Okay, Gang, sorry to be late to the party, but here's my 698-word, 30-minute exercise in total recall of life on the Lower East Side.
Sammy was gone at last. Exiled and told personally by O’Neal himself never to return. This posed several problems for Sammy. First, O’Neal’s watering hole was the first place Sammy’s wife Caroline always went to look for him, because he was never able to keep a leash on his wallet and it usually led him on a merry chase that ended a long walk with a short beer. Once, Caroline had even found their two-year-old daughter crawling on the bar playing with beer bottle caps.
Second, Sammy had recently lost his job. He was a translator of Russian technical publications. That dried up as soon as the current occupant of the White House made friends with the current KGB guy running Russia. Who wanted to read their secrets about social science, stuff about cutting off rats tails until enough generations had passed that rats decided they didn’t need tails? Problem was, Sammy had given the employment agency O’Neal’s telephone number as the business phone where he could be reached.
O’Neal said, “I got nothing personal against Sammy. I don’t hold it against him.”
“I wouldn’t hold anything against Sammy,” Klein the Biker answered. “I’d be afraid of getting terminal depression or some social disease.”
There were some general grunts of amusement among the slackers at the bar that Saturday afternoon.
“But I couldn’t put up with it no longer. Last Saturday there was these home boys came looking for him. When I seen that big revolver they plopped down at a table, I knew I couldn’t have this no more. I hadda call a cop.”
“”Hey,” Klein said, scratching the fur on his face like he was trying to encourage some words to come out from behind his yellow teeth. “Hey, remember the time he brought the box into the bar?”
“Christ, I can’t forget,” O’Neal said. O’Neal was wall-eyed. This allowed him to carry on a conversation staring you in the eye while the other eye waltzed up and down the bar to see who needed a refill. “Margie just hadda ask him what was in the box.”
“Margie, what a hot number! She couldn’t give it up, pestering Sammy till he turned the box over and out came this snake.”
“Jeez, that was a time. Or when he passed out in the basement and the cops called me and woke me up, and then I hadda come down and unlock the door. He was still drinking when they arrested him.”
“And the argument he gave the cop,” Klein said, with the beer snorting out of his nose. “He said he couldn’t be busted for breaking and entering because he was already inside, and you have to go outside in order to break in.”
“Where do you think he is now?” I asked. “He used to hang out at Pete’s Tavern.”
“Nah, he wouldn’t walk to Irving Place. Maybe that Ukrainian place on Avenue C,” O’Neal said.
Klein gave a thumbs up for a refill of O’Neal’s watery tap beer. “I remember the time he brought that whaddyacallit, that falcon in here.”
“Oh, the bird. Jeez, I almost forgot,” O’Neal said. “Big mother.”
“Sammy saw it flying over the East River and when it landed, down by the Williamsburg Bridge, he hit it with a rock. Knocked it out cold. I heard he sold it to the Central Park Zoo for twenty bucks.”
O’Neal sighed. “That would have paid his bar bill.”
“Guess, we won’t see Sammy around here anymore,” I said.
“Or his wife and kid,” Klein said. “Kid was okay. Wonder how it got born to those two.”
“A genetic sport. That’s what they call it,” O’Neal offered. O’Neal was a surprisingly smart man for a guy with an eighth grade education. Shows what knowledge you can pick up in a bar.
“Like maybe there was a sale on DNA at Macy’s?” I suggested. “Think Nike can merchandise genetic sports?”
They both looked at me like I was in the wrong place.
“You understand,” O’Neal said. “I hadda exile him. It was getting out of hand.”
“You didn’t have to put a sign out front telling everybody he was excommunicated from O’Neal’s bar, did you?” Klein asked.
“The Liquor Commission was getting antsy, and I hadda pay extra to the precinct ‘cause they came down here so often!”
“Face it, O’Neal, you’re a Pussy,” Klein said. “The cops are more important than your customers. Look, even the jukebox is broken and we don’t have Sammy for amusement.”
“Well, gents, excuse me, but I for one am going to see if Sammy is hanging at the Uke’s place on C.”
“Wait a minute, I’ll go with you,” Klein said slugging down the last of his beer.
O’Neal looked shocked and both of his eyes got together to look at us. “You ain’t being loyal! What kind of patrons....”
Klein stared back. Little black eyes behind the fur on his face bored into O’Neal. “Take down the sign, O’Neal.”
“He’s exiled. I’m like the priest, and I can kick anyone out of my bar....”
“Him or us, O’Neal,” I said.
“Don’t you guys know how long it took me to exile Sammy? And finally when I do it you twist my arm to let him back in here. You’re not being fair!”
“Exiled is such a harsh word, O’Neal," Klein said. "At school, we used to call it recess.”