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Street of Dreams (standard:drama, 2689 words)
Author: WolfgangAdded: May 06 2012Views/Reads: 2390/1097Story 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, 


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