I’m sitting on the curb on Luqure Street after school, not doing much. It’s Friday and I don’t have any plans this weekend. Maybe I’ll call my friend Jimmy Pizza and see if he’s interested in going with me to see a movie with me tomorrow afternoon at the new Clinton movie house. It’s quiet and I’m bored, none of my friends are on the street today. They’re probably home doing their homework so they would be free to do what they want on the weekend. No, not me I’m too smart to waste a beautiful afternoon indoors. I’ll just hit the books the last minute on Sunday night just before I go to bed. I’m so stupid, I always promise myself that I would and could do my homework late Sunday night and you know what? It never works out that way. Come Sunday, I try to do my history book assigned reading, my math, memorize my spelling words and I never complete what I’m supposed to do. I always wind up listening to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans on the radio and before you know it I’m too sleepy to do any homework so I go to bed.
Then when I go to school on Monday, my teacher, Miss Kent, gives me all kinds of grief. Because she doesn’t believe any of the bullshit stories I tell her. She yells at me and calls me a lazy, stupid kid. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. It turns out that my friends seem to be a lot smarter than I am. Most of them hit the books as soon as they get home from school. Not me, if I don’t make up a lame excuse, I am sitting around day dreaming about all the important stuff I’ll do when I grow up. I’m smart enough to know that I’m just kidding myself, but I’m too weak. I do the same stupid thing over and over again.
Anyway, no body’s around except for that new Italian kid, Michael Fish, he is standing about twenty feet away from me facing the wall of my building, banging a soccer ball with his head against the wall over and over again. He must really have a hard head. He never misses hitting the soccer ball with his head. I wonder if he gets a head ache. Just as I was about to nod off I hear somebody calling me. “: Hey, Pepino, come over here, I’ve got something to show you.”
I snapped out of my daydream and noticed that Joanie Pick Tails was sitting on her stoop with her dog Joy across the street calling me. She is waving me to come to her with one hand and she is holding something black in her other hand. I wave back and walk over to meet her and say, “Hi Joanie, what’s that weird thing you’re holding?” She keeps looking into this thing like it’s a pair of binoculars. She’s holding it in one hand while she’s moving something with her other hand. I keep hearing a click, click, click sound as the index finger of her right hand moves up and down.
“Hey Joanie is that thing you’re holding a new fangled camera? I’ve never seen anything like it.” She started laughing at me as she put the thing in her lap. “No stupid! It’s a View Master and I’m looking at 3D pictures through these two eye holes here. The pictures I’m looking at look so real, it’s even better than looking at a movie.” Now I get excited and I try to pull this thing away from her so that I can look into the eye holes and see the beautiful pictures she’s talking about. She pulls the View Master close to her body and turns to block me from getting it and says. “Uh, uh, not yet: I’m not finished flipping the pictures.” I stand there in front of her with my empty hands open like I’m ready to receive something and I say.
“Okay for you Joanie, what are you some Prima Donna or something? When are you going to give me a chance to look at the pictures?” At the same time that she’s looking into this thing she says. “Okay, you’re such a big baby. Here take it; I don’t want to see the Italian Prince cry.” I take the View Master from her and hold it up to my face. Joanie put her hand over mine and shows me how to flip from one picture to another. Wow! It’s like magic; the 3D pictures look so real. I feel like I’m in the photo and that I could touch everything that I’m looking at. Joanie is right, they’re so beautiful. Then she said, “Give it back to me and I’ll change the disc from the Scenic New York City to Batman.” I gave it back to her and she pulled out the disc I was looking at and slid the Batman disc in its place and then she gave the View Master back to me. I look into the freggin eye hole again and I could not believe what I was looking at. The colors are so bright they jump out at me. Batman and the Joker looked so real, my heart started pounding so hard I thought it was going to jump right out of my chest.
I’ve never seen anything like this before. We were playing with her View Master for about twenty minutes when Joanie father walks out of the house. He’s name is Bruno, he is over six feet tall with a muscle build, dark complexion, black beady eye that look right through you and he has an ugly skull tattoo on his arm with a pair of bloody scissors stuck in the skull’s head that push out of one its eyes. It gives me the creeps to look at it.
He is one tuff looking Dude and he scares the shit out of me. He calls out to Joanie, “Hey little girl, are you ready to go to Horn and Hardart with me?” She turns to look up at him and says. “Daddy, can Pepino come with us?” My heart is really beating harder now and I’m thinking what in the hell is this Horn and Hardart thing they’re talking about? If I go with them will I ever see my family again? I started shaking and hoping that Joanie’s father says “no”. But he looked into Joanie’s baby brown eyes and said, “Okay, I’ll take the shit head with us since he did walk the dog for me when you were away.” At that point Joanie’s dad takes the dog and put him in the house. Then Joanie puts the View Master in the house, then for safe keeping. Mr. Bruno locks the door and says. “Follow me; my car is parked around the corner.”
We turn the corner on to Columbia Street and there it is, a shiny green Packard Hot Rod, with painted bright flames shooting out on the front hood and each side of the car. I think I’m going to fall in Love. We get in the car, Joanie sits in front with her dad and I jump into the back seat. He starts the car with a big roar and peels off like a Bat out of hell. Wow! Can this car move? It’s like the cops are chasing us and we’re racing to get away as fast as we can. It took only ten minutes with Bruno’s hot rod shaking all the way to where we’re going, when the roar of the engine and shaking over the cobble stones stopped. Joanie yells out “we’re here!” We get out of the car and walk into Horn Hardart. It’s a very bright place that has tables and chairs to sit and eat and a big wall with little squares that open when you put money into a slot next to these little doors. Each square has food in it that you can see through a window in each square. Bruno walks up to a change booth give a guy a ten dollar bill and the guy gives Bruno ten dollars worth of nickels.
Wow! I’ve never seen so many nickels. Bruno gives Joanie a handful of nickels; she turns to me and says. “Come on Pepino follow me, I’ll show you how we get some food out of these little boxes.” We head right for the dessert section, put our nickels into the machine, open two little doors and take out two big slices of chocolate cake, one for each of us.
No sooner than we took our cake out of the little square and we closed the little door, like magic, another cake appeared in the same spot. I noticed people eating everything from hot Soup, Sandwiches, Pork & Beans, Meatloaf, Mac & Cheese, and Chicken Pies and all kind of side dishes, almost anything you can get at a Diner you can get it here. Mr. Bruno has a Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Coffee. This place looked like a Diner but it’s not really a Diner, you don’t give anyone your food order, you just walk up to the wall of little square doors and pick out what you want to eat. Then you take your tray to where the drinks are, get your knife, fork, spoon or whatever and sit down at a any table and eat. When you’re finished you put your empty dishes or coffee cups back in your tray and take it to a cleanup station.
After we eat our desserts and Mr. Bruno finished his meal we left Horn and Hardart, got back into Mr. Bruno’s hot rod and rumbled back home. When we got back home I thanked Mr. Bruno and Joanie for taking me to Horn and Hardart and said that I would be happy to walk the dog anytime he needed me.
***New Chapters pending include New Television, Prospecting for Silver, Camping, Roasting Potatoes, Brooklyn Bread, Shoes on a Wire, Halloween, Bloody Knuckles, Treasure Map, and Much More.