‘Two Bucks Apiece’
It was the mid-1970s and I had flown into La Guardia from Detroit to attend a conference in New York.
I was on my guard against taxi drivers who might ask a question on the way to Manhattan about the route to see whether they could get away with taking me on a roundabout ride to my destination.
On this occasion, I was headed to a hotel not far from Grand Central, so I was happy when I realized that I could take an airport bus that would drop me close to the terminal.
As I walked toward the bus, a man asked if I needed a cab. I figured there was no way I could be duped since the hotel was so close to the terminal.
So I said yes.
The man took my bag and we walked around the corner to his cab. I told him my destination. He put my bag in the trunk, opened the rear door for me and walked away. I was a bit puzzled.
A minute later, he returned and deposited another passenger in the back and another in the front.
“That will be two bucks apiece,” he said.
I asked whether he was going to run the meter. He said he wasn’t. The other two passengers and I looked at one another, hesitated a bit and then paid him. He walked away again.
Another man appeared, got into the driver’s seat and drove off without a word.
We rode in silence, and soon pulled up in front of my hotel.
The driver and I got out. He handed me my bag.
“It will be $3,” he said.
“But I already paid the other guy,” I said.
The driver looked me in the eye.
“What other guy?”
— Charles Steedman
In Kings County, Looking Up
A dark blue star balloon —
a king might call it royal blue —
hovers over Avenue U,
then, loosed from its string,
rises six flights up between
and coasts away on the ocean breeze
to grace gray skies over Brighton Beach
and anyone with eyes to see.
— Tom Furlong
June 20, ’45
Years ago, on my mother’s birthday, I gave her a copy of Jan Morris’s “Manhattan ’45,” a fabulous book that describes all that happens in New York City on June 20, 1945, the day the Queen Mary, in front of huge crowds, pulled into New York Harbor bringing soldiers back from the war.
“Oh, I was on the Queen Mary that day,” my father said. He walked into his room and quickly came out with an ID card that proved that, yes, he had been on that boat.
“Oh,” my mother replied, “I was on my lunch hour, downtown.” She said she had been on the top of what she called the Pickering Hicks building that day, “where I could see the Queen Mary coming in!”
Until that moment, neither of them had known the other was there.
— Donald Berger
I had taken the subway back to my neighborhood in Queens after completing the New York City Marathon. As I left the station, I saw the Q23 bus pull into its stop.
I usually walk home from the subway, but I was achy and exhausted from the race. Opting not to add more distance to my day, I hobbled to the line for the bus and got on.
I struggled slowly up the steps in my shiny Mylar blanket and finisher’s medal. The bus was already packed. The driver gave me a knowing nod as he picked up a microphone.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “this man beside me just completed a marathon. Is there a kind passenger who might offer him their seat?”
Everybody broke into applause, and I traded fist-bumps with a bunch of high school kids. A man stood up, offered congratulations and motioned for me to sit.
I plopped down and let out a happy sigh. Sitting next to me was an older woman. She reached into her shopping bag, smiled, pulled out a white bakery box and undid the string around it.
“You look like you could use one of these,” she said, offering me a chocolate chip cookie.
— Alan Cory Kaufman
I strolled up and down the side streets of the Upper East Side trying to get an early glimpse of the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations going up on the outside of well-appointed townhouses.
The Halloween season had delivered some astoundingly ghoulish decorations this year, from strobe-light ghosts to wall-climbing skeletons. Those macabre mementos were now packed away.
As I soaked in the new and colorful replacements on one building, a man who was older than me walked past, gesturing in admiration.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” he asked, catching my eye.
He stared for a moment and gave his own contented nod.
“And not a body part in sight,” he said.
— HP Newquist
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee
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