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Tenth Avenue TKO.

I

In 1987 my father's company, CompuStar, across from Bryant Park on Sixth Avenue, was riding the Reagan boom and my moody father was skyhigh. So high that he suddenly moved us from Hell's Kitchen, 46th Street and Tenth Avenue, to his long- coveted complex of 16-story London Terrace on West 23rd Street (into 9E). My mother was in heaven--fantastic closet space. I loved it: 23rd was my third favorite street in New York, nosed out only by Eighth and 125th Streets. My grandfather, who lived with us, was aghast, mortified and disgusted.

"If Hell's Kitchen was good enough for Father Duffy and Alice Faye whatthehell is the problem with the Daleys? And why, with a coupla shekels in our pocket, do we hafta migrate to a joint named after Albion's biggest sewer?"

Dad's face got blotchy and he clammed up. He could never deal with his father. Mom dived in; she was known in the family as Fearless Fosdick. She showed her famous dimples and hooked her arm into Timothy Thomas Daley's. "Now you just come with me, Papa," she cooed. "I'll show you a real surprise." Gramp was a pushover for a pretty face, especially in the plain Daley family, and allowed himself to be led through the half-bare living room into his very own bathroom. I heard through the open door: "Yes, Papa, glass enclosed shower. Just go on now, give it a try," and Mom, closing the bathroom door, was out in a flash.

She and I were working on settling in her African violets when Gramp, tight-wrapped in a navy blue terrycloth robe, his graywhite hair slicked back, emerged and marched to the center of the living room.

"I'm here to say when I'm wrong, I'm wrong; and, like the Little Flower, when I make a mistake, tis a beaut." He pointed. "That there is the best shvitz in town."

He immediately got on the horn and ordered his best pal from the Kitchen to get down here to the UK and make it snappy. An hour later, Sam Weintraub exited the bathroom and shook Gramp's hand. "You are a hundred percent right, Timbo; it even beats Saratoga." And, with Mom dimpling, they went out to shoot pool.

Life proceeded quite smoothly in and out of London Terrace. Mom turned the apartment into a dollhouse. Gramp and Sam found a fairly tidy OTB on 21st Street and Broadway. Dad got a biiig bonus at Christmas and bought Mom a mink stole (she gave him a gift certificate for Allen Edmonds; he was a shoe-nut, having worn Keds his first ten years). But just when life was on the up-curve, with London Terrace shoving Hell's Kitchen into ancient history, along came: 1988. And G.H.W. Bush.

Who beat our man, Tiny Mike. And then plucked Kuwait out of the fire. For which he became Mr. Popularity. "Just wait," Gramp said. "The elephant cannot stand success; just wait."

Sure enough, the economy, as Tim had predicted, "slud straight down the tube." That included CompuStar, which folded in August of '90, stranding Martin Daley on the beach of Bryant Park. Where all he did was stare without seeing as he wallowed in a champion mood indigo. Gramp, of course, socked him with his old standby: "I always tolya to join the Cops." But mostly he dumped on Reagan, Hoover, Mellon and Standard Oil.

Mom was not a brooder. The day after CompuStar tanked, she got all dolled up, applied lipstick and clicked over to the Fashion Institute on 28th Street, where she talked her way onto the reception desk. Shocked into embarrassed activity, Dad hit the pavement. Two weeks of breaking in a pair of new Allen Edmonds and he hooked on as a salesman at New Wave Machines on Electronics Row near Macy's. New Wave was owned by three Paki brothers with long first names followed by Khan. Gramp visited on Dad's first day and named them Hughie, Dewey and Louie.

Claiming that tough luck was a blessin' in disguise, Gramp shocked us by taking over the laundry chores ("Kiddo, when in doubt, Clorox."). * He kept on shocking us by guiding me through every 99 cent store on 14th Street. Plus which, he and I subwayed down to Church Street where we paid a visit to Meshugenah Ike, who was killin' Crazy Eddie. When I saw my grandfather bargaining like mad, I murmured that Ike's prices were already rock bottom. He hoisted a Daley eyebrow. "Roddy, I'm merely showin' ya how to hondel like a landsman." I felt my face heat up and he added loudly, "Hey, the Hebrew faction love it when a mick Jews 'em down."

