Behind the desk
I was in town for my high school reunion and was looking for a shoemaker. A doorman from West 57th Street directed me to a “downstairs subway”.
Going down a staircase in the station, I saw a small cafe.
“Do you know where the cobbler is?” I asked the man behind the counter.
“It’s me!” he said.
I lifted my shoes, broken strap hanging off.
He looked around and made a gesture that indicated he was alone in the store.
“Oh come on,” I said. “I’ll work behind the counter for you if you fix my shoes.”
I was kidding, but he nodded, took off his apron, handed it to me, and waved at me behind the counter.
I put on the apron while he explained the operation: Here is the register. Coffee and bagel are $1.75. Here are the milk and coffee cups.
Then he walked through the door and disappeared.
I was so surprised that I just stood there looking around. There was a grill, a sign advertising a special scrambled egg breakfast, a candy display, soft drinks.
A customer came in.
“Please don’t let her want the special,” I begged silently.
“I have a terrible craving for Peppermint Patty,” she said. “Do you have those?”
I looked at the candy counter and to my relief I saw none. I wouldn’t have to guess what to charge. Crisis averted.
A few minutes later, the man came back with my repaired shoes. I returned the apron, paid him the $4 he asked for, and made a joke about it being my new job.
— Janet Beam
I was walking alone in Chelsea in the late 1980s. As I approached two construction workers on the sidewalk, I braced myself for the possibility that they would start making provocative comments.
Just as I came up next to them, one of them shouted in a loud, happy voice.
“These are the cutest socks!” he said.
It made my day.
— Karen Lee Schmidt
Regular, a play in one short act
A convenience store gas station, Staten Island. Summer. The present.
TOM, a man in his fifties, approaches the counter, where ATTENDANT, a man about 30 years his junior, stands behind the cash register, staring at his cell phone. TOM pulls out his wallet.
Thirty dollars, unleaded.
It says “lead-free,” but I guess, yes…regular.
ATTENDANT stares at TOM, who hands him two twenties. ATTENDANT rings the sale.
You know, there was regular and unleaded. Now, when you say regular, you mean unleaded. Ordinary lead free. As opposed to plus or premium. Although it was marked “unleaded” on the pump… Ordinary, at the time, I suppose, was leaded, even if it was not indicated.
You’re too young to remember that.
TOM heads for the door.
TOM turns around. THE ATTENDANT hands over a $10 bill. TOM takes it.
(The lights go out.)
I was at the Museum of Modern Art. After reading the curator’s blurb on a wall about the wooden bed that artist Robert Gober had built himself, I turned to see it.
It looked like any normal single bed I had ever slept in. Leaning against one of her feet were a pair of white knee-high boots and a fashionable little backpack.
Wait a minute!
Beneath the sheet and purple blanket was a woman looking back at me. I made a silly comment. She smiled politely, then closed her eyes to simulate sleep.
I immediately returned to the blurb on the wall to see if I had missed anything about the piece as performance art.
My response came from the mouth of a security guard who sped from an adjacent gallery and ordered the woman out of bed.
She sat on the edge of the bed, put on her boots, got up, put on her backpack and walked to the white wooden platform supporting Jeff Koons’ “Pink Panther”. She climbed on it and retrieved the smartphone she was using to check in. Then she walked away, slowly and elegantly.
Later, I returned to Gober’s art bed and chatted briefly with a guard who was standing near him. I told her that I had seen what had happened earlier and asked her if she had made the bed.
A curator had been summoned to do so, she said.
Finally get warm
The weather finally warming up, I put on the spring version of my uniform: black t-shirt, baggy black jeans, beige sneakers and tortoiseshell sunglasses. My hair was tucked behind my ears and my canvas tote bag was over my shoulder.
I was on my way to get Thai food with a friend when I looked across Willoughby Street towards Flatbush Avenue and saw him: baggy black jeans, a black T-shirt, beige sneakers, tortoiseshell glasses, hair tucked behind the ears and an overflowing canvas tote. bag.
He seemed to be heading somewhere important, possibly the airport.
He pointed at me.
I pointed back.
We both burst out laughing and parted ways.
Illustrations by Agnes Lee