody civil war, the end of the fragile Austrian democracy had arrived. The Social Democratic Party workers’ organizations had been soundly defeated. Anti-Semitism became the official government Continued 37
policy. All Jews holding civil service jobs were immediately fired. When I returned to class a Christian prayer would mark the start of every school day. All the children had to stand and the Christians, which meant the whole class except for me and one other girl, had to pray. “Im Namen des Vaters” – in the name of the father – and they would cross themselves three times, each time in a different place, starting at their foreheads and ending over their hearts, while my friend Dorli and I just stood there, our arms dangling at our sides, feeling very foolish. The new chancellor of the country was named Engelbert Dolfuss. He became the country’s leader without the benefit of a democratic election process. Parliament was dissolved. A few months later in July, Dolfuss was assassinated by a Nazi putsch, another coup. This time, the German Nazi army was waiting at the border, ready to invade the country, which they expected would be in total chaos, but miraculously the Nazi takeover of Austria was postponed for another four years. One night in April 1934, when my mother was away in Brno visiting my ailing grandfather, the doorbell rang around three o’clock in the morning. My father and I staggered out of our respective beds. My father opened the door to receive a telegram containing four words which would be forever engraved in my memory: “Karl tot bitte Nachricht” – Karl dead please communicate – four words which reduced my father to a heap of heartbreaking sobs. That was my first encounter with a crying adult. My mother was summoned home the same day and my father took off for Berlin, where Karl and his family had resided. He returned a few days later with my uncle’s life partner Liese, a shy woman in her early twenties, and their son Rudy, whose name coincidentally was the same as my father’s. Rudy, who we called little Rudy, in contrast to my 5’2 father, who was big Rudy, was an adorable blue-eyed, blond five year old with whom I instantly fell in love. Rudy and Aunt Liese 38
stayed at my Aunt Jenny’s summer house on the Alte Donau or Old Danube (a still water branch of the Danube River suitable for swimming and row boating). We made the pilgrimage to the Alte Donau almost every summer Sunday despite the interminable rides on three trolleys with lots of waiting time between boarding each vehicle. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Willie lived in their beach house, complete with a garden for outdoor picnics, all summer long, and they kept it open for friends and family to visit at any time. Rudy’s fair skin soon turned beet red from the sun and eventually peeled, only to turn red again and repeat the cycle. He never complained and appeared to enjoy himself. His face was getting rounder, as he had a huge appetite. His teen-age cousins, Hans, Otto, Gerda and Edith treated him as their pet or toy but he seemed to enjoy all the attention. The boys were teaching him how to swim the old fashioned way, tossing him into the deep water of the Old Danube, then rescuing him as he coughed and spit water. His young mother went back to find her family in Berlin. Both events must have inflicted permanent psychological damage on little Rudy but because of his unbelievable sunny disposition, whatever damage he suffered, it proved not to be life-crippling. I was only just short of four years older than Rudy, so much closer to his age than the teenagers. I could play games such as hide and seek with him and enjoy myself too. As always, I eavesdropped on the adults, especially when they discussed Rudy’s fate. Much to my relief, I learned that he was definitely not going back to Berlin. Jenny and Willie were in the best financial position in our family. Uncle Willie’s piano business flourished while my father’s business was an ongoing disaster, swallowing his in-laws money and much to his humiliation due to the ongoing depression, never showed any tangible returns. But then what did I know about business? I was an only, lonely child. “I want a brother!” I 39
clamored. I desperately wanted this sweet, good natured child, whom I can kiss and hug and get kisses and hugs in return, to live with us forever and become the brother my parents had not been able to give me. Not only was I lonely, I was spoilt and persistent in getting my way. I begged, I pleaded and finally I won. (I suspect that my father was very happy with the outcome too.) Rudy became my brother, and my parents, whom he would now call Mutti and Papa, just like I did, became his new parents, and five years later, when we emigrated to America, Rudy of course came with us. When Rudy had first come to Vienna we could hardly understand his Berlin dialect, but soon his speech morphed into the same colloquial Viennese spoken by the rest of us. In New York, he adjusted much better than I did; absorbing the new language, which he soon spoke without a trace of an accent. But now I am getting ahead of my story. Rudy and I would eventually have the same silly sibling squabbles which I would later witness with my own two children. As the older of the two, I would take unfair advantage, being bossy and nasty as only an older sister can. I would trick him into giving up his candy and do all kinds of mean things only to shower him with affection moments later. He claims that he has forgiven me but I still feel guilty. Undoubtedly, he changed my life â€“ no longer was I the lonely only child; I now had a fellow conspirator against the sometimes hostile world of grown-ups. The year 1934 must have been a year of trauma and dramatic turmoil for Rudy. He witnessed the death of one parent, was abandoned by the other, tossed into a brand new environment, almost drowned, gained a new set of parents plus a new sister and somehow maintained his sunny disposition throughout all the drama and confusion around him. He later would say that he had a special angel looking after him. His older sister of course does not believe in silly creatures like angels, except perhaps metaphorically, but to this day remains in awe of Rudyâ€™s eternal optimism, 40
incredible good nature, and ability to adapt to lifeâ€™s forever changing, challenging situations. The year 1934 was the year I gained a brother, and thus for my personal world it was not all bad, despite the fact that I lost the safety of my early childhood, experienced a civil war, the overthrow of democracy, state -sponsored anti-Semitism, bombing of synagogues, assassination, and all the forebodings of future horrors, much of which my immediate family of four was fortunate enough to escape, although most of my many aunts, uncles, cousins, friends were not to be so lucky.
VINCENT Cecile Wertheim Kramer Cassandra collected fine jewelry. Her passion centered on Art Deco. Her treasures lived with her and her boyfriend, Eddie, a sullen and belligerent young man. Vincent was Eddie’s only friend. He was a three year old pit bull, with a black patch over his left eye. The rest of him was a dirty white. Eddie’s complexion matched his dog’s fur. There was a resemblance in looks and manner. Cassandra felt Vincent was a malicious, vicious, venomous dog. She knew he resented her. Vincent was possessive of his master and left her many messages to support his claim. They included urinating and defecating all over her things not stored in a closet or drawer. The spacious apartment was located in Soho, in an old factory that had been converted into lofts. Cassandra paid all the bills. Cassandra worked in an advertising agency as an executive assistant to the president. She was well paid and happy in her job. On her lunch hour Cassandra often gulped down a peanut butter and pickle sandwich as she scoured the nearby antique dealers for treasures. At times, she was rewarded with a find. A unique bracelet. A necklace, a pair of earrings. Cassandra was the ultimate bargain hunter. Eddie had no job. Day or night. Instead, he stayed home with Vincent. Cassandra and Eddie’s relationship was approaching the two-year mark. There came a day when Cassandra was forced to walk Vincent. Eddie had the flu. He told Cassandra he was too weak. She was fuming to say the least, but she had no choice. She could either walk Vincent, or he would do his business wherever he chose to in the loft. Cassandra and Vincent headed towards the stairs. It was an old building and the steep stairs were in disrepair. As they proceeded to walk down, Vincent deliberately strained 42
at the leash- pulling Cassandra. She grabbed the railing to keep from falling. A stair gave way. It broke in half. She let go of the leash. Vincent went flying. Without thinking, Cassandra leaned forward. Holding the railing with one hand, she grabbed Vincent around his collar with the other hand. Vincent was thrashing his legs. His mouth flew open. His tongue hung out. His eyes bulged. Cassandra made her way to the next step. Luckily, it held. She hauled Vincent up with both hands and released his collar. Cassandra was breathing hard. Vincent stared at her, curling himself close. He put his front paws around her neck. Slowly, she dragged the two of them up the remaining rickety stairs. With her last ounce of strength she managed to crawl back to their apartment. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” she kept whispering to the disoriented dog. She had to peel Vincent from her body. He began to lick her face. Vincent never pissed or shit on any of her stuff again. Cassandra kept the dog and dumped the guy.
