903 In Mr. Schneider’s Deli 04-17-20

He was a gentle, old, Jew.

He owned the kosher deli
on the corner
of 83d Street and 4th Avenue,
just two blocks from our
Brooklyn apartment building.
I would ask Augie to “walk-me”
when Mom sent me to buy
a bottle of milk,
a loaf of rye
and a pound of baloney,
thin-sliced for sandwiches
for my brown-bag-school-lunch.
(Even I couldn’t screw-up making
a baloney and cold-slaw sandwich!)
Besides,
we could charge it until
Dad got paid
on every second and forth Friday.
Mr. Schneider would jot the sum
into his little black notebook.
Then, on the Monday after the Friday,
Mom would pay for our grocery.

“Trust, like the old-country,”
he would say.

Once,
one late Friday afternoon,
I barged through the deli-door
to buy a bottle of Yoo-Hoo.
I loved Yoo-Hoo!
Besides,
I had some change left
of my allowance from the Friday before.
In the dim light at the back of the store,
I saw Mr. Schneider
standing among the storage shelves,
resting his forehead on the wall,
his Yamulke, crooked on his bald head,
a fringed shawl draped over his shoulders.
He was praying in Hebrew.
I began backing out through the door,
but he turned around,
ceased his prayer
and smiled as he wiped
tears from his eyes…

I could see, again,
the numbers
tattooed on his wrist.

(I was old enough to know
where they came from,
but never would I be old enough
to know the horrors they signified)

“Sorry, my young friend!” he said.
“I should have locked the front door.”

– That He should be sorry for My blunder! –

“No! Mr.Schneider!
My fault! Sorry!
I don’t need a Yoo-h..
I mean I didn’t mean to..!”

“Nonsense, my boy!”
He laughed.
He held up his index finger,
proclaiming,
“The time to sell…”
and I finished his proverb
as I had
so many times before.
“…is when there’s someone to buy!”

“A yoo-hoo, yes?
Of course yes!
No charge!
Consider it a gift
between two old friends!”

(It was, his Sabbath, after all…)

He looked around his store,
his arms wide open,
taking in his whole world.

“It’s a miracle, no?
I
own a deli in America!
I
am allowed to usher in
another Shabbos!
It’s 1955!
And I am
alive!
And my young-goyisha-customer-friend
should accept my Yoo-hoo gift!”

He opened the bottle,
held it out to me,
full and cold,
sweating from the frig.

What else could I do?
You take Communion when it’s offered!

I drank.

About Ken Greenman

Married and Happy. Retired and busy. Living in NC. 71 and counting. December 12, 2020 and it's 72! ... I would love some written comments, critiques, adulation or kind suggestions.... If you have the time and or inclination, please feel free! Not in fear but by faith. We will see. See you later! If you ever want to talk for real, email me and I will send you my cell number.... I am enjoying this!
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