The Old Neighborhood
Me and my buddy Angelo lucked into a parking spot and began walking down Essex Street in Brooklyn, like we owned the place. The way we did when we were kids. Only thing is the place had changed. It wasn't that it was more run down or anything—it wasn't in great shape when we lived there—but the smells were different. It's hard to explain.
I was expecting to see Greenberg's Grocery Store, on the corner of Essex and DuMont. He always had this big barrel of sour pickles holding open the door during the summer. Next door was Vinnie's Pizzeria. You could smell the pizza and pickles halfway down the block, and it always told me I was home. But neither place was there any more. They built this apartment house instead. What made me sad was the new building looked like it had been there forever.
We could hardly find our old apartment building, like our past wasn't there any more. The bricks had been painted red and there was this black wrought iron fence separating it from the street. The building looked nice enough, but it reminded me of one of those make-believe facades you see in Disneyland.
That's when we saw this Puerto Rican dude spray painting the cellar door in front of what used to be Doc's Drug Store. I couldn't make out what the hell he was spraying, just a bunch of squiggles and Spanish words—gang shit.
Without thinking, I yelled, "Hey, cut that out."
The guy looked up like I wanted to die young. I saw his muscles bulge from his wife-beater T-shirt and the hand not holding the spray can was balled into a fist. So I put on this tough guy act I learned watching De Niro movies. I squinted at him and wrinkled my nose.
I hoped I didn't look like the fucking Easter bunny.
No doubt the dude could kick my ass from here to Canarsie. But I couldn't back down.
Lucky for me, Angelo stepped between us. He's only about five feet six, but even his face has muscles. He looks at you wrong and your eyebrows fall out.
Angelo just stared until the guy blinked. Then he said, in a voice that scared me, "Get the fuck outta here." The guy pointed to me and laughed. He sprayed one last dot on his masterpiece and walked away real slow, like he had won the battle.
Angelo turned to me. "What the hell you do that for? Doc doesn't even own this place any more. Besides, we used to write on the walls all the time."
"Yeah, but what I wrote made sense, you know? Like the stuff I used to write about Maria DeCannio sucking donkeys.
I could see Angelo was thinking about Maria. He almost smiled. Then he said, "We better get outta here, man, before the guy comes back with his buddies."
So we hopped in my Buick and drove home to Long Island.
Wayne Scheer, a frequent contributor to Camroc Press Review, has been locked in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne's, not the turtle's.) To keep from going back to work, he's published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including, Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, available as a free download here. He's been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net.
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