T H E C O L L E C TO R O F H E A RT S Cecile Wertheim Kramer Abigail and Myra were sisters. The girls were conjoined. Their bodies would be connected until one of them died. The other would follow in seconds. Attached at the chest. Sharing a single heart. Their entire lives were spent facing each other. Their personalities clashed. They were locked together with no magic key to disengage them. At the time of their birth, their parents were given a choice. Do nothing or divide them. The doctor’s prognosis was grim. One of the twins would have to die. The couple would, however, have one normal little girl. After much soul searching the mother and father felt they could not deliberately kill one of their girls. The fate of the sister’s was sealed. Continued 43
They were to be joined for life. When they were about seven or eight, Abigail felt her sister trying to pull away. Myra knew Abigail was aware of the animosity she harbored. Myra viewed Abigail with disdain. Abigail sometimes felt Myra trying to force her to hold her breath. Myra would deliberately grab Abigail’s nose and squeeze her nostrils shut. Abigail had to pry her sister’s fingers away. Myra became obsessed with the idea of physically moving their joint heart into her body. Abigail sometimes felt Myra’s spirit inside her. On the other hand, Myra never felt Abigail’s essence. Myra would have done anything to disconnect from her sister. She desperately needed to unyoke herself. But wishing to be disjoined wasn’t being disjoined. Myra often had a fantasized vision of herself unconnected to Abigail. A photograph of just Myra. She knew her options were limited. If she couldn’t disunite herself from her sister by sheer willpower, Myra was ready to take drastic measures. When they were twenty years old, Myra finally realized their shared heart was never going to find it’s way into her body, no matter how much she willed it to! She was sick and tired of Abigail, but was stuck with her. Myra began to slowly deteriorate. Mentally, and physically. Abigail pleaded with her to keep going. “Eat! You die, you kill me!” “Mom and dad could have made a different choice years ago,” Myra angrily responded. “I can’t worry about you Abigail.” “I want to live!” pleaded Abigail. “Please don’t murder me! Why can’t you learn to live with the bodies we have? We are perceptive, intelligent young women. Maybe a new breakthrough will be discovered!” Looking into her sister’s eyes for the last time, Myra released one last breath. A few seconds later Abigail joined her in death. Their conjoined bodies were stretched out on an extra large table in the morgue. The medical examiner invited a few of his associates to attend the separation. The parent’s gave their permission but refused to appear for the proce44
dure. It took five hours to sever the sister’s bodies. They were finally cut in half. Another choice confronted the parents. The heart. There was only one. Which sister would be buried with it? The medical examiner measured the heart and drew a line across the organ then raised his scalpel and with one swift stroke severed it. Problem solved. Or was it? Two dead young girls, one half a heart each. Two grieving parents, reflected on what might have been if they had chosen to save one of their daughters. Their mother suddenly felt Myra’s presence. “You made a mistake.” She heard her daughter’s voice. “You live with it!” She did not feel anything coming from Abigail. What had she done? Why hadn’t she listened to Abigail years ago? Abigail had tried to make her mother aware of Myra’s destructive thoughts. Now twenty years later, if she could undo that decision and decide to save one of the girl’s, she knew in her heart which one. The heart would have been Abigail’s. A cold chill invaded her body. Myra’s icy voice entered her mind again. “Now you have nothing. I took Abigail with me.” Half a dead heart rested on a heart shaped white satin pillow next to each sister in their separate bronze coffins. Myra and Abigail each had their own unconnected space for eternity, that is, until their mother opened Myra’s casket and grabbed Myra’s pillow and half a heart. She opened Abigail’s coffin and placed the two halves together on one satin pillow, gently closing her daughter’s coffin. She took Myra’s pillow and threw it in the trash. Months later, a homeless woman of indeterminate age, wearing a shapeless and filthy garment, found the heartshaped, white satin pillow in the dumpster. Hugging it to her breast, she couldn’t believe her luck. Hurrying to her makeshift hovel, she carefully placed it next to a red heart shaped candle and a grimy heart shaped candy box that was empty covered in soiled, tattered lace. She was well known in the neighborhood as Myra the Collector of Hearts. 45
FRAGMENTED ACT Suzanne Lapka Don’t tell anyone. They can’t help, so why subject them to this ugliness? I knew it was coming. I had so many symptoms, but I waited. I didn’t want to know. It was childish, but if the diagnosis is not spoken, perhaps it doesn’t exist. Aware that my crying level is low, and my tolerance for stupidity has evaporated. Pain overtakes my world. Thank God Matthew is on tour for six months. He would see in a moment the gravity of the situation. Julie and Gerard want me to join them in East Hampton. Here Matthew and Gerard were like little kids battling the monstrous waves. I loved to photograph the water’s force. The scene was majestic. Usually Julie and I would sit under the umbrella discussing books and plays. Actually, there was little dialogue. Her monologues were unending. She was the Queen of Dirt. “Did you know that Dara just found out David is gay? She caught him in the act with Reed,” she informed me. Why did I listen? I could care less about this soap opera garbage. “You just have to go to the playhouse,” she insisted. “There’s this emerging young playwright. He’s a genius and he’s gorgeous. There’s talk that the show is Broadway bound. And afterwards, there’s this new Italian restaurant. Gerard knows the chef, and we will be treated royally.” I refused. “I don’t have the time.” 46
Now quiet, and alone, I begin. I give winter clothes to the thrift shop. Design an album. Photos, cards, drawings, playbills, and even theater ticket stubs. All precious moments in our early life, and Emily and Stevenâ€™s world with our grandkids. Seeing my photos of the Greek family vacation makes me sob. That time held so many extraordinary memories, especially the unconventional family portrait surrounding our enormous sand castle, and storming it in ridiculous and unusual poses. Make a new will. Leave anything of value to the kids, except the ruby necklace that Julie covets. Letter to Matthew, my Beloved. Remember the space between my birthdate and the day of my death. That space represents my life. Celebrate it, and then move into the next phase of your life. Donâ€™t let death rob you of your life. Then the bastard would really win. Start a journal. Record the final act. Perhaps I will destroy it when the time appears to destroy me. Until that time, I will willingly go it alone. I will use the smoke and mirrors technique when it is absolutely necessary to open the door.
WORLD OF THE LIVING Suzanne Lapka Matthew beat hammer through Best friend’s windshield. Misdiagnosis. Cocktails cause misfiring. Robert losing position Finances crumbling. House in foreclosure. Impossible to navigate, Torment without relief. Electric Shock. Different from the past, Doctor reassures. I pray: “Release the toxic. Don’t destroy what is beautiful Within me. Bring me back To the living world.”
M E TA M O R P H O S I S Suzanne Lapka I begin innocent Cradled in bunting I slide through growth Youth tempered by outside Forces. Hideous girls attack Without intervention From adults. Parents unwilling to Approach my broken soul. I am transformed. Angry, returning Fight within chaos.
EMERALD CITY Syd Lazarus My Emerald City will always be New York City — the city where all things are possible. The city that has a mixture of both good and bad - the smartest, most inventive, creative, kindest, meanest, dumbest and cruelest people in the world. But think about a comparison with Frank Baum’s Emerald City, Oz, and you would think he was writing about New York City. Let’s start at the beginning with Dorothy, a sweet, kind young girl with stars in her eyes who thinks that anything is possible if you have a pair of ruby slippers. How many young women like that are there in New York who feel that way about Jimmy Choos or Louboutins? We have people like the Munchkins and clubs like the Lollypop League. God knows we have the yellow brick road — although here we are always repairing it. Oz has flying bubbles — we have flying drones. Then there is Scarecrow — the smartest of the bunch who only wants a brain, which
he finds out he always has had. Lots of New Yorkers are the same. The Tin Man wants a heart — lots of New Yorkers are lacking that same organ. And my personal favorite, the Cowardly Lion who lacks courage but shows it when it is needed. Think of all the first responders in New York that jump in to help when needed without thinking. Oz had the Wicked Witch of the West — we had Leona Helmsley and a few others come to mind. Oz claims Glinda the good witch; we can claim a lot of good women who do good deeds every day. Oz had flying monkeys; we have pit bulls and Rottweilers (though I think they get a bad rep). Of course Oz had the Wizard and we have Mayor to be Bill DeBlasio. We don’t know what he will do yet but I bet he will pull the curtain on us once in a while like the Wizard did. So comparing the two — Oz and New York City are basically the same place. I guess New York is my Emerald City. So along with Dorothy I’ll click my ruby slippers three times and say “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home,” and stay exactly where I am!
F R E N C H Q UA RT E R â€” N O L A (A Panto um) Syd Lazarus There is a garden behind that wall It is a secret, kept from the street The Quarter has many secrets, People rarely see. It is a secret, kept from the street. If you are lucky, you may glimpse. People rarely see the beauty that is there. If you are lucky you may glimpse Colors of reds, orange, blues and greens, The beauty that is there, The secret garden behind the wall. Colors of reds, orange, blues and greens. The Quarter has many secrets. The secret garden behind the wall There is a garden behind that wall!
MY ROUTES Annette Lewis
The area I now live in borders on the East Village. When my parents came to the U.S. from Poland in 1919, they settled in this neighborhood. I was never told why they came to the East Village, but I have found out that this was inhabited by people from Poland and the Ukraine. I imagine word got around, before they came here, that this was the place to live. My mother used to talk about socializing on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side, which is where she met my father. This is where young people hung out, and what better place to be, where you all came from the same area in Europe. The Yiddish Theater was on Second Avenue, and I remember my parents taking me to musicals and comedies, where I was fortunate to see the best shows. I can still remember some of the music. Now, when I walk through this area and look at the tenements, I wonder whether I have passed the buildings where they lived.
