Sunday, May 9, 2010

Seven-Inch-Vinyl Excerpt: Chapter Nine: "Down The Aisle"

(From the Unpublished novel. Copyright Donald Riggio 2010)

Joseph Rabinowitz and Janet Cavelli were married on April 10, 1954 in a traditional Jewish service at the Beth Shalom Synagogue on West 100th Street. The guest list was small. Solomon and Myra were all that remained to represent Joseph’s side. Though invited, Vince Cavelli did not attend his daughter’s nuptials, but he did send a generous gift. A handful of friends from the neighborhood, along with Joseph’s boss from the shoe store and his wife, were also in attendance. Solomon treated the gathering to dinner in the private room of a nearby restaurant.
The bride and groom spent their wedding night at an inexpensive midtown hotel, where they were free to be playful and noisy in their lovemaking.
Their financial situation dictated a move. Since they couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan, they rented a one-bedroom apartment on McLemore Avenue, in the Bronx. They furnished their new home with Joseph’s back pay from the army and money they’d received as wedding gifts.
Though it was something of a sparse beginning, they were determined to get by.
“I mean it Joseph,” Janet told him, “I can do my part. If I get all dolled up, fix my hair and make-up, I can look older and get a job waiting tables.”
“Hey… I don’t know if I like the idea of my wife getting dolled up to go to work. I know how guys flirt with sexy waitresses.”
“Quit that, you! You’re not gonna be stuck selling shoes all your life. With me working, if something comes along in the music business, you won’t have to worry about changing jobs.”
“I’m not having any luck finding anything, Sweetheart. Maybe it’s not in the cards for me to even be in the music business.”
His sudden self-doubt bothered her. “Careers don’t just happen overnight.” Then, she caught him grinning at her. “Joseph Rabinowitz, are you laughing at me?”
“No, not laughing…just trying to figure out how I could be so lucky to marry the most beautiful, sexy and intelligent woman in the world.”

Janet made good on her offer to go to work. A new hairstyle and more make-up did indeed make her look older and she dressed in a way to highlight her good figure. She got a job as counter girl at a small Greek coffee shop near the entrance to the IND subway line. Her morning work hours saw her serve commuters stopping in for their first cup of coffee on their way to work. Tips were good.
One morning, after the breakfast rush, a man dressed in a wrinkled suit sauntered up to the counter.
“Hi, what can I get you?” She asked with a smile.
“Is the owner around anywhere, sweetheart?”
Janet half opened the swinging door behind her. “Mr. Yanitz, there’s a man here to see you,” she called out.
The proprietor, Tom Yanitz, came through the door. With his curly hair, thick black moustache and stubble chin, the Greek-American looked more like a cook than a restaurant owner. Janet busied herself by refilling sugar shakers, remaining close enough to hear the conversation between the two men.
“Good morning sir,” the salesman began his pitch, “I represent the Sebring Jukebox Company and we have an exciting offer for you to consider today. I can put our top selling model, M100B in here in less than a week. It’s the only machine on the market right now that plays those 45’s the kids go crazy for. One hundred selections at the push of a button.”
“Ahhh, if I put a record machine in here, I’ll have a gang of no good kids hanging around not spending any money,” Yanitz complained.
“They’ll be spending money all right. They’ll be feeding it coins like they feed peanuts to elephants at the Bronx Zoo.”
“Some of the kids they got in this neighborhood belong in the zoo. Where would I put the damn thing anyway?”
The salesman looked around the main dining room.
“How about up against that far wall back there where you got that rickety old piano? Is there an outlet on that wall?”
Yanitz and Janet both looked at the upright piano standing beneath a painted mural of Greek ruins.
“Yeah, there’s a plug back there.” Yanitz said.
“Perfect spot for it.” Janet interjected.
The two men laughed.
“Well, if the help likes the idea…I guess it’s settled.” Her boss’s remark sent Janet off with a blush in her cheeks.
Yanitz had Janet serve the salesman a free cup of coffee while they sat filling out the order form for the new jukebox. Before he left the diner, the Sebring salesman put a three-dollar tip on the counter. Obviously, he thought her comment to her boss helped make this sale.
Later, Yanitz surveyed the area where the jukebox would go.
“Pepe!” He called out.
A short, well-muscled Puerto Rican man in his twenties appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. “Yeah, boss?” the dishwasher asked.
“When you see the sanitation men, ask them when we can put this piano out for pick up?”
“Sure thing, boss.” Pepe went back into the kitchen.
Janet approached her employer. “Are you just going to throw it away?”
“Yeah, I got no use for it. I’m not even sure the stupid thing works.”
“Well, then, can I have it?”
“Do you play the piano?”
“No, I don’t. You see, my husband and I don’t have a lot of furniture in our apartment. I think a piano would look great in our living room.”
“Yeah, sure, go ahead. If you can get it out of here before the garbage men take it.
As Yanitz walked off, Janet realized the enormity of the task she’d given herself. She wanted the piano to be a surprise for Joseph, so she needed some way to get the instrument home. She hurried into the kitchen to find Pepe again.
“Pepe, I need your help.”
“What you need, sweet pea?”
“Mr. Yanitz says I can have that piano but I don’t have any way of getting it home”
Pepe looked up from a metal sink filling with steaming hot water, “Where do you live?”
“Not far… McLemore Avenue,”
“That don’t sound too bad. We got the dolly we use to take the garbage cans out at night. We could put the piano on that. But if the boss found out, he’d be pissed.”
“Tomorrow is banking day. Mr. Yanitz leaves early on banking day.”
“Yeah, yeah, that would work. But we’ll have to be quick like Speedy Gonzales. I’ll get my cousin to give me a hand and we’ll wheel the damn thing right through the streets. What floor do you live on?”
“Third,” she said, hoping her answer didn’t kill the whole deal.
“ Dios mio!”
“Please, Pepe, I really need your help. I can give you a couple of dollars… please?”
“You’re a nice girl Janet. Okay, I can get another guy to help us drag it up the stairs. Just give us a few bucks for some cold beer, okay?”
“Oh, thank you Pepe. You’re a doll!”

Joseph arrived home the next night to find an upright piano against one of the bare walls in their living room. Janet beamed as she waited for his reaction. When he smiled, she had great fun telling him the story of how it all came about.
Joseph tried a couple of the keys. The sound it produced was quite sour.
Janet scrunched her nose. “I think it might be a little out of tune?”
“I’ll say.”
“Your father can fix it though, the next time they come over, right?”
“If he can’t, nobody can.”
“You’re not mad at me for doing this without telling you, are you?”
Joseph took his wife in his arms. “No, honey, I’m not mad. I think having a piano in the house is a pretty cool idea.”

Rock and Roll Quote of the day: "The preacher said will you take this woman to be your wife, to love and to cherish for the rest of your life?" From - Down the Aisle By: The Quin Tones

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