Excerpt of Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse
(Page 2 of 3)
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But I miss the old times. Every Thursday night I would
clean out the shop window. And every Friday morning Papad
set up the new one. While Brooklyn slept Papa turned the
window of Michtoms Novelty Store into a candy fantasy.
Thats Michtom, rhymes with "victim," which is what Papa
was in Rus sia, where the po liti cal bear was always at the throat
of the Jews, but is not what he is now. In the Old Country all
Michtoms were victims but here in Brooklyn we found the
land of gold. In Brooklyn we got everything. Well, nearly
Papa, all he has left of his entire family is three sisters.
The Queen, Aunt Beast, and Aunt Mouse. Thats not their
real names. Its just what my sister, Emily, and I call them.
The oldest, Aunt Golda, The Queen, shes like a mother to
Papa. He would like if she would come to Brooklyn to visit
once in a while, but she never does. Papas sisters, they live on
the Lower East Side, in Manhattan, and they dont cross the
river. Aunt Beast hates the river. Hates it. Well, Im not crazy
about it, either. No one in our family is. But at least we cross
to visit them. The aunts, they never come to see us.
In my opinion Uncle Meyer more than makes up for our
lack of visiting Michtom aunts. Uncle Meyer is Mamas
brother. Mama pretty much raised Uncle Meyer on her own.
Now he lives a seven- minute walk from here, down on Fulton.
But hes over at our place all the time.
Uncle Meyer is a free thinker. He, Mama, Papa, they sit
around the kitchen table. Yakita, yakita. The world twists its
ankle in a pothole, Uncle Meyer calls a meeting. I stick around
when Uncle Meyer comes. I keep my mouth shut and my ears
open, packing stuffed bears, or cutting mohair, what ever needs
doing. I dont even think about slipping away when Uncle
Meyer comes. You can learn a lot from grown- ups sitting
around a kitchen table. Used to be they spent hours there, but
lately we can hardly find the kitchen table. Mama and Papa
and their bear business. Its everywhere.
So these days, when Uncle Meyer tells me, "Pull up a
chair, Joseph," you bet I do, even if the neighborhood guys
are waiting a game for me, which they never used to do and
which youd think would make me happy. Except if theyre
waiting a game for me and Im late or I dont show at all,
theyre angry. They used to just start playing as soon as
enough guys showed up on the street. If I made it, great. If I
didnt, well, that was okay, too. I liked it better that way. I dont
like too much attention on me.
At home I work. I listen. I look. At breakfast, Uncle
Meyer drinks Mamas tea, barely letting it cool. I dont know
how he does it. He bolts down that scalding tea like a man dying
of thirst, then drums his fingers on the empty china. His
fingers are like bananas. Not the color. The shape. Long fingers.
I look at my hands and hope they finish up like Uncle
Meyers. Papas hands are okay. But theyre small, like lady
hands. And they smell like vanilla. I dont want little, sweetsmelling
hands like Papa. I want hands that can wrap around
a baseball and send it whistling over home plate. Strike- out
hands. Thats what I want. Thats what Uncle Meyers got.
Uncle Meyer, I dont know why, but he never married.
Hes younger than Mama but at thirty, hes looking kind of
old to me. I dont know. Maybe hes such a free thinker, he
thinks marriage would get in his way.
Hes not single due to lack of free- thinking females. Theres
no shortage of them in Brooklyn. In the Michtom house alone
we got two, Mama and Emily. Mama. Shes the freest thinker I
know. Shes Papas princess. Has her way in everything. On the
occasions when she and Papa disagree, Mama sends me and
Emily out of the room with Benjamin. "Let me have a moment
with your father," shell say. She never yells, she never nags. As
the door closes, I hear, "Now, Morris . . ." and then her voice
goes a little up, a little down, a little soft, a little warm, and then
comes the laughter, "the laughter of Mamas victory," Emily
calls it, and when we come back into the kitchen Mama is
perched on Papas lap, her head tucked into his neck, her skirt
draped over his legs, and Papa, he is so bewitched by Mama he
doesnt know even the day of the week anymore.
Excerpted from Brooklyn Bridge
by Karen Hesse, Copyright © 2008 by Karen Hesse. Excerpted by
permission of Feiwel & Friends, a division of Macmillan. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.