A H A L L OW E E N E X P E R I E N C E Annette Lewis Our family lived in a small town in upstate New York. It was a quiet place, and when you were young, you hung out with your schoolmates. My friends and I were teenagers at the time, and were always looking for a new adventure. We were at a Halloween party one evening, where we ducked for apples and admired each otherâ€™s costumes, and John had a good idea. There was Continued 53
a house that was empty for a number of years, with moss growing out of its stairs and along the sides of the house. He suggested that we go over there to see whether we could find any ghosts. We all followed John, who was the brave one, and found the door locked. He pushed very hard and opened the entrance door. We went through the house, but there was a door locked, in what was a bedroom. John brought a hammer and he knocked out the lock. He opened the door and there were boxes piled up. He opened one of the boxes and found wrapped packets, which looked like drugs. When we got home we called the police, who placed this house under surveillance, and were able to identify the drug dealers, who had hidden their stash in this abandoned house.
BELATED T HANK Y OU Judith M. Lukin Dear Ones, I know this is long overdue, but on this special occasion, I want to thank all of you. You have been there for me an entire lifetime. You have taken me to other times and places. You have comforted me, given me only solicited advice and surrounded me with calm and joy. When I was little, you told me stories and stimulated my expanding imagination. You made me curious. You awakened an appetite and then fed me. You have been a congenial bunch, never moaning or complaining if a new sibling was added to the family. You moved over and made room. Not ever was there a cranky voice whining, “But I was here first” or “It’s not fair!” You integrated well with one another. Despite your wide range of differences in appearance, purpose, and intention, you each worked and played well with the others. There was no jealousy, even if I did not choose you on a given day. You are inspirational and among you are many perspectives. I love that there are no conflicts or egos or negative attitudes. You all stay together and offer up one happy face. I love that you intertwine the leaves and trees of Mother Nature with the thoughts and emotions of human nature. It pleases me just to look at you and to hold you. Some of you have travelled with me, taking up very little space in the luggage. You are easy on the eyes and uncomplicated by today’s technology. Or, at least most of you are. So thank you one and all for giving me this life in words. Whether hardcover, paperback or, OK, even electronic, I love you and appreciate your dear friendship. Mom was right. She always said a book is a good friend. Love, Judy 55
MY MUSIC MATTERED Judith M. Lukin The first time I’d ever heard folk music was while attending the Metropolitan Music School on west 72nd Street with my little sister. The Children’s Chorus room contained about thirty young children scrambling around and making nottoo-melodic noise. The chorus leader was a young man with a sweet, easy smile. His name was Earl Robinson. He taught us songs we could remember easily and were tied to stories we could relate to. One of my favorites was “Abiyoyo,” the story of a terrorizing giant. The townsfolk feared him. One man offered that if the giant could be persuaded to lie down, he could tie the big fellow up. It took a little boy playing a tune about the giant to make this happen. The giant was so overjoyed to hear a song about himself, he just danced himself silly. Finally exhausted, he simply curled up on the ground. The townsfolk rushed to tie him up and got rid of him. We learned “If I Had a Hammer,” “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” “Kumbaya,” “Good Night Irene,” “This Land is Your Land,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (considered by many to be the Negro/Black national anthem), “Free and Equal Blues” (which had a refrain about everyone being the same “when they’ve got their skin off”), and many more. Once, when the chorus director needed to be absent, they sent in this tall, lanky young man with a banjo. His name was Pete Seeger. The best thing about Earl Robinson, the chorus leader, was that he was an accomplished composer. He’d co-written “Black and White” (a response to the Brown vs. Board of Education court decision; recorded originally by Sammy Davis, Jr.), and “The House I Live In” (popularized by Frank Sinatra). More than these, Earl Robinson had composed two major ballads: “Ballad for Americans,” about all 56
the different kinds of folk, by ethnicity, occupation, or other description, who make up America, and “The Lonesome Train,” about Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train and its station stops lined with all variety of Americans paying homage. The highlight of our young little lives in The Children’s Chorus was to perform one of these ballads, in person, for Paul Robeson. Paul Robeson was an iconic African American singer, actor, orator, athlete, lawyer and civil rights activist who had been blacklisted by McCarthy and the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Later I would hear folksinger Joan Baez announce, in the middle of one of her concerts, that Pete Seeger had just been acquitted of charges leveled against him by that same committee. Folk music introduced me to everything that came to matter and have meaning in my life, everything I value most today.
THE TRIP Judith M. Lukin Tuesday. The basement. Turn. Fall. Floor. Thud. Scream. The knee. The knee-replacement. Panic. The swelling. Bump. Purple. Pain. The ache. Tears. Fears. Worry. The sob. Handyman. Hand. Chair. Care. Talk. Walk? The elevator. Attempt. Balance. Skepticism. The apartment. Couch. Ouch. Grouch. Slouch. The search. Purse. Crutches. Balance? The calls. Ring. Ring. Ring. Friends? The doorman. Help. Taxi. Ride. Agony. Continued 57
Hospital. Crowd. Nurses. The wait. Wait. Wait. Pain. Lump. Pain. Swelling. Pain. Discoloration. Blue. Purple. Yellow. Wait. Wait. Triage. The questions. Patients. Patience. Privacy? Ha. Wait. The pain. Wait. The impatience. The promises. Emptiness. X-rays. Questions. Wait. Wish. Ace-bandage. The results. The surprise. Bones. Intactness. The friends. The help. Crutches. Car. Restaurant. The dinner. Home. The painkiller. The ice pack. Elevation. Pillow. The pain. The cat. Impatience. Cat-food. The calls. E-mails. Agony. Knee. Throb. Ache. Bed. Pillows. Blankets. Position. Discomfort. The shoulder. Contortionist. The hurt. Pain. Exhaustion. Insomnia. Torture. Tears. Sniffles. Breath. The fade. The sleep. Morning. Stretch. Ouch. The remembrance. Pain. Bend. Ache. The flex. Massage. Shower. Heat. Steam. Towel. Step. The weight. The wait. Movement. Couch. Seat. The relief. The breath. The cat. Fur. Cuddle. Kiss. Lick. Purr. Rest. TV. Oblivion. Peace.
A W HITE C HRISTMAS Yasuko Nagasawa It was a long, long time ago, I had a white Christmas with you. I was dancing with you when snowflakes started falling. Decoration, a white angel blessed us. It’ll be a white Christmas after a few days, I’ll have a white Christmas without you. The memory of the lovely night did satisfy my heart. A Christmas tree is fragrant with evergreen. You’ll be all right alone or with someone Christmas Eve; I’ll have a white Christmas alone. I’ll be all right with a faded picture on the shelf, I am dancing with you. I’ll be all right with the memory of you. It’ll be a Merry, Merry White Christmas for us, if you’re still alive.
T WO C R E A T U R E S Yasuko Nagasawa One woman in a bedroom, One mosquito in the bedroom, Buzz…, “Give me your blood.” “No…, please let me sleep.” Two creatures in conflict. The woman hits her face and sleeps. 59
I N H O N O R O F M OT H E R S D AY Emma Phojanakong Today, of all day is motherâ€™s day Honoring mothers around the world What is it, I want to proclaim That will make a difference Whether biological or adoptive A mother is a mother any which way The war waged with ourselves and loved ones Will remain a part of us In the name of femininity or womanhood Is it righteous to proclaim motherâ€™s rights You bet your bottom dollar dear I have my own rights I declare the rights to discipline my kids I declare the rights to love them with all my heart I declare and proclaim kids freedom too To maintain their rights And defend their course of action Yes, mothers rights and kids rights
Go hand in hand They are people too and have their own rights Stand up and be heard my dear Your opinion is of utmost importance to me To prepare you in this world I have to mold you and care for you So when youâ€™re on your own You will be dependent and loving all the way So this proclamation is made So you may know how a mother Feels about her kids To see them succeed And make a name for themselves Yes mothers be proud of this proclamation And what you have accomplished with your kids
T H E S TO R M Emma Phojanakong December 3, 2012 was a day of personal infamy for me. I was given a second chance on life. I weathered the terrible storm, and came out with flying colors. No residual effects. From now on, I have to modify my life style, lessen my stressors, and stay heart healthy. The key to keeping my heart’s plumbing system in excellent condition is by eating nutritious food and exercising. On my way to the chiropractor, on Madison Avenue and thirty eight street, the second week of November, I became easily fatigued, short of breath, dizzy, with palpitation and skipped beats. I sat by the two-pronged fire hydrant on the sidewalk and called my primary physician. I spoke to Waldo, his secretary and asked to be scheduled ASAP. That Tuesday, at twelve noon, I was in his office. In 2009, I experienced a similar episode. I cancelled my trip to Slovenia, Herzegovina, Dubrovnik and Montenegro. I requested to be worked up on my arrhythmia, instead of the pulmonary approach. EKG was done, followed up by a stress test. That Friday, I saw a cardiologist. During the stress test, I noted two premature beats, shown as couplets on the screen of the monitor. “Oh that’s a trigeminy, three premature beats,” I said. I worked as a coronary care nurse and know that three premature beats per minute if not suppressed, could lead to a myocardial infarction or heart attack. “I think we should schedule you for an angiogram, and look at what’s happening to your heart.” I failed the stress test. “Emma, you are scheduled for cardiac catheterization at Lenox Hill Hospital, this Monday, at ten-thirty in the morning.” “Doctor, get me the best you have.” “You will be done by Dr. Virendra Singh, the head of 62
the cardiac catheterization unit.” As I entered the procedure room I heard Suzanne say, “We have a VIP here.” I am a nurse and professional courtesy is extended to the medical and nursing personnel. I have been to hospitals, three or four times before now, I know what it’s like to be treated VIP. Suzanne, the charge nurse, happens to be a regular at my son’s restaurant, Kuma Inn at Ludlow Street. She was glad to have met him when he visited me. I wrote a letter to the supervisor of the unit, commending their staff for their hard and excellent work. “They deserve financial rewards and an increase in their salary. I will tell everyone and spread the word around. Lenox Hill Hospital is an excellent hospital for angioplasty.” Before discharge, I advise everyone to get a discharge summary, including procedure done, latest blood work taken, EKG, and plan for post op care. Get a list of medication to be taken and the date for the next doctors visit. Heart attack is the number one killer of women in the United States. It has different manifestations, not necessarily chest pain. Women, beware.
