from Teitlebaum’s Window

Context N°19

by Wallace Markfield

Then in June, 1932, on the second Saturday, a year exactly till Teitlebaum would start in with his signs (“President Roosevelt had a hundred days but you got only till this Monday to enjoy such savings on our Farm Girl pot cheese”), not long after the Workmen’s Circle took out space in the Coney Island Bulletin urging total membership to stay away from French wines and perfumes until Léon Blum was restored to his parliament; also the same week Luna Park finished off a lousy season with a nice fire; a day after Ringleman, the Dentist, got his glasses broken by Mrs. Weigholtz for proposing certain advanced oral-hygiene treatments; around the time Harry the Fish Man’s daughter, Fat Rosalie, gave away her father’s beautiful little Schaeffer pen for a Suchard, the semisweet; not too long after Margoshes of the Forvitz ran this little item at the foot of his column: “Which hotsy-totsy Mexican actress should be called Amhoretz Del Rio for denying her Jewish blood?”; around the time Mrs. Faygelees kept calling and calling the News to find out when Elinor Ames would be using her question (“Should the son of a sick mother whose husband was put on a piecework basis have to pay for the Gravesend Avenue line transfer of a girl not from his faith?”); nine days since Block and Sully and Belle Baker were on the Rudy Vallee show; this also happening to be the day Gromajinski the Super, in a fit of drunken Polish rage, snipped every radio aerial on the roof of 2094 Brighton Beach Avenune; while Mrs. Aranow’s Stanley was still telling the story of how he had been hailed at Grand Central Station by this fellow in a raccoon coat and a straw skimmer; how this fellow finished off a whole hip flask during the thirty-five cent ride; how he put three dimes and five pennies into Stanley’s palm; how Stanley had extended his arm, saying “Mister, we work for tips” or “Mister, we depend on tips”; how talking and talking of the cabbie’s plight he kept his arm extended; how this fellow had smashed at the arm with a cruel-looking cane and said through his fat nose, “Godfrey Daniel, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a one-armed cabdriver!”; while Mary Mixup still had her share, and more than her share, from Bicep the Wrestler; even as Benny still could not get himself to drown his kittens; right after Smitty tried out for a job with Mr. Bailey; Simon Sloan, all rosy and redolent of matzo and milk, waited till his father, whiffing and chuffing and grumbling away in some old argument, fell into a fuddled snooze. Then with both hands busy Simon came rolling over on top of his mother, going “Lemme lemme!”

“In case Cousin Phillie comes over tonight”—his mother took love-bites at his behind—“that’s just in case, and he wants you should kiss him, remember you mustn’t, you dassn’t say to him, ‘Go away vomithead!’ ”

“What he is,” said Simon as he cupped and clutched.

“You should do a shake-hands with him, a ‘How are you’ and a ‘What’s new, Cousin Phillie,’ ” his mother droned drowsily, “and then you can say to him in a nice way, a not fresh way, ‘The reason why I didn’t kiss you, Cousin Phillie, is on account of I’m only only eight years old and they’re not teaching yet in my 3B1 to be a two-face and you shouldn’t expect it from me as I know the whole whole tragic story of what you and yours did to my Mommy, Malvena the Orphan, how you gave her a misleading,
you begged and begged her she should come and work for you in Hartford, Connecticut, she wouldn’t never never know again from a bad minute, sure she wouldn’t know, how was she going to know, the first thing you did you took away from her her watch . . .’ ”

Simon crooned, softly crooned,

A my name is Aaron
And my wife’s name is Anna
We come from Alabama
And we sell . . . ALPS!

“Without opening a big mouth you’ll tell him also how he repaid your mommy . . .”

Pogrom,” Simon’s father mumbled from his deepest sleep.

“That when she got so so sick and they wanted her to come and bring with her a urination specimen in a bottle you docked her three cents for the bottle. . . . In a pleasant way you can mention he’s still still throwing up how when your Mommy got married he took care of the liquor. . . . You can tell him, ‘Cousin Phillie, I heard already how you took care of the liquor, you and yours by themselves took care of half a case nearly.’ ”

And in her man’s undershirt—Reis, extra large, the elastic scissored under her arms and around her belly so it should not bind or chafe—she rocked and rocked him till the bed creaked on its casters.

A “Yiden” was heard from his father. Then agonized snoring.
Over which Simon’s mother sang in a piercing and buoyant voice,

Why are you still mitchin’
Workin’ in the kitchen?
Why keep the family waiting?
When we can do the graiting?

M’schlagt yiden,” his father croaked out.

“Bright eyes, little beauty,” his mother muttered at him.

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