|Street of Dreams (standard:drama, 2689 words)|
|Author: Wolfgang||Added: May 06 2012||Views/Reads: 2256/981||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A short story of an immigrant's struggle to raise a family in the new world.|
Street of Dreams by Harry Buschman The Chinese stores were painted black, red, and green. They stood awkwardly side by side along Pell Street, their show windows five steps above the sidewalk and their entrances five steps down. The windows were crammed with onions, gourds and greens the like of which no one knew the American names of, even the Chinese. Along Mulberry Street, in Little Italy there was an Italian cigar factory, “Manifattura Di Sigari Italiani.” For some obscure Latin reason they also sold cheeses and the blend of aromas mingled. Whatever you bought there, to smoke or eat, would bring tears to your eyes. The cigars smelled of Romano and the cheeses tasted of the pungent tobacco leaves of Sicily. Between the cigar factory and the Italian grocer was a vacant lot reserved for the bocci ball court. The ‘space' as they called it, was the former Italian butcher shop owned by Emilio Esposito which burned down due to an explosion. People in the neighborhood said it never would have happened if Esposito, (like everyone else along Mulberry Street), paid the Rossi family for protection. A few blocks from there was the neighborhood everybody called Jewtown. Along Orchard Street there was always the corn-fed smell of fresh poultry and sawdust. In the windows the chickens were hung by their feet and the geese by their necks, looking like strung up city officials after a pogrom, but the chickens only looked like chickens hung by their feet. There were legs of lamb larded with fat from other animals, nothing was wasted. The butchers also sold fresh skinned hides. What would a housewife do with the hide of a steer you might wonder? Everything inside Jake Bernstein's butcher store was kosher, clean, and brightly lit. The floor was sprinkled with fresh sawdust twice a week and It smelled more like a furniture store than a butcher shop. How different from the smell of musk and spice from the Greek butchers along Broome Street. Protection was never necessary in the Jewtown shops along Orchard Street. Jewish stores remained unprotected so long as their clientele remained Jewish, but if a Jewish man opened a shop that a gentile might patronize, then he too had the opportunity to be protected. Protection was not expensive, the cost varied according to the store's gross sales, the protectors only charged you what you could afford. You couldn't hide gross sales––the protectors would come in, open your cash register and check it twice a day. “Protection from what,” you might ask? The answer was simple enough, “from what might happen if you were not protected.” This fact created a nagging suspicion in Jake Bernstein's mind as two men in dark suits left his butcher stop on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. He had insurance for the store and double indemnity for himself; wasn't that enough? “No,” they told him, “insurance is to make amends. It's for after something terrible happens. Protection is different.” The shorter man removed his cigar at this point and flicked his ashes on the sawdust covered floor. “Protection is for keeping something terrible from happening.” In the back of Jake's mind a thought surfaced like a fish that pokes its head above water to see what is happening on shore. “Italian mezuzahs to keep the wolf away––imagine paying the wolf to stay away from my door!” The meat Jake sold usually brought in $250 a day, gross. They wanted ten percent – he didn't make that much in profit, what with his costs and the prices he paid. “Well, what's to do?” Jake knew the answer. Just like Meyer in women's apparel on 1st Avenue and Pincus in his Hebrew book store, they were selling to goyim now just as he was. That meant the mob wanted a piece of the action. “Well what's to do?” You buy cheaper, sell it for more and everybody pays the price of your protection. Nevertheless a momentary wave of anger surged over him, “The nerve of these people!” He said it aloud, not caring if they heard him as they stood out on the sidewalk. "But what's to do?" He remembered what happened to Esposito's butcher shop. "A brave man, Click here to read the rest of this story (213 more lines)
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