Pickle Jar Game & Pea Shooters
The glass gallon pickle jars were in very good condition. The metal lids were a little dented which would not present a problem as long as each lid sealed the glass container. I asked Pecker to store the cans and glass jars at his house since I knew that my mother would be very upset if I tried to bring this garbage into our apartment for storage. She would never allow me to do this. Pecker said “I have a good hiding place for this stuff in the cellar of my apartment building. No one ever goes down there since it’s full of junk and they’re afraid of the rats.” “Okay let’s do that. Meanwhile I’ll take one glass jar home with me so that I can clean out the pickle juice and put a coin slot in the metal jar lid. The next step is to convince my mother to let me borrow one of our whisky shot glasses. I’ll tell here that we plan to get together with our friends to have some fun playing drop the penny in the shot glass game”
We had no intention to play this game for fun. The men who come to the sandwich shop for lunch were from the docks and the factories in the area. After eating a half a loaf Italian hero sandwich and completing a 32oz bottle of beer most men were willing to try their luck and gamble a few pennies. Especially when they see a couple of bottle collecting kids running the penny shot glass game and win five cents payback in return.
The way this game works is first you have to be lucky enough to find an empty glass gallon pickle jar. You then have to clean out the jar of any remaining pickle juice. Remove the paper liner from the metal jar lid. If the lid has a rubber washer that’s okay, you do not have to remove it since the rubber washer will not interfere with the coin slot. After the paper liner in the lid is removed you then turn the metal lid upside down a punch a coin slot into the lid with your father’s screwdriver and hammer. When you complete the cleaning and the coin slot in the metal lid you then fill the glass gallon with water and insert the whisky shot glass right side up into the water centered at the base of the gallon jug.
The purpose of the game is to slip a penny into the coin slot and if the penny floats into the shot glass “YOU WIN!” five pennies. Of course if the pennies do not float down into the shot glass Pecker and I get to keep them. The odds are very good that we will be able you make two or three dollars in about two hours. When the lunch crowd started to gather around our jug some men would ask “hey kid is the water salt free?” We would say “yes sir, the jar was cleaned before we put in the fresh water. Do you want to taste it?” You guessed it; some men would say yes and stick their finger into the water to taste it. It better be salt free otherwise this big guy may just kick you in the ass and break your jar. But if my parents or sister just happen to see me surrounded be a group of longshoremen or factory workers I’ll have to run like hell.
Once you have all your stuff ready you need at least one dollar in pennies and nickels to bank roll the game. Since we spent all our money on the fireworks and lunch we were broke. So the game will have to wait until after the Fourth of July when we can collect and cash in enough deposit bottles to put together our bank roll. So now we’ll have to lug the empty tomato and soup cans along with the three glass gallon pickle jars down to Pecker’s cellar. I wasn’t too happy about going down his cellar. The rats down there were so big they would eat Simba the cat for lunch.
I first had to go up to my apartment and leave one glass container in hallway near the entrance door. I did not want to bring it into our apartment just yet since I knew in would take me some time to convince my mother to let me clean out this dirty glass jar in our laundry basin. I just hope that she doesn’t see it before I get back home. After dropping off the jar I ran down two flights of steps to rejoin Pecker. By now its late afternoon and I told Pecker “come on we better hurry up and get this stuff into your cellar, before you know it my mother will be calling out our window for me to get to the dinner table.” Pecker turned with his cheeks puffed up “yeah, yeah you Italians are always eating, food, food that is all you think about.” “Oh yeah, it’s better than eating peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day, shit head.” I guess Pecker’s father didn’t cook much with the exception of a can of soup every now and then.
Anyway after our little exchange was over we got down to business and started walking on Luquer Street towards Pecker’s on Hicks Street he lived in an old building near a vacant lot across the street from the Cardinal Tank factory.
As we were walking with our hands full of cans and glass pickle jars I felt this sharp pain in the back of my neck. The pain was more like a sting too light to be a mosquito but maybe it is was a wasp. There it goes again, now it’s my leg, again now it’s my back. I asked myself what the hell is going on. When I heard Pecker turn and say “look out! Ricardo six fingers is shooting at us with a pea shooter.” Ricardo six fingers was a deadly shot with his pea shooter.
Most kids did not walk around with a pea shooter in the summer. If it was the pea shooter season and I wanted to buy one, I would go to our corner candy store and buy a plastic straw and a small bag of dry peas for about 10 cents. To shoot a pea put one into your mouth. Then put your lips around the straw and maneuver a single pea with your tongue into the straw. Then blow as hard as you can and you will shoot the pea into any direction the straw is pointing. If you shoot and hit someone with the dry pea it can really hurt and it means War. It will cause your best friend become your enemy. Even though Ricardo is not my best friend I just want to kill him right now.
Ricardo (six fingers) Lopez is about 10 years old with a dark complexion, close set dark eyes and a wide forehead leading up to a short cut kinky black hair line. His tiny frame made him look about 7 years old. We called him six fingers because, yes, he has six fingers on is left hand. The left hand the sixth finger located just beyond his pinky finger between his knuckle and wrist. He can’t move his extra finger at all it just looks like a hook finger growing out of his hand.
He gave me the creeps, and he knew it. He would chase me up and down the block while he was trying to rub his extra finger hand on me. It was almost like playing tag but I was just afraid of his six finger hand. I was afraid Ricardo would touch me while I yelling and trying to run away from him. I had this weird feeling that one touch from Ricardo’s extra finger anywhere on my body would transfer some a voodoo spell and his hook finger would grow on my body or even my face. I think that Ricardo’s weird hand gave him power over me and most of the kids on the block.
We never asked but we all thought his parents and Ricardo’s sister Maria originally settled in Brooklyn from Puerto Rico. Maria (head lights) Lopez, is about fifteen years old, head lights is what the older teenagers on the block called her, she is a looker. If by chance, Maria would glance at me with her beautiful green eyes, long jet black hair, shapely body, I would just stand there unable to move with my mouth open.
Her brother six fingers Ricardo was never a member of our gang but he kept on trying to get noticed by shooting me in the head with his pea shooter or chasing me around the block with his weird finger. I guess that was his way of trying to make friends. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Hey Ricardo, cut it out! I don’t have time for this bullshit.” Wham! Another hit with his pea shooter. I’m hot, all sweaty from carrying this garbage; I lost it and started yelling “if you don’t stop shooting at me I’m gona drop this garbage and chase you down and shove that DEAD FINGER OF YOURS WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE! Got that Lopez?” I think that he saw the rage in my eyes and decided to run home because he knew that I was out for blood.
Meanwhile Pecker was laughing his ass off at my reaction and what I said to six finger, Lopez. “What the hell is so funny Pecker? Let’s get this stuff into your cellar so I can get home before my mother has a fit.” Pecker was still laughing. “I can’t help it. You would laugh too if you could see your face, all twisted and red and spitting as you were yelling at six finger Ricardo.” I just kept quiet and continued walking to Pecker’s house.