Somehow we got by and remained (guardedly) in London Terrace. It was during this rugged time that Gramp got turned on to hoops. Maybe it was a kind of therapy, maybe it was a hard guy's way of showing family loyalty. Whatever, he suddenly switched from Notre Dame football to Stuyvesant basketball. It helped, of course, that in December of this, my senior year, Coach Berman had jumped me from J.V. to Varsity and starting point guard, no less ("Daley, it's time this smart school had a smart kid running the team."). Gramp coulda told him that in my sophomore year, but coaches got Jello for brains; "Jesus, Doug Flutie was fourth string when they finally woke up."

Pegleg banners soon adorned every wall of his room and our decals were stuck to the outside of his glass enclosed shower. He attended every home game (with the Hell's Kitchen Boys in tow). Sam Weintraub owned a '79 Dodge Dart and drove them all over town to follow the team. When his "flivver" was in the shop (often), they took buses or cabs, which Sam called city transport. Besides Sam, the gang consisted of Billy Soa and Aldo and Guido Fanelli, all within four blocks of us in the old neighborhood. (Sam's parents had come over in 1913 from Pinsk; Billy came in '47 from Lodz; and the Fanelli Brothers in '51 from Palermo. Together with Tim Daley, 1917 from Sligo, they agreed that foreigners were ruinin' the country.)

The week after I was moved to Varsity, Dad went up to the School. He hadn't made an appointment, Doc Fishbein, my guidance counselor's pet peeve, but Doc was partial to jocks, so he let it go. As I got the story from Tubby Glatt, a guidance aide/spy, Dad had come on strong about athletics being a waste of psychic energy as well as physical, especially in the pre-college year and wanted me (diplomatically) eased off the team. Doc gave him his "empathetic" nod and told him he fully understood, but the research showed, and his own experience verified it, that if a youngster was pulled off a team to focus on school work, the results were invariably an academic nosedive, plus filial hatred. The hatred could last forever. I stayed on as leader and brains of the team and Doc would wink as we passed in the hall.

In mid-December I had a double double (17 points and 11 rebounds) against Seward Park at home. As we rode the bus from Chambers Street to London Terrace, Gramp leaned across the aisle and said I looked like the real deal tonight.

"Yeah, I guess," I said.

The Hell's Kitchen Guys stared out at the fascination of the city.

"Was there any scouts in the stands?" Gramp asked.

"I don't know. Coach said at practice they were starting to show up."

"Like who?"

"Oh, he mentioned Bates and Alfred."

"Never heard of 'em. What about Georgetown?"

"That's Big East."

"So? You're still growin'."

"I could get as big as Patrick Ewing; it wouldn't matter."

"What about Indiana? Tis well known that Bobby Knight loves smart kids."

"Big Ten, Gramp."

"Big this and big that. The Knight man wants perfection and savvy, like you got. Anything less, ka-boom. Why, when his own kid goofed up, he threw a chair at him."

"How did the kid respond?"

"Shaped right up."

" ... I wouldn't care for that kind of corrective treatment."

"Ain't a question of whether ya care. Hell, I shoulda thrown a coupla chairs at ya father. Woulda woke 'im up."

"Forget it, Gramp."

"Yeah, forget everything that counts. Okay, how's about St. John's? I could see all ya home games."

"St. John's is Big East."

"Oh, Jesus, the broken record. Listen, the Johnnies go for brains. Lookit the McGuire boys. And I remember a shrimp named Hy

Gotkin. Smallern me, but with a oversized brain. He was a Yiddle even, but the Johnnies ate him up. Imagine if they had a sharp Mick. It'd be bedlam."

"Gramp, please knock it off. I got a letter from Cornell. Okay?"

"Sure. What'd they say?"

"They're building a program."

"Jesus and Mary, can't they come up with a new one?"

"Coach verified it. They're looking for a point guard who can shoot."

"Which fits a kid name of Daley. What league is Cornell?"

"Ivy."

"Ya sure?"

"I'm sure. And they have an Agriculture School that's state supported, so the price is right."

"Ya gonna plant string beans on Broadway?"

"And onions. And microbes. Gramp, they send kids to med school."

"Uh huh. What about Bradley's old club? That's certified Ivy. You ain't big as Dollar Bill but you're a lot faster. He runs like my Aunt Tillie."

"I haven't been contacted by Princeton."

"Well then, what about Boston College? I seen 'em on the tube the other night. The fella says, 'And now, ladies and gentlemen, here they are, your screamin' Eagles.' Guess what? Five shvartzas."

I stared out the window along with the Hell's Kitchen gang.