ONE BLADE Ann Quintano
There must be a god of grass, a god of crickets and of the impending swarm of cicadas. Carrie Reynolds was perhaps less sure of this then she was hopeful. For now, this is what Carrie saw in front of her: the lawn. The lawn stretched out from the white frame house on the end of the cul de sac. It was the one with blue shutters – a cerulean blue which on days, here and there, when thick clouds formed, matched the sky. She saw the lawn in detail, in all its lushness. She went down on her knees on the lawn as if about to worship it, but instead with the intensity of a botanist, and bearing a magnifying glass, she singled out one blade of grass. One ordinary blade – neither more succulent nor green than any other. She considered it for a few moments insisting to herself that indeed, there must be a god for all things tiny and inconsequential from which, in fact, they harnessed their willingness and determination to be, just to be what they are. A small blade of grass. And this is what she knew: she knew that now in North Korea, starving women in utter desperation harvested what blades they could and fed them to their wailing children. She had seen it on the TV when the TV was not showing halfman, half-robots that jumped off city towers or dogs that talked back to a chubby orange boy who owned them. If ever water or fire were available in North Korea, they would make their blades into soup. The blades. Children of Grass Gods offered themselves up willingly, blessed to be of service, bore the green spark of self-sacrifice to these emaciated humans. Carrie Reynolds had never known starvation and until this day, had never known a single blade of grass. She had only known the Scott’s nourished lawns of Westchester. In 64
fact, she thought now, she had never known a ‘single’ anything. Nothing came singularly she had realized. An isolated human being living alone was not relegated “solitary” in this community described in the NY Times Real Estate Section as a “very pleasant community with good schools.” Neither had she seen anything singular in her home. A slice of bread, soft and fresh and warm, was always taken from a large, fat and full loaf brimming with other slices. She worried over this fact but didn’t know what to do with it. She sat on the lawn for some time and then slipped the blade, plucked from the soil, into her mouth and sucked on it. Her father came out of the house, a golf bag slung across one shoulder, his legs scrawny and hairy below his khaki shorts. He saw Carrie on the lawn and came over to ruffle her head, although she thought she was too old for that. “Hey,” he smiled, seeing the blade of grass in her mouth. “Hey, I used to do that too when I was a kid.” She looked at him quizzically, then he, realizing perhaps she hadn’t heard or understood, motioned to her and repeated with a chuckle, “The blade of grass in your mouth.” She was upset at the prospect. “You were that hungry?” she asked tentatively. “Hungry?” he replied. “No, of course not. Are you hungry? Naw…all the kids do it…part of being a kid.” He turned, not unkindly, and went to his car, one of two parked in the driveway, before she had time to ask him if the mothers did too – if his mother ate grass, and if she fed it to her children and made it into soup.
BLUE VASE Ann Quintano She lined up the vases on the shelf above the sink in front of the one window in the house that invited sun, breeze and periodic bird song. The vases were in varied shades of blue, as if the potter was wonderfully obsessed with the color; Cerulean, Cobalt, Prussian. The painterly swirls of bold and purposeful patterns gave way to the contrast of feathery lines by the lip of the vase, thin and delicate as though drawn with a croquille pen. She assumed these were meant to draw oneâ€™s eye to the narrow opening at the top with just enough room to allow the presence of a single daffodil. And, just as her eye was drawn to the lip of the vase, her imagining was drawn into its inner realm. Within the vase, bereft of light, she wondered if it too was blue. Or was it instead a foreboding black? A blackness desperately in need of the thick stem of the daffodil and the chill of the clear tap water in order to be pulled out of the dismal darkness into some semblance of vitality and beauty. She sat at the Formica table in the kitchen. The two metal stools boasted red vinyl seats cracked where they were harnessed by a series of round metal tacks. She sat there for morning coffee, cupping a thick white mug that was a remnant from the old deli where her father worked late into his eighties. In the afternoon she flipped a grilled cheese sandwich in the cast iron skillet and watched its face go motley toasted brown. When it began to ooze yellow cheese, she slid it onto her plate. She enjoyed it with a glass of plain tap water, and blotted her mouth with a paper napkin. The grease spilled on the table. From her place on the red cushion, she admired the vases against the summerâ€™s light. In the late afternoon, she sat at the table with a cup of tea sweetened with honey from a plastic bottle she could 66
never rid of its stickiness. She placed two Lorna Doones on the napkin in front of her and ate them slowly. She took her time watching the vases against the light, which had lowered and shifted and turned the vases an indifferent grey. She found herself oddly disconcerted by the vasesâ€™ loss of color and vitality now that the sun had gone. And so then, one by one she removed them from the shelf. She relieved them of their hospitality to the yellow daffodils and laid the flowers, side by side, on the kitchen counter. She emptied their water into the sink, leaving the vases empty and hollow. She picked up one blue vase, and with it, smashed the one next to it. Shattered pieces fell across the counter and into the sink. One or two smaller pieces scattered onto the floor. She proceeded to pick up the pieces, one by one, and study each in the waning light, carefully looking to see, after all, if the inside of the vase had also been painted blue and if it still held within it the sunlight.
T H E W I N D OW Ann Quintano This is how it was framed that morning: a leg from the right knee, down to the ankle and clothed in a tan gabardine: a foot posed mid air, on its way to landing on the grey pebble studded sidewalk: a foot dressed in a tassel loafer committed — earnest and somewhat heavy — that on the left hand side of the frame. On the right edge of the frame was a petulant, hyperactive, irritable Chihuahua, of a not too dissimilar tan to that of the shoe squatting briefly to poop, before leaping in circles, yapping, and lunging angrily at a passerby. Enter and exit the frame. And that was that. For them at least. The entrancing and exiting continued all day. A gossamer curtain draped over a hook at either side of the window occasionally, in a light breeze, fluttered free of its moorings and waved lightly over the scene framed by the windows, diaphanous to the sometimes absurd, sometimes prosaic life below the window at street level. Evelyn sat at that window in a chair so thickly cushioned it seem to undulate beneath the heft of her ample rear as she moved now and then to re-arrange herself more comfortably. The cushions were a drab green, worn almost brown in places, upholstered long ago quite stunningly but now missing something essential, some element of beauty that left them dull and unappealing, like Evelyn. At times she bore the same muddy, green hue, a similar lost beauty, a life become dull and unappealing. If it weren’t for the windows, the flickering gauzy fingers of the curtain eager to reveal the life captured below — well, if it weren’t for that, there would clearly be nothing to Evelyn’s life. The sadness that took root in the dark corners of her life gave her a taste for night’s darkness. She stayed up increasingly late at night to sit by the window where the 68
entering and exiting into the framed world became different. The tans and loafers gave way to reds and stiletto heels, to flashes of neon lights and eerie shadows. Music blared, as did voices, loud and raucous or spewing staccato reams of laughter, all of which rose upward, upward to her window. Then she stood, leaving the comfort of the thick cushion and moved to the window. She realized that she had now begun to tap her foot and her restless hand to the night’s sounds. It was the frenzy of a wild man’s music — his long dreadlocks thrust behind him, his body gyrating, the two thin women dragging on thin brown joints and swaying their hips provocatively — that drew her from her chair, from the window frame, from her room out and down and onto the night street. Her own hips, rusty and cramped at first, released into liquidly movements freed finally and furiously. She swung on bare feet and swayed her arms about. She tossed her head. And when, in a wild swirl, she raised and tossed her head, she was able to see a small window above, a gauzy curtain rippling around its frame, the top of a green chair. And when she stopped and looked for just a moment, she felt a nagging sadness for whoever it was who lived there.
