(Moote Pointe NY) -- Tony had the deli around the corner and down the block. Four Fellas Deli. Once Young Einstein the Math Genius asked him who the other fellas were. He said “oh, I have a partner. That’s it.” So why four fellas?
Tony holds up a hand. Four fingers. The fifth one fell into a sandwich he was slicing ham for. He picked it out and wrapped both it and the sandwich but not together. By the time he got to Greater Moote Pointe Medical Center, they said they couldn’t put it back.
So why not call it “Tony Four Fingers’ Deli?”
“Makes me sound like one of those ‘Street Guys.’ You know… like the guy who sells sewer pipes from a storefront in Ozone Park.”
It’s an old fashioned place. Big glass front cold counters, a walk- in cold room. A pre- barcode cash register.
Oh, and an adding machine. Young Einstein wasn’t really a math genius.
Einstein liked Tony because Tony was the earliest of early birds. So day after day for year after year, in the heat of the pre dawn summer or the cold of the pre dawn snowfall, he’d stop at Four Fellas for his coffee and a buttered roll.
Sometimes, if it was busy (at that hour? Sure. No one else was open!) Y.E. would help out behind the counter. There was plenty of time to get to work.
One Monday morning, Einstein walked in a 4:45 am.
“You’re late” says Tony.
“Yeah,” says Einstein, “I’m out of work so I slept in.”
“You ain’t out of work now,” says Tony. “Put on this apron and get back behind here.”
The morning rush gets going with the every day appearance of Robby Hardttack. We always called him “Heart Attack.” All he got was a cup of decaf.
Einstein says he’s always wondered about the decaf because it smelled so good. And this was in the days when decaf smelled more like molten iron than coffee.
“Oh,” says Tony, “it’s not really decaf. I don’t have decaf. Awful stuff.” So what happens if Heart Attack has a real heart attack?”
“Nah. One cup? Never happen.” Far as we could tell, it never did.
Second guy in the door every morning was Schlomo the Carpenter. Here come the Jewish carpenter jokes. Actually, Schlomo was a foreman. Hadn’t hammered in a nail or sawed a 2x4 in 15, maybe 20 years. Sat there in the bird’s nest on top of whichever building he was working. Did nothing. Straight time for carpenter, plus half time for foreman.
Schlomo could recite the baseball stats in the Daily News from memory before noon.
It’s a Sunday morning and Young Einstein the Math Genius can’t get the tape into the adding machine. Tony starts to help, glances out the window, starts running for the back. “That’s the Sunday Times,” he says over his shoulder. Just have the guy put them on the rack. I’ll be back later.
Off he goes, all 320 pounds of him and in a fingersnap, he’s vanished.
Times guy comes in, weighs 280, easy. Puts the papers in the rack. “Where’s four fingers?” Hands Einstein a bill. Tony is seven weeks behind.
There’s almost nothing in the cash drawer. “Where’s that SOB, Tony?”
He was just here. “I don’t know.”
280 walks back, opens the walk-in, looks around. No Tony. Goes to the bathroom (really the bath booth,) looks. No Tony.
What he says next is unfit to print. After all, the guy was from the Times.
“You tell him eight weeks next week or he’ll get a less friendly reminder. Is that his Cadillac in the parking lot?”
A few minutes later, Tony in a sweat, emerges from his “office” which also is a closet. It’s cold in the store, but he’s sweating. We don’t talk about any of this.
The place is closed now. Last anyone heard, Tony was selling Christopher Columbus medals door to door over in Massapequa.
Made the nicest roast beef on rye in all of Moote Pointe. And the Times guy is still waiting for his money.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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