2

In the middle of a January morning, Dad waited on a family from Des Moines and told the father he could do better on a word processor at Macy's or A&S. A Miss Swenson, who'd been trained by Dad, and who, Gramp said, made goo goo eyes at him, happened to be nearby showing the daughter a digital camera. After lunch, the usual brown bag tuna sandwich, Dad was asked by Hughie, Dewey and Louie to step into their office. He came home early that day, right after I got out of practice. While I was knocking down a bottle of Gatorade, Mom and Dad disappeared into his den. They came out an hour later. Mom looked grim. Dad's eyes were filmy and his pallor was streaked with red. Gramp was studying the Racing Form and I was engrossed in a calculus text book.

"Hey," Dad said. "You two students."

We looked up in great surprise.

"No point in sugarcoating it," Dad said. "And it's a family matter.

The bosses and I are not getting along."

"Ya mean ya got fired?" Gramp said.

Mom reached over and touched Dad's wrist.

"That's right," he said. "I got fired."

"I'll talk to 'em. I'll throw in letters. Foreigners can't take letters.

I'll be NYA from WPA at NRA of AAA.They'll defecate a brick. Yull be back in a jiffy."

"Please stay out of it," Dad said. "We'll get by."

"Damn right," Gramp said. He patted Dad on the face. Mom's eyes widened. I focused on my calculus.

3

In the next few weeks Dad learned that he was hugely over-qualified for Rite Aid store manager, Dental Lab technician, Planetarium docent and used car salesman, especially when the car was a Yugo. He stopped reading want ads and, according to Gramp, whose grapevine was always on the job, spent his time at the 42nd Street Library. Mom worked overtime. I worked at the 23rd Street Y on Sundays for a quarter an hour. Even so, I nudged my scoring average into double figures and coaxed our team toward the top of the Manhattan PSAL. Tim Daley was with me all the way.

As we rode buses back to London Terrace, after discussing the game, Gramp gave me seminars on family history. I had thought I pretty much knew it all but as he lectured to an eager student, I realized how little that was. Mainly, he talked about World War II, Gramp's war. I knew Dad hadn't served in the Big Deuce and assumed he was too young.

"Dead wrong, Roddy. He was eighteen in 1942."

"I guess then he was Gramma's sole support, with you away."

"Wrong again. Wish it was so. Ya Aunt Molly, may she R.I.P., did the supportin'. And Gramma worked part time at Francis Duffy's church. He was gone by then but she always loved bein' round his spirit. Martin was away in college."

"Rice, in Texas."

"Yop."

"Why Rice?"

"Well, they had free tuition, for one thing."

"So did CCNY, I've heard. City has always had great engineering."

"And hoops. Back then. Nat Holman was Mister Basketball.

Not that Marty Daley gave a damn. The boy was Joe Klutz and head over heels in love with Texas."

"Why?"

"Search me. Max Brand maybe. I remember Destry Rides Again.

The kid musta read that baby a thousand times."

"Brand could write westerns, no question... about the war, Dad could have enlisted."

"No argument here. Ya Dad was a whachamacallit."

"Pacifist."

"That's the sucker."

"He was a conscientious objector?"

"The expression of the day was draft dodger. Sorry, Rod, he's the oney Dad ya got."

"Well, I know he's against war ... all wars ... "

"Hey, so am I, up to a point. I couldn stand Korea. But the Biggest Parade? Ya know what Joe Louis said about that war? We are on God's side. Not God is on our side, like the heinies. And Joe wasn't no college man. But he went and joined up. Just like Hank Greenberg. And lemme tellya, Hank had terrible flat feet. Ya father's feet was perfect. Perfect."

BRONX SCIENCE AWAY.

(Win in overtime.)

"Is Texas where he met Mom?"

"Yop. Houston."

"I heard her parents were against it."

"So was your Gramma. So was I. But I was overseas and had other things to worry about."

"Was it the religion thing?"

"Yop. Her folks couldn stand R.C.'s. You'd think we was Jews."

" ... Aunt Minnie told me they eloped."

"Minnie's a dumb yenta. I'll tellya what happened, but keep it under wraps."

"Sure."

He looked around and leaned over. "She said she'd kill herself if they didn let her marry ya dad. Kin ya picture? Any female, much less ya Mom, killin' herself over Marty Daley?"

" ... I've seen some photos. He was a decent looking young man ... "

"If ya like a houndog face."

"Well, I guess he had a winning personality...."

"Marty Daley? When he talked to ya, or made a speech, which

I heard him do one time, he talked to his shoelaces. Very winnin' personality."