L E A T H E R C OA T Bob Rosen Hold on a minute, Frankie. I want to take one more look at it before we get on the train. You at that again, you jerk, making such a big deal over a stupid leather jacket. It’s not so stupid me wishing I could spend, how much is the price tag. It was thirteen hundred bucks for that custom made Spanish leather outer jacket. He was working as an assistant to an older man in charge of R&D at a start up computer company and was a fast learner. Buddy — that’s what Mel Clark called him — I’m going to make you a rich man. I don’t have any close family, and my wife and I never had children. Her cousin’s worked so they can get plastered on weekends and waste their pay on the horses. Ten years and forty-five pounds later that coat, an exact copy with a price up to eighteen hundred, was hanging in his coat closet. At one time he and his friend wore the same size clothing but Buddy’s was ballooning up to a size forty-eight and the store on Madison Avenue had to special order one from the manufacturer in Spain. It’s progress, Buddy said, me getting fat and rich. Mel didn’t make him as rich as he promised but insisted that before he sold his patents to a larger company that Buddy had a secure future with the new owners. After he proved his value to the growing business, his bonus check bought him that coat, and he would kid Frank about affording such an extravagance. When he had his weight taken at his yearly physicals and saw the scale numbers go up, he braced himself for his doctor’s lecture about knocking off more than a few pounds. This time what was different was that as he was leaving, the doctor’s receptionist handed him a card with the name and phone of ENT group of doctors and advised him to make an appointment. I had my tonsils out when I was ten and I don’t smoke. You better follow up, his wife insisted and she made an appointment for the next week. 70
The news was a shock because he felt no discomfort or even an annoying cough. There on a CAT scan, a small tumor deep in his larynx showed up, and his treatment started immediately. Frank, he said, thank god that my primary doctor felt that some of my blood work looked suspicious. Buddy, this is a lesson for me. About quitting my pack-a-day habit but I can’t gain an ounce if I tried and you remember how we both wore those slim leg jeans. Caught in time that tiny lesion was removed and Buddy started a two-month, five-day-a-week series of radiation treatments. One result of his recovery was that he lost his appetite, his desire to eat more than he should have. Now the pounds melted off, and What kind of diet are you on? was a question he had no answer to, except that you don’t want to have radiation to slim down. It was a few years since he tried his leather on just to see how it hung on him. Like a tent, that’s what it looks like on you and hanging it in the back of the closet isn’t going to make it fit, said his wife. Do you want to get big like a horse again, so you can style about in that coat? Frank ribbed him. I remember walking past that shop on Madison and you just starting the new job and I paid over a thousand bucks for one coat. Buddy said, yes one coat but what a coat. Put it on eBay or give it to charity. You had a bunch of years when you filled out that size forty-eight and maybe it was a blessing that the scare the doctor threw at you was a life saver. She’s right, and Buddy resigned himself to donating it to the Salvation Army. The clerk behind the window at the army’s 14th Street headquarters said to fill out a tax form and maybe you will get a deduction for this coat. Don’t throw it in the clothes bin yet, the clerk asked. I want to try it on. You were this big once? he asked, standing with the jacket draped over his sweater. Let me have the receipt, said Buddy, and I’m gone before I change my mind. He felt foolish making such a big deal over a jacket, expensive or not. The winter of two thousand three was Continued 71
brutal just as the talk of global warming was heating up. The discount shoe stores, where bargain hunters searched for winter footwear, were sold out and those warm puffy winter coats that made the wearer look like some kind of black marshmallow man was the most common kind of jacket. It was made in China, no surprise. wasn’t everything? Buddy, always his worst enemy, fought with the crummy zipper and the snaps on his jacket. He was halfway down the block before he got it closed and blocked the brutal wind that channeled east/west along 14th Street. You did good, hoping that some deserving person was warm because of his generosity. His conscience battling itself over that damn leather coat more than once. Now, besides the wind, here came sheets of hail with tiny ice granules, and Buddy decided to look for a doorway or an awning to shield his body from the storm’s increasing punishment. Stop getting caught up in self pity, he reminded himself. This bum stretched out, blocking the entrance to the video store would trade places with you in a heart beat. His cardboard sign was the usual sad tale of bad breaks, bad choices, and a plea for some loose change for a new start. Will trade my jacket for food to just look at it. Hey, wake up. He shook the homeless man awake. Can you stand up? He got no response. Can you stand up for ten dollars? You might assume that the amount was the magic charm that animated this derelict. He got to his feet, his detachment from reality quickly fading as he realized that this sucker was his for the taking. Twenty, boss. Could you do twenty and this coat is yours? It’s back there in the closet on the same hanger, more than a little worse for wear. The pockets were burned through from lit cigarette butts that were still smoldering or rancid from bits of Big Mac leftovers. No matter though. Now it hung worn out from an adventure it shared with that fat guy’s dream come true then gone and if you give him the benefit of the doubt recaptured.
H AU N T E D H O U S E
MEMORIES Bob Rosen
The carefully painted signs on the front windows were faded from years of sunlight. They still could be read. One window’s sign was written in English and the other in Hebrew and each of them announced customers (must have been many years ago) because it was through the smeared front glass you could see the shoemaker’s bench and rudimentary tools covered with a heavy dust. We wouldn’t have been surprised if cobwebs had formed to show how long time had passed since a Gladstone had repaired a heel or sole in the shop. Oh yes there was an old man often hovering somewhere in the dimly lit rear of the store illuminated by a yellowing bulb and further back a door that led to a back yard. A man of mystery a long time widower and the father of several children each it turned out to have their own odd and mysterious lives. That rear yard was a world unto itself separated from our families by a rough fence clobbered together from old doors and rotted planks. What was accumulated was a encyclopedia of junk and it took years of work by the old man and one of his son’s who as a team scoured the early morning streets in quest for some prize bit of someone else’s thrown away former possessions. Besides all the abandoned goods there was an active population of feral cats who established colonies among the shabby mattresses and bed springs. They weaved thru a maze of discarded household furniture stalking the small rodents that hid from them. If there was a dominant cat one a red-orange Tom stood atop the mirror of an old dressing table and washed his scarred nose clean. There were dozens of floor lamps some with their faded shades looking like troops of Russian Cossacks along with old hanging fixtures still rigged for gaslight. Broken chairs and tables standing unsteady on missing legs. Wire, bundles of twine and rope, old icebox 73
chests and broken clothes mangles. Big and small one “Gladstone’s Shoe Repair.” The last time or another some household within the range of the old shoemaker and his son Patty owned and disposed much of it. Two sisters and another brother made up the rest of the family but it was Patty we got to know the best. His brother and younger sister left in the morning headed for work in Manhattan both nicely dressed and we barely noticed them. The older sister, her name was Blanche was who attracted the most attention with her odd bohemian behavior especially in our working class neighborhood. She dressed flashily almost like a gypsy heavily made up and perfumed and even the most shocked women had to admit that in a vulgar way she could easily attract a man’s wandering eye. She was a night owl often waiting in front of her house for a date to pick her up or making her way to the train station heading for New York’s active night life. Patty was a performer who played the accordion the bones and the spoons in the restaurants and bar that lined the Bowery and the lower east side. When encouraged he could do an Irish jig or tap dance to the encouragement of lonely men and women with no particular place to be other than look for the company of others as they nursed their beers. Here’s the way you hold the spoons between your fingers of one hand he instructed me, then drummed them against his knee in a rhythmic cadence. Try as I might I could never get a beat going and more often than not handed them back to him trying hard not to hurt his feelings. His talent as a New York City version of London street performers called buskers took up most of his nights. It was however in the early morning hours that another Patty emerged. Picture this: Early morning well before the sun has fully risen over the tar roofs of our Bushwick, Brooklyn neighborhood. An elderly man with an unkempt gray beard leans unsteadily on a sturdy cane searching thru adjacent lots for some valuable discarded items and relocate to a different 74
trash pile and continue its demise. Just really redistributed from one useless lot to his own backyard junk heap.The heavy three wheel pushcart has served his father and now the old man weakened needs Patty to push the reclaimed wares home. The yard next to ours stretches its arms out to include in this morning’s catch, more broken goods. The resident cats may have to scatter just for a day or two until a new map is drawn as new heaps of lost wares settle into their new home. Hey Patty, I ask one day, I saw your brother Eddie coming home last night and he looked like he had gotten into a fight. Rose was with him and don’t they work in the same building in the city. Yea he says but if I tell you don’t tell nobody on the block especially any of the women around here. Rose works in a finance office as a bookkeeper up on the twenty-fifth floor and Eddie runs one of the elevators. In fact he’s been at that job since he was a teenager. Somebody told him that a girl quit up at that loan office so I told her and she went up for an interview and got the job right off. She’s been there almost a year now and Eddie said she loved the work right off the bat but lately something’s been happening that got her upset. Rose tells him that the office manager has been after her to go out with him and won’t take no for an answer. So finally she gives in and he takes her out to Coney Island for dinner and when they finish he parks the car in Plumb Beach and turns to her and says, nuts about you that I can’t eat or sleep. I am alone living like a hermit and I want you to be my girl. I’m a smart guy and I have a good future in this company and the two of us together can really go places. I’m not asking you to marry me right off the bat but who knows but that we can really hit it off. She told Eddie that he was a real gentleman. He didn’t get fresh or try to touch her just started the car and took her home. Then Eddie found out from one of the women who cleans the offices at night that this man Mr. Richard has a wife and a couple of kids and 75
