When I walked into our apartment my Mom tells me not to make any plans for tomorrow morning. She told me that my sister is going out to buy school clothes tomorrow. So she can’t go with her to shop for food that day. She needs me to go with her to shop for food at the open air market on Union Street. I really didn’t want to go with her but I didn’t argue because I know she needs my help to carry home the shopping bags loaded with food. I said okay but asked her if I could visit Mr. Nick before we go.
She knew I wanted to find out if Mr. Nick still needs my help in assembling the Foot Ball Wedding sandwiches next weekend. She said okay but not to make it to late because the heat will start to rot the fruits and vegetables at the open air market before we get there. We all sat down for dinner except for my father who was still working.
I hardly see my Dad, he’s always working. When he gets home late at night he washes up, eats and goes to bed for a couple hours of sleep, he then gets up early and goes back to work. I’m thinking to myself that I hope I don’t have to work that hard when I grow up. After dinner I got washed in the laundry sink, I took off the rest of my war paint, put on clean clothes and sat by the radio to listen to the adventures of Batman and Robin. I love to listen to the action radio programs. When I close my eyes and I can hear and see Batman jumping and flying over the roof tops chasing after the bad guys to bring them to justice.
After the Batman stories were over I was nodding off and I could not stay awake long enough to listen to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans riding after more bad guys and singing western songs. I was just too tired from running and jumping all around like African Natives chasing the Luqure Street jungle animals up and down the block, so I went to bed.
It was morning, my Dad took off for work, I had breakfast and went down stairs to talk to Mr. Nick about assembling sandwiches. Mr. Nick was having coffee when I walked into the store. I sat next to him and asked him if he needed me next weekend. He told me that he had a sandwich order for only one wedding so he will need me to work on Saturday. I thanked him and told him that I will report for work at 11AM Saturday. When I left the store I noticed a new kid about my age throwing a soccer ball against the wall of the building and hitting it with his head. I stood there looking at him and when he stopped he walked over to me and said “bon giorno” which meant “good day” in Italian. I responded in Italian and he looked a little surprised that I knew the language. We introduced ourselves. His name is Michael Della Pesca. I told him that in Brooklyn he will be known as Mike the Fish.
We both laughed and I told him that I had errands to run but I can hang out with him later this afternoon or tomorrow. Then I took off to meet my mother to go shopping with her on Union Street. We got there a little after 9AM and it was already crowded with people, you think that the vendors were giving the stuff away. My Mother stops at a food vendor cart to buy vegetables. She talks to the vendor about the freshness of his produce and then they start to fight over the price. While I was standing next to her I noticed my cousin Johnny’s brothers, Frankie and Albert working the crowd selling paper shopping bags. They buy a hundred bags for 5 cents each and then sell them to the shoppers for 10 cents each. When they’re not selling bags they shine shoes for 25 cents to make extra money. I wanted to join them a couple of times but my Dad told me that he will kick my ass if he found me selling bags or shining shoes. He didn’t want our neighbors and friends to think that he could not take care of us.
Anyway, if my mom ever settles on a price with the vendor we will need a couple of shopping bags to carry the fruit and vegetable she plans to buy. So I touched her shoulder and asked her to give be 50 cents to buy shopping bags. She looked up to see Cousin Frankie and Albert walking towards us. She reached into her pocket book and gave me the 50 cents to buy the bags. It took several hours for my mom to get the fruit and vegetables at the right price. We now have 4 shopping bags to carry home. We’re not done shopping yet.
We walk over to Hicks and Union Street to buy two chickens. We go into the Acqua Caldo (Warm Water) live market. This place is like a zoo. They not only have live chickens for you to buy, they have rabbits, turkeys, pigeons, ducks, piglets, and other strange looking animals. The sounds and smell of all this livestock just makes me sick. My mother talks to the owner Joe the Geep and selects two fat chickens. Joe drags the chickens out of their cage by their legs and gives them, as they’re screaming and yelling to the executioner behind the counter. This guy is dressed in a rubber suit with tall rubber boots. He so fast, he grabs the chickens and cuts their throat with a sharp knife. He then throws them into a barrel to die. It seems like it takes forever for the chickens to stop jumping around in the barrel while they’re bleeding to death.
After a minute or two the executioner takes the chickens out of the barrel and dips them into boiling hot water, then hangs them upside down to take the feathers off, cuts them open to remove their guts and then asks my mother if she wants the chicken head, feet, liver and heart to make soup. My mother says yes and the man then cleans everything in the boiling water and packs the chickens and inners in paper and gives it to my mother. While all this was going on I watched the executioner kill and skin rabbits. He kills the rabbits with a knock on the head with a large wooden hammer, then he guts and skin them while they are still alive. I hate to go to the live market with my mother. It’s like watching a horror show. I’m glad it’s over and we can now take all the food we bought home with us. I helped my mother carry everything to our apartment and then I took off to meet Pecker and Jimmy Pizza.
I found them in front of Jimmy’s building on Columbia Street tossing picture cards against the wall, sort of like pitching penny’s. As I walked up to them they asked me why I have a sick look on my face. I told them about my trip to the live market and when I was done with my story Pecker and jimmy looked sick too. The game they’re play is with airplane picture cards, instead of baseball cards. They toss three cards each time towards the brick wall and the closest to the wall wins all the cards on the ground. I don’t like this game all that much because the picture cards really get beat up and are not worth keeping. I rather flip the cards instead of tossing them against a brick wall. After about 20 minutes they stopped playing the game. Now that summer is almost over, we sat on the curb talking about the street festivals and going back to school.