BRYANT AWAY. (Long Island City) (Win by 10.)

We rumbled over the 59th Street Bridge and the East River was silvery far down on both sides. I turned back from the window. "I guess he did what he had to do," I said. "Don't be too easy on him, Roddy," Gramp said. "I guess it boils down to one thing. People shouldn't be judgmental . . . " "Sure they should. My buddies and me was plenty judgmental with big shots. Bad backs. Near sighted. Far sighted. Punkcherd ear drums. And the most common, nervous in the service. Hey, what'd you fellas think of the kid tonight?" "Hank Luisetti," Aldo Fanelli called over. "Rudy LaRusso," said his brother. Sam Weintraub said from behind us, "LaRusso was a Jew." "Come on," said Guido Fanelli. "He's right," Gramp said. "Thereyago," Sam smiled, "Timbo sees all, knows all." "Take it easy, Sam," Gramp said. "Max Baer? Well, he wasn't no Jew."

"Hell, he knocked out Max Schmeling."

"Kilt him. But, I regret to tellya, he was not a member of the tribe."

"Jesus, nothin' is sacred. Don't tell me Sammy Davis ain't no Jew."

"Oh, he is," Gramp said, "a triple whammy. One eye. Colored.

And a Jew."

"Well, now, that's better. And the man is loyal. He pushes Manischewitz."

"Boy," said Aldo Fanelli, "I love Manischewitz concord."

"He loves it bettern chianti," said Guido.

"Mama mia," said Billy Soa.

DE WITT CLINTON AWAY.

(Lose by 3.)

The lid was on the basket and I had four points against our big rival. I had nine steals and seven assists but still felt crummy. Coach, who was a straight arrow, said without me Clinton wins by fifteen. I felt a little bit better but, even so, I locked into myself on the bus to the Terrace. So did Gramp. And he could always find something. Texas. Dad. Mom. First Army. Generals Hodges and Bradley. D-day plus 10. Remagen Bridge. He had been silent since The Bronx and his pals, who read him like the Racing Form, also shut down. We were quiet in the London Terrace elevator.

When we walked into 9E, I said bravely, "We lost; I screwed up."

Mom said, "Oh, I'm sorry, Roddy."

Dad shrugged.

Gramp gave him a hoisted eyebrow and clumped into his room.

The next day he disappeared.

It wasn't the first time. About once every four years, when "this mortal coil got too damn mortal," he would take off. Mom said it started in '72 when he retired from the subways. She thought he roamed around in the car yards; Dad said, no, he goes up to Starlight Park in Inwood and gets drunk watching stupid Irish football.

Both, when I grew aware of his absence, insisted that I stay cool. Which I've done since I realized that his essence of Bay Rum, White Owl and Listerine was suddenly missing. After two or three days, Tim Daley would show up, freshly shaved and Bay Rummed, with the muck of his mortal coil scraped from his black Irish eyes. But this time, on day three, I got the flutters: I recalled how quiet he was after we lost to Clinton and how, later that night, he didn't even come out of his room for Johnnie Carson. On the fourth day, I heard the sharp voices of the folks in the den: "For Godsake, Mart, call that Sergeant you know at the precinct, the man is eighty-five." "Eighty-seven. Keep your shirt on. I can hear him now, Get on a police blotter and I'll killya. He's okay, the Tim Daleys of the world always survive."

I started on my third re-write of a paper on postwar Japan. In my spare time I checked the local OTB and the forlorn Hudson River piers where he played bocce with the Fanellis or we sat and stared out at the ghost of the Queen Mary bulging with GIs, especially a buck sergeant named Tim Daley, steaming off to rescue Winston Churchill, the sonofabitch. I saw nothing, heard nothing, picked up not one lead.

On the fifth day, Sam Weintraub showed up at London Terrace, twisting his new gray fedora. He said he could stand on our welcome mat and talk. Mom said nonsense and plucked him inside. She sat him down and asked if he'd like a glass of tea or seltzer. Sitting stiffly erect in a red wingback, he said, nothing thanks, he had to get back. Standing tightly, Dad said, "did you come about Tim?"

"To tell you the truth, yeah," Sam said.

Mom pulled up a footstool and sat on it in front of him. "Take your time, Sam."

"Sam, let's hear it," Dad said. He placed his hand on Mom's shoulder. I could see his fingers dig in; she glanced up.

Sam looked at me. "Howya doing, Rod?"

"Fine. Except for Gramp."