she even looked in his desk drawer at the bottom and there he was in a picture with this dark haired women and she’s holding a little baby in her lap and smiling at the camera. I want to know about your family “Rose I’m so Tom, Rose told her suitor, before I even let you talk to me again. You’re a married man or so I’ve found out and why if you say you love me did you lie. I’m almost completely divorced but the church is getting in the way of us breaking up legally. but Rose, he pleaded, I’ll be free soon I promise you with all my heart. He won’t give up Rose had confided to Eddie and her brother was not going to see his sister being made a fool of. One evening when her boss was the only passenger in Eddie’s elevator he passed the main floor and stopped at the basement level. What happened he asked and Eddie said, say mister step out for a minute I want to tell you something. Before he hit him he said, buddy you leave Rose Gladstone alone and landed his fist to Tom’s nose. He got hit in return but he hoped the warning came across clearly enough. Patty went on and I promised not to tell a soul about this scandal brewing at Rose’s job.. I ‘m going to have to leave my job Rose sobbed to her brother and I used to love working there. I’m trying to keep what’s going on a secret from the other office workers but this Mr. Richard won’t give up. Yesterday he called me into his office and swore that something awful might happen if I won’t see him again. Saturday was always movie day for me and my buddies especially the early afternoon triple features and of course the serialized adventure short reels called chapters. Buck Rogers fighting the evil Emperor Ming or Flash Gordon and his girl friend Dale. Did we dream of the beautiful Dale, saving her at the last minute from a fate worse than death! Of course we did and came out after hours and hours in the darkened movie theater blinded by the bright sunshine. I remember that afternoon coming home and noticing a crowd and several police cars parked in front of the shoemakers run down house. My folks were out front as 76
were all the neighbor’s who h heard the ambulance sirens. Patty was sitting on the curb seeing to his hysterical father who was tearing at his hair screaming in Polish or Russian. It turned out that Rose’s spurned suitor not to be refused had come to her house and pounded on the hall door until she came down stairs to face him. She had asked Eddie to stay put upstairs, please give me a minute to reason with him and went to face him. That minute may have saved his life but there was time enough for Tom Richard to drag Rose to the rear of the hall shoot her with an old army revolver and then place the muzzle in his mouth and decorate the hall’s worn out rugs with his brain. I had never been inside that house never worked up the courage to ask Patty even one time if I could discover what gave breath to the dank odor of mystery that some late evening made its way under the hall door. Now of course with the blood stains of the murder and suicide soaked into the worn woven floor coverings the curious wouldn’t have to make up ghosts for the Gladstone property. From time to time I and some friends had been over the fence searching for a lost ball and now since the deaths the rear yard door stood open. Cats roamed in and out Arthur Lynch’s dog ran in and were chased out by Blanche who had become even weirder since the killing. Now during the daylight, which she had avoided like, a nosferatu she roamed the streets wrapped in an tattered dressing gown cursing at all who neared her. The mean street kids mocked her some setting their dogs on her. Eventually she was taken away tied down to a stretcher. Gone from our sight like her murdered sister, Eddie had moved out, he was guilt ridden as hell being alive when if only he hadn’t listened to Rose and let her confront her crazed suitor he might have saved her. I wish it was me he lamented. He had recommended Rose for the job she grew to love and then fate intruded on her happiness. Patty had felt his sisters loss in that whatever strength his father summoned for their early morning foray’s 77
together it was drained from his elderly bones. The old shoemaker collapsed one night behind one of his work benches and became part of the history of that creepy house. Patty played on, clacking his metal spoons and ivory bones, sounding like horse hooves on cobbles. The tunes from his accordion were less joyful now sadder times ahead for him they played out. Wassa matter Patty old boy the sots that frequented the Bowery bars asked him. Could he tell them that he missed his cranky old, old father. How he missed the early morning dawn breaking on a new treasure hunt. Maybe a working old wind up Victrola or a bronze for lamp that lacked only a ten cent plug to bring it back to life You might think I’m imagining this because Patty died years ago and the shoemakers house and ours next door and the entire block, corner to corner was taken by the city. There’s a public school there now a neat brick rectangle with a large play area surrounded by a chain link fence. No junk piles here and our old area in a resurgent real estate market reinvents itself day by day. Today, early morning and little daylight now or for the rest of the day. Raincoat and umbrella weather as a mist that hugs the sidewalk will keep most of today a prisoner. I try to clear my eyes and tell myself that it must be a mirage. Patty and the old man out on their daily treasure hunt. Well I shrug to myself, that’s what I’m remembering today and maybe the next time a dream wakes me it might be about the old iceman with the stable around the corner who let me ride next to him on his rounds.
UPPING THE A NTE: A “B U C K E T L I S T ” T R I P Jane Scharfman I’m feeling anxious, but I know it’s the right trip. A cruise, France, Italy, Spain…been there done that. But Africa: I felt it poking at my heart. I felt like I was going to outer space. My anxiety level was high. Well, not as high as waiting for a mammogram result, but pretty much “up there”...and maybe all things that “up the ante” in life should be especially in the forefront as we age. It keeps us young. After cancelling the first trip a couple of years ago, I decided to go to a shrink (well more like a coach.) He didn’t tell me what to do of course, but when he suggested maybe an easier trip, but somehow it just didn’t fly. Each week the conversation of “should I go, should I not go?” The only way to erase the question was to GO FOR IT. I knew if I didn’t go, I’d feel lousy. This was going to be my last adventure. In the meantime, I laid out a bundle of money for clothes in all beige. Not my color, but boots, pants, the whole shebang. And some things Jewish people never buy: bug spray, clothes pins and a rain poncho (K-Mart had a deal for $1.49.) It’s still in the bag. Oh, I forgot the five shots. Now it was just the Visa. Off to relax for twenty-one hours in the air. Fast forward. It was the trip of a lifetime. I learned so much from the animals and the birds...a gift that I didn’t count on. My interest was to up the ante in my later years. Next year, a Carribbean cruise…Chicago, or maybe Portland. Trust me, in a couple of years there will be direct flights from Miami. Jewish people don’t like to switch planes.
TREES Jane Scharfman Trees. How do they grow so strong for so long? Seems like maybe forever. How do they get enough nurturing? Is it just from the sun, the rain, the snow, the wind, even the pollution...does that contribute? They seem to strive without the help of human intervention. They are just there, like Buddists. Do they know something humans don’t know? I guess so. Unlike humans, they have no judgments, they are just there, while us humans have all kinds of requirements for one another. For example, “We have nothing in common” and “He or she is not my type,” etc., etc. Why don’t we just let others be, like the Burt Bacharach song goes, “Don’t Make Me Over.” Isn’t that what the trees do? Trees are happy, no matter what. I GET IT. Their egos were eradicated by God. When there’s a problem, we may think we can’t handle it. If we just leave it alone, we should just look up at a tree — any tree — and breathe.
T H E P OW E R F O RT U N E T E L L E R S H AV E OV E R U S Lynne Stolper As I left my apartment this morning, it was with great sorrow that I had to do something I was paid to do, my job. I had a pretend job as an advertising executive and that’s what the world thought I did for a living, None of the people I worked with except for the boss who set me up on this stakeout, knew who I really was and what I was up to. Today, was the day, I go to see Madam Sarita as she is known in the world of gypsy fortune tellers. Madam Sarita has a small hole in the wall fortune teller store front set-up on 38th Street and Madison Avenue. I have forged a friendship with her, if that is possible. Gypsy’s are not big at letting the gaga (non gypsy) into their lives. They do not trust us and I, do not blame them! We think, they are low life thieves and liars. To some extent, this is the truth. But, I prefer to think they are people, who like to embellish the truth, to make life sound more beautiful, thrilling and interesting than it actually is. They do not tell lies, they tell you what you want to hear. Although, they are not educated, they are smart, streetwise. When a gypsy woman reads your cards or talks to you, she is pulling the answers right out of you, without you being aware of it. When a gaga goes to a fortune teller, they always know, what they are getting into. This is how gypsy women make their living. They work with their families and each one has a job. It is the woman’s job to be a fortune teller. Pretty clever! I first met Madam Sarita five years ago. I was sent to see her by my real boss, Joe McManus, the head of the FBI’s NY office. I was there on a surveillance detail and this case was going to be a long one. You see, there are five-hundred gypsy fortune teller businesses in NY city. Hundreds of 81
people press charges against these women for taking their money and occasionally stealing their jewelry. I am here to get the story, the real lowdown on the gypsy women and their lives. I am going to write a book about the gypsy way after I retire from the FBI, but right now, I have to play both ends of the game. I go to Sarita as a client, that is how she knows me. She will not know I am an agent, until the day I come to take her away and close her shop. While I am taking her to jail, my colleagues will be taking the four-hundred ninety-nine other gypsy woman away as well. I leave my building and tell the doorman I have to be at work early because we are having a big ad campaign to launch our new product. I don’t imagine I will be home before midnight. See you later, I said, and off I went to check into my pretend job. At l0 a.m., I leave for the day. I tell my colleagues I have an emergency.
