I mean to write and tell you all about this when it happens two or three weeks ago, but life has a funny way of shunting my trains of thought onto a quiet siding while a few expresses roar down the track on their very important and attention grabbing way.
If you are not aware that St. Christopher’s School, which is where the little guys and dolls of this story go to school to learn about becoming good citizens and such like, wins big and is a few dozen “C” notes better off you should be. They take a chance a couple of months ago on an offer from the outfit which runs the paper racket with the yellow and green dumpster down at the back of the parking lot near the school; which parking lot is also the playground where the little guys and dolls work off all that energy and give their teachers a chance for a blow. While the young scholars run around like chipmunks just before a snow storm, the teachers kick off their shoes and put up their feet; that is if they are smart.
Now, this is a two horse race they say between St. Chris and Infant Jesus School, another school for little guys and dolls with which I am not so closely connected but I know enough about to worry about them finishing ahead of m”nag”, to see who collects the most of what nobody wants, namely yesterday’s news, and we give you a little extra change for your effort. “Such a deal,” my good friend Howie’s Uncle Max, used to say,” you couldn’t get in a store!” Uncle Max runs a pushcart down on Elizabeth Street in what used to be called Lower Manhattan but now has a dolled up name like SOHO or something no one else knows what it is at all. He sold old clothes and made a pretty good living off the stuff the “Swells” up-town, the top hat and white tie crowd, didn’t want anymore. Uncle Max, a little guy, knew a deal. He hung around with some Irish guys who worked the doors on the big houses where the “Swells” all lived. When they drop off their old stuff, and most of the time it is a thing they wear once or twice, to Paddy or Mike at the door, they wait until Max comes around, gives them some spending money for the pile and brings it down to Elizabeth Street where people know what to do with it.
The funny thing is, Max says, the stuff he sells off his pushcart was made within spitting distance of his push cart. He has a sister or two who does that stuff. Max never wants a store with doors and walls. He enjoys the open air, the free pickles from Morty’s barrels out in front and puts two sons through law school where they graduate and make a lot of money defending mobsters who live a few blocks away.
Anyway, back to the race. Now Jack Daniels, who is from Brooklyn, which is part of New York City, which is the picture next to the word “deal” in the dictionary, has a big smile when he hears this. Mr. D, as he is known to the denizens of the school and other citizens, says, “Saddle up the student body.” Soon all over town little guys and dolls with bags, wagons, baskets and buckets appear at doors wearing their stable’s colors and say something like, “Got any paper for St. Chris?” Two or three come to my door, even, their Mom’s standing outside near the road like a trainer at track side keeping an eye on his talent.
Now I know why God makes catalogs! I drop an arful here and an armful there, and pretty soon the only paper in the house is Kleenex and the books I keep around for decorations.
In my dreams I see the little guys and dolls up on that paper horse in the St. Chris silks galloping around the club house turn and down the stretch to the finish line, low over the neck. They stand up and wave at the finish, three lengths ahead of the competition which should have known better.
I am in the little room in the front of the rectory one bright day a couple of weeks ago and I happen to look out the window as the little guys and dolls flood out on their way home. The joint is filled with them running into Moms and Dads, and the odd Grandfather or Grandmother. All of a sudden it ain’t a parking lot any more. It’s a Winner’s Circle! I ask Linda, who is the glue that holds things together from day to day around the place, “Is that Jack Daniels out at the curb shaking hands and patting shouders and backs?” “Sure is,” she says. “They win the race with IJ and collect.”
There’s Mr. D at the curb in the bright sun looking like Nathan detroit on his wedding day, wearing a canary yellow blazer and bright yellow plaid slacks and I need welder’s glasses to look straight at him. He’s glad handing the little guys and dolls like a Senator on election morning and if his smile ain’t as bright as his blazer then I’m a blind man which I may get to be if I don’t stop looking. I am on my way to asking him what he thinks about today’s card when I think better of it. I do not want to give the little guys and dolls notions, especially at this time of the year, about handicapping.
I walk back to the kitchen to build a salad and think, “What a grace…”