"He's a piece of work, all right."

Dad said, "Sam, get off the pot."

"He'll talk, Marty," Mom said. "Won't you, Sam?"

"Why not?" Sam said.

Dad looked at the ceiling. Mom said, "Do you know where Tim is, Sam?"

"Sure."

"Where, Sam?"

"Sam, Godammit ... "

"Easy, Martin."

Sam said, "He's with me."

I leaned in. Dad kneeled down beside Mom. "Whatinhell does that mean?"

"That he's with me?"

"Yes. That's right. Yes."

"Just tell it the way you want to tell it," Mom said.

"That's what I always do, Mrs. D. More or less."

"Of course ..."

I said, "Is he all right, Sam?"

"I think so."

"You think so?" said Dad.

"I ain't no doctor, Marty."

Dad looked at the ceiling again.

Mom said, "Tell us about it, Sam."

"There ain't much to tell. He rang my bell this morning and I asked him to come in. He asked if he could take a shower and I said I don't have no fancy shvitz; you know that, Timbo. He said sure I know I just want a plain shower and if you don't have one, I'll settle for a bath; in the old days that's all we had; and I said me too--"

"Sam," Dad said in a thick voice, "where was he before he came to your place?"

"Search me. Around."

"Around where?"

"Around. Timmy don't like to talk personal stuff."

"Is that a fact?"

"Martin," Mom said.

"I'm talking, Lillian. Sam, does he intend to honor us with his presence?"

"You mean come home?"

"That's what I mean, Sam."

"That's up to him."

Dad pressed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. I'd read about that but never seen it in real life.

Mom jumped in. "Of course it is, Sam. Why don't you have a bite with us while he's making up his mind?"

"That's very nice of you, Mrs. D, but I'm in a hurry. I promised Timmy I'd pick up Chink's on the way home." His parchment face crinkled into his shy grin. "Moo shu pork; don't tell my mother."

"I've had it up to here with that man," Dad said at the dinner table.

"You should be used to it by now," Mom said.

"Are you used to it, Lillian?"

" ... I'm getting adjusted to it."

"Uh huh."

"He was upset by our loss," I said.

"He only gets upset when the IRA or the Mets lose."

"That's not fair, Dad."

"The man has you bewitched."

"That's not fair," Mom said.

Dad pushed back his chair and stood up. "This monster is about to extend his unfairness. Whether or not he's ready, I'm going to pick him up."

"Well," Mom said, "I approve of that. And they should be finished by the time you get there. Should I go with you?"

"No. You stay here. He might favor us with a phone call."

"I'll go with you," I said. He looked down at me. "Okay," he said.

"Do you have your valium in your pocket?" Mom said.

We took the uptown bus on Eighth Avenue. Dad was as quiet as Gramp and I had been coming home after we lost to Clinton. I commented on a few car cards, but received nothing but grunts so I stared out at Chelsea and midtown and Restaurant Row as we lurched uptown. We got off at 48th Street and walked silently into the guts of Hell's Kitchen. I hadn't been back since the day Gramp wanted to see our old place, which was even raunchier, it that was possible, than it was in my dreams. On that visit he had pointed out the site of the Men's Night Court on 54th Street where the "elites came over from Park Avenue to stare at the poor bastids the elites was screwin'."

Sam lived in a duplicate of our old building, dirt-brown and fire-escaped, on 49th Street west of Tenth Avenue. The downstairs door was ancient and ajar (naturally, Dad grunted). He pressed a downstairs bell that said, W intra b 4B, and muttered don't expect anything. After about a minute he nodded and said, C'mon. He led me up four creaking flights to a reasonably neat door. Covering the upper half of the door was an old DAILY NEWS sports section photo of Art Shamsky swinging for the fences. Dad rang a bell, then knocked sharply.

Tim opened the door and smiled with his scrubbed false teeth and, with a facile bow and sweep of his arm, said "Enter; we was expectin' you."

Dad gazed at him for a moment and then we walked behind him down a stubby foyer that opened into a front room facing 49th Street. An old pull-shade slanted near the top of the closed window, which was shiny-clean. Four floors down, Hell's Kitchen sent up its bustling, chattery cavalcade. In the corner of the room a Castro Convertible in decent condition was covered by a light blue chenille spread. Red, blue and yellow cushions were scattered on the spread. A mahogany table with drop leaves and four fresh white kitchen chairs filled the center of the room. On the walls hung framed photographs, some signed, of a variety of jocks. I recognized Sandy Koufax, Red Holzman, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mooky Wilson, Joe Namath. The others were baseball or football players in baggy flannel pants or leather helmets.