*** As I round the corner of 38th Street and Madison Ave., my throat gets dry and tears fill my eyes. I have come to like Madam Sarita, as she calls herself. Hers is a business of hocus pocus fakeness, but people fall for it, every time. Why, because they want to! We want to believe there is a force outside ourselves that can tell us about our futures, our families and our fortunes. We want to believe what the gypsy woman tells us. She seems so sincere and exotic, when she was actually born in Brooklyn and puts on an act that is Academy Award worthy! We need to hear good things about ourselves and that our mother’s cancer will be cured by a miracle because the all knowing gypsy woman told us so. She provides a service similar to a psychologist, doctor or lawyer. We pay her for her time and wisdom and her ability to give us hope. She makes us feel better and in turn, we pay her. Ok, that seems to be a fair deal, services for money. It’s when the gypsy 82
woman and her family get involved with schemes to rob a client’s home or she tells the client to take her to the bank to give her a big bundle of cash in order to continue their relationship. That is when the FBI steps in and takes the gypsy woman off the street. Every five years or so this happens. A sweep of fortune tellers is made. The women are rounded up and brought to court. They are all incarcerated for three months based on minor fraud charges. The day they leave prison, their husbands and sons come early and wait for them to be released. Immediately, the gypsy women are driven to their new place of business. A new storefront fortune telling storefront is waiting for each one. Of course, it is now at a new address, and the whole thing starts over again until the next sweep of gypsy women is made. I slowly step up and into Madam Sarita’s salon. Hello, I say, how are you?, I need your help today. I can tell she says. I see an unhappiness in your eyes. You do, I say. What is the problem dear? Is it your man, your money? No, I say, then it’s your job. Yes, I say. How did you know? She says, Madam Sarita always knows, I am a wise gypsy woman. Please sit down. How is your mother she says? I say she is fine and very healthy and your sister, the one who’s husband was cheating with his boss, she is happy now, I say. You see, the gypsy woman never forgets anything you tell her. She stores it in her gypsy memory and uses it to bring you in to make you feel heard and understood. She always understands and has a solution for your problem. Her answers are in her red velvet backed cards, that she will read for you, if you give her enough money to satisfy the god of cards, who will give her the answer, to give to you. Being under her spell, you pay. Is it illegal to pay for services? Not really, if you leave feeling better with hope and a smile, you have gotten what you have paid for. But, it is when the gypsy woman goes too far, she gets caught up in her own power and greed, then it becomes a problem. 83
Thatâ€™s where I come in. Madam Sarita for the most part is a decent woman, whom I like. I know she has had a hard life. She was born into a gypsy family, one that still lives by the old ways. She has to follow gypsy rules or be shunned from her community. Sarita had great hopes of being an artist and studying in Paris, but her hard headed father would not hear of it. It is not for a gypsy woman to leave her community, he told her. It is for her to marry early, have many children and then become a fortune teller. It is her way to serve herself, her family and her community. Sarita was as much a prisoner of her background, as her clients were of her wily ways. We met about ten times in the past five years. I have always come in with some made up story and she is more than happy to help me. Sometimes, I can see the sadness in her eyes, when I leave. She too longed for a job where she could be free to come and go as she pleased without a hundred eyes on her, making sure she never steps out of line and disrespects the code of her gypsy culture. After ten minutes, I tell Sarita who I really am, agent Smith from the FBI. I am here to shut you down Sarita, I say. I knew this day would come, I just didnâ€™t think it would be you she said. I have been shut down many times before and done my time in jail, but I will be back! A gypsy woman always comes back! We are an ancient, persecuted culture and life has not changed that much for us today. We are an underclass, but do not feel bad for me. We are like cockroaches, we get stepped and stomped on but we always manage to bounce back. She said she would see me again. In fact, after I apologized, she released my guilt for having to take her away. She told me, she would contact me when she was back in business. She said, I forgive you for what you have to do, it is your job agent Smith. I said I would come to see her when she was back. Sarita had set me free! Sure enough, three months and one day later, Sarita 84
called me. She said to me, agent Smith, this is Sarita, how are you? I am fine, I said and yourself? I am good, she said. I am calling to let you know my new location. I look forward to seeing you and resuming our relationship soon. A week later, I was in Saritaâ€™s new hell hole storefront shop. It looked exactly like the last one, only she had new hocus pocus symbols on her wall. It was to ward off bad people and curse away evil spirits, she said. I entered very carefully, I didnâ€™t want the ceiling to collapse on my head. Madam Sarita said it was good to see me. I said it was good to see her too. Somehow, I truly missed her and her fake magic. I think she missed me too. I gave her a glimpse of the life I lead, a life she knows she can never have. There is some meeting of the minds between us. She thinks of me almost as a friend from another world and I think the same of her. There isnâ€™t much magic in life, but the smart gypsy woman knows her game and is back in business to return the magic to the lives that need some. The old customers return and new ones are right around the corner. Who, is the winner and the loser here? I am still trying to figure it out!
S H OW T I M E Lor raine Theordor Looking out of the window 3 o’clock in the morning I could spot the man and His cardboard mattress in the Doorway at the side of the Food Emporium Last night I did not see him Until 4 o’clock When suddenly there he was— Ambling along— Then squeezing into and under The small overhead Beside the escalator to the subway. This time no mattress No pants Perhaps tonight I won’t look Out of the window.
LONG A GO Lor raine Theordor He was a handsome Lieutenant I was fifteen He asked me out I didn’t know why. He took me to the Stork Club And said “Let’s have cocktails.” I thought I’d show him how sophisticated I was And ordered the only cocktail I ever heard of I said “I’ll have a shrimp cocktail.” He looked at me strangely The evening was short I didn’t know why.
N E X T TO T H E F I R E H O U S E Lor raine Theordor Thursdays on 14th Street Gold Are a colorful mix of storytellers, Who at the drop of a pen are built-in entertainers. A talented young lady named Toryanna, armed with courage And wit, leads us into the valley of tale and verse. So cleverly is a story told, at times with a touch Of blarney and hilarious family dialogue that has us Screaming with laughter. You can also hear the drone of morbidity, In shades of light to darkness. Forever and always , there are memories of yesterday, That reverberate in our stories today And if we listen â€” really listen We can share the sound of passion Or just a sigh.
UNTITLED S ERIES Beatrice Wyetzner I. Life is a journey. It’s so trite, isn’t it? The big questions are what kind of journey will it be? Who will be with you? Who will be in control. Most of all, where will you go, how will you get there, and how will it end? I’m thinking of a particular person. This “icon of caring” was born into an extremely wealthy family with two parents, neither of whom was equipped for parenting. Her father died of alcohol. Her mother just decided her baby wasn’t pretty enough to care about. This baby became an intelligent not very attractive young lady, who happened to meet a distant cousin. Her journey into renown began with her marriage to this handsome, quick-witted “moma’s boy.” She did what young brides of the day did. She became pregnant again and again. Her journey seemed prearranged. Motherhood and her role as homemaker would be her futre. Then her husband came down with Polio. She stood by him, literally. He wanted to lead the country and she would follow in spite of his disability. Her journey, in fact, was gathering steam. He betrayed their marriage, she decided to stick it out. And, it seems, all of a sudden she became his spokesperson and discovered a world that needed fixing. Poverty. Economic and social injustice. She went down into coal mines and into slums. At first she was reluctant. Who would listen to a mother of five with a high-pitched voice speak truth to power. But she persisted and she grow into her role as a leader. Her journey brought her to the United Nations where she mothered human rights. Her husband died and she lived to be loved and respected throughout the world, just as her husband had. If she ever looked back, would she remember the twists 89
an turns in her life? I suspect she did look back and found satisfaction in her journey. Her name? Eleanor Roosevelt.
II. City children, especially in times of deprivation, look forward to a long Subway ride to Coney Island. There the sun was hottest, the sea so inviting and the sand, well it go into our bathing suits. Best of all was when we’d run over the hot sand, out of the waves, to our mom who was sitting on the blanket in a dress, waiting for us. We would towel off, sure to get red of the sand on our hands. Then we’d watch as mom first took a slice of fresh rye bread, then a piece of chicken, a little lettuce and tomato, and then another slice of bread. Thick, hard to handle, but oh so delicious. We’d stand on the blanket, towel over our shoulders, and we’d dig in. Was there ever a better sandwich than the one prepared with the love of this mother?
III. My mother had two daughters and a son, who as he put it, was the prince. I was the oldest daughter. Maybe that’s why I always felt a particular closeness to my mother. That was a responsibility because her life was reflected in many ways in my life. I mean the life of the heart. What hurt her hurt me. What pleased her gave me a sense of relief. She willed me her courage, though I fought her tooth and nail. There she was through terrible times, holding us together, showing us how to survive. Giving us the tools to do so. She came from a tiny town in Austria Hungary. It was Jewish, and called a “shtetl.” During the First World War, as 90
a teenager, she joined a band of smugglers who crossed the Carpathian Mountains to bring necessities back to their town. She immigrated to the U.S. in 1924 on the last ship to bring Eastern European immigrants here before Congress changed the law. She was a flapper on the Lower East Side and made her own way till she married. She wanted a family. The big depression and relationships made us suffer. But she held her three kids together and taught us the values I treasure today. Growing up with this woman taught me about what it takes. What I regret most is that I never said thank you. I never realized where my backbone came from till much later. I know now.
P H O T O C R E D I T : Ann Quintano 92
I F O RG OT T O R E M E M B E R Allan Yashin CYNTHIA Morris, are you still in the bathroom? You’d better hurry. We’re going to be late. MORRIS (Coming out of the bathroom) Late for what? CYNTHIA Morris, you’re still in your underwear! MORRIS There used to be a time when you were excited to see me in my underwear. CYNTHIA But not when we’re supposed to be going to a party. MORRIS A party! What party? Whose party? CYNTHIA Have you forgotten we’ve been invited to a cocktail party by...by...by...Well, I told you about it weeks ago, don’t you remember? MORRIS Don’t you? CYNTHIA Of course I do! It was that old fraternity brother of yours...Mark...or Nathan...or Martin. Continued 93
MORRIS Never heard of him! CYNTHIA Would you stop that! You know we got an invitation. I put it on the...the...the... MORRIS On the refrigerator? CYNTHIA Yes…that’s right. MORRIS Oh well, I cleaned up the refrigerator door last week. We had takeout menus up there from restaurants that went out of business ten years ago. I threw them all out! CYNTHIA You threw out all the takeout menus! Did you throw out the invitation with them? MORRIS What invitation? CYNTHIA To the party we’re supposed to be going to tonight! MORRIS We can’t be going to a party tonight! My fraternity is throwing a big dinner.
CYNTHIA That’s what I’ve been talking about…your fraternity’s dinner. So why are you still in your underwear? MORRIS Well, I wouldn’t be if you hadn’t stopped to ask me all these silly questions. CYNTHIA So, just throw something on and we’ll leave. MORRIS To go where? CYNTHIA Are you losing your mind? To the fraternity party! MORRIS Cynthia do you think I’m getting senile? Of course, we’re going to the party. I meant where…where’s the party? CYNTHIA I suppose the same place as last time. MORRIS That was the forty-fifth reunion...five years ago. Do you remember where it was? CYNTHIA Am I supposed to remember everything? Well…okay, let’s put our heads together. Maybe we can remember it that way. Continued 95
MORRIS Well, Cynthia, I remember it was in Brooklyn because we got stuck in traffic going over the Brooklyn Bridge. CYNTHIA That’s right, Morris! And we said we didn’t mind because we felt like we were suspended in air... MORRIS Yes, yes, with the twinkling lights of the city lit up just for us. CYNTHIA Oh, it was so romantic! MORRIS Wasn’t it! And then we got to Brooklyn and I said what a perfect place for the college reunion, right across the street from my alma mater, Long Island University. CYNTHIA Yes, yes, I can picture it! It was in a downstairs room in that restaurant called...called...Oh, these damn senior moments are driving me crazy! MORRIS That’s it, Cynthia, that’s it! Not senior...Junior...Juniors Restaurant! CYNTHIA See, Morris, I knew we could figure it out if we worked together.
MORRIS Yes, darling, and I just remembered the party starts at eight, so why don’t you pull up the car while I finish getting dressed? CYNTHIA Good idea, sweetheart, give me the car keys. MORRIS The keys are on the table where I always put them. CYNTHIA No, they’re not. Where’d you put them? MORRIS Don’t blame me. You used them last. CYNTHIA No I didn’t, but just give me the spare keys anyway. MORRIS The spare keys are on the...on the... CYNTHIA The...the...do you mean the— MORRIS No, not there, either. Well, I guess we’re not going anywhere tonight. CYNTHIA To be honest, I always thought your old fraternity brothers were a bunch of morons anyway. Continued 97
MORRIS I never liked them either. CYNTHIA Let’s just stay home. MORRIS Then I can stay in my underwear. CYNTHIA And we can order in. Why don’t you get those takeout menus? They’re on the refrigerator. MORRIS The takeout menus? That’s a great idea. I’ll go get them now.
One hour late r CYNTHIA God, I’m starving, Morris! How long did the Chinese restaurant say it would take the delivery man to get here. MORRIS Thirty minutes…but I don’t know if we can trust them. It was the only takeout menu we had left and I found it under the refrigerator covered with dust balls, along with that pair of slippers I’ve been looking for six months. CYNTHIA But it’s been an hour already! Did you give them our correct address?
MORRIS Our correct address? Was I supposed to give them our correct address? I thought I was supposed to play a joke on him and send him on a wild goose chase, so he can go from door to door on Park Avenue with our egg rolls. CYNTHIA Now don’t go getting sarcastic with me! Being over-hungry always brings out the worst in you. MORRIS You’re right! You’re right! I apologize, it’s just that...oops! There it is. The intercom just beeped. It must be the deliveryman. I’ll buzz him in! CYNTHIA Wait a minute, Morris. Look on the TV monitor of the intercom to see if it’s him. MORRIS You know I can’t do that! These damn new intercoms they put in don’t work The screen is always blank. CYNTHIA Well, then you can’t buzz him in! MORRIS Why not? CYNTHIA Because how do you know it’s the delivery man? MORRIS Well, who would it be? Continued 99
CYNTHIA Exactly! It could be someone buzzing every apartment until someone lets him in. MORRIS But why would someone do that? CYNTHIA Exactly! Who knows what they’re up to? Do you want to be responsible for letting a stranger into the building so he can roam around up to no good? Writing graffiti in the lobby, peeing in the elevators, throwing cigarette butts in the stairwell, breaking into apartments? MORRIS Cynthia, I didn’t know you have such a dark view of humanity. What if he’s just a neighbor who forgot to take his new-fangled computerized front door pass. I mean weren’t keys good enough? Now every time I come home I feel like I’m living in a Holiday Inn. CYNTHIA Well, there he is, beeping again to get in. MORRIS I’ll speak to him over the intercom. If his voice sounds Chinese I’ll let him in. CYNTHIA Morris, that’s so racist! MORRIS Alright, I’ll just go down to the front door and see who it is.
CYNTHIA Are you crazy? What if someone has buzzed him in and, he’s got a knife or a gun? MORRIS But what if he’s got Chinese food? CYNTHIA Your life is worth more to me than a few egg rolls and an order of roast pork egg foo young. I’m not letting you out of this apartment! Especially in your underwear! MORRIS Alright, Cynthia, alright! Your regard for my safety is touching. So, crank up the microwave! I think there’s a Swanson’s TV dinner in the freezer left over from the blackout of 2003.
T he End
P H O T O C R E D I T : Ann Quintano
Acknowledgements As a small, grassroots organization, NY Writers Coalition relies on the generous support of those dedicated to getting the voices of those who have been silenced heard. Many thanks go to our foundation, government, and corporate supporters, without whom this writing community and publication would not exist: Amazon.com, CreateSpace, the Kalliopeia Foundation, Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. We rely heavily on the support of individual NYWC members and attendees of our annual Write-A-Thon. In addition, members of our Board of Directors have kept this vital, rewarding work going year after year: Jennifer Belle, Louise Crawford, Shaina Feinberg, Marian Fontana, Sandy Huang, Lisa Smith,, and NYWC Founder and Executive Director Aaron Zimmerman. Weâ€™d also like to thank Susan Fedynak and Tory Meringoff, NYWCâ€™s volunteer workshop leaders who made this book happen, and the dedicated contributors and workshop members at the 14th Street Y.
A b o u t N Y Wr i t e r s C o a l i t i o n NY Writers Coalition (NYWC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates opportunities for formerly voiceless members of society to be heard through the art of writing. One of the largest community-based writing organizations in the country, we provide free, unique and powerful creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people from groups that have been historically deprived of voice in our society, including at-risk, disconnected, and LGBT youth, homeless and formerly homeless people, those who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, war veterans, people living with disabilities, cancer, and other major illnesses, immigrants, seniors, and many others. For more information about our work and NY Writers Coalition Press publications visit W W W . N Y W R I TE R S C OA L I TI ON . OR G .
NY Writers Coalition Press is proud to present the latest installment of 14th Street Gold, a collection of writing from NY Writers Coalition workshops at the 14th Street Y in New York, NY. For more publications from NY Writers Coalition Press, visit our online bookstore. WWW . NYWRITERSCOALITION . ORG
J UDITH M. L UKIN Y ASUKO N AGASAWA E MMA P HOJANAKONG A NN Q UINTANO B OB R OSEN J ANE S CHARFMAN L YNNE S TOLPER L ORRAINE T HEORDOR B EATRICE W YETZNER & A LLAN Y ASHIN
M YRA B AUM M ARY B LAS J OHN C APPELLETTI A NTOINETTE C ARONE H UNTER D EMOS M URIEL G RAY E DI H OLLEY E ILEEN D. K ELLY D AISY M ENKES K LEIN C ECILE W ERTHEIM K RAMER S UZANNE L APKA S YD L AZARUS A NNETTE L EWIS
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EDITED BY S USAN F EDYNAK & T ORY M ERINGOFF