Sam walked into the room from what had to be the kitchen wiping a dish with a striped towel. He bobbed his head and said,

"Jello again." Then to Gramp: "Right, as usual."

"Didn take no fortune teller," Gramp said in his gargle. Sam reached back and set the dish and towel down. "I'd offer you some Chink's but I expect Mrs. D took care of yez."

"Correct," Dad said. "How's Lily?" Gramp said.

"Great," Dad said.

"Worried about you," I said.

"I'm a big boy," Gramp said. "Don't I look pretty good?" He stroked his clear face and chin. I inhaled Bay Rum.

"You look great, wonderful," Dad said.

Sam said quickly: "Why don't you fellas make yourselfs homely?" He pointed at the convertible. "Roddy, you take that seat with the yellow cushion; it's the best in the house; I got it from the Taft." I looked at Dad. He nodded. I walked across the room and sat down. The cushion squeaked "Who dat man?" I tried for, and flunked, a smile.

Dad rolled his eyes. He pulled a white kitchen chair away from the table, test-rubbed the seat and back with his fingers, then sat down. I caught a wink from Gramp.

Sam said, "Now that the marines have landed, guess I'll go over La Gomez and watch some Latino on her tube; it's poco loco, but what can I tellya, yo me gusta. Timmy, you know where the schnapps is." He fastened the top button of his shirt and tightened the knot of his tie and stretched his chin until his turkeyskin neck got smoother and walked perkily out. Gramp sat down next to me on a red cushion. It didn't squeak.

He nodded at the door. "Sammy's Cuban rose. They're an item. Ya kin tell it to Winchell."

"The hell with Winchell," Dad said.

"Suits me," Gramp said. "Where the hell have you been?" Dad said. "This time I want to know."

"How about that? Mel Allen."

"The hell with Mel Allen."

"Suits me. I'm a Russ Hodges man."

"Stop that. Let's hear it. Rod, pay attention."

"Sure," I said. Gramp gargled, "Sure, he will. He's a good boy."

"Spit it out," Dad rasped. Gramp smiled with his false choppers. "Spittin' on this subway platform is subject to a fine or imprisnmin or both," he said.

"Stop the shit," Dad said. I had never heard that from him.

"Nice goin'," Gramp said. "Here's ya reward. I been to Ithaca."

"Upstate?" Dad said.

"Nah, Greece."

I said, "A number of New York cities have Greek names. Ithaca. Troy. Syracuse--"

"Lotsa people," Gramp said, "call it Serracuse. Not me." Dad said, "Cut the commentary. What the hell were you doing in Ithaca? Assuming it's true."

"Take it to the bank."

I said, "Cornell."

Dad shot me a look. Gramp said, "That's a smart kid. Takes after me."

"I had a bad game and he went up to explain," I said.

"Roddy, ya did great on D." "Translate that foreign language," Dad said.

Gramp opened his mouth and I said, "Hold it, did you get to the Coach?"

"Almost. An assistant. But he wasn't no flunky."

"Stop it," Dad snapped. "Rod?"

"I got a letter from Cornell," I said. "Then I had this poor shooting game against Clinton. A real big game. Gramp went up to tell them I did pretty well on defense."

"Damn well," Gramp said. "Wasn't I there?" It was suddenly quiet in the room. Even the sounds of Hell's Kitchen were muted. I stared at Joe Namath. I got back his slick grin. Then I heard Dad....

"You didn't tell me about Cornell. Never mind. Anyway, he's a goddam liar."

The quiet descended again, to be broken by, "I never talked like that about my father. Woulda choked first. Along with his help." "You'd have had to pull him out of the gutter. You and Duffy."

"Father Duffy, if ya please."

"The hell with him, too."

"Come now, Martin, put the brakes on. Francis Duffy just about cleaned up Hell's Kitchen; why, the man swep' the newsstands clear of the Police Gazette. You recall the pink Police Gazette, Marty. Dint I ketch ya readin' it one night?"

"Never. One of his goddam lies, Rod."

"Take it easy, Dad."

"Pay attention to the lad," Gramp said. "You pay attention. I'll call the assistant coach at Cornell; you'll see, Rod--"

"Marty, he'll never talk to ya. Ya think he'd admit to bein' party to tamperin'?"

Dad shook his head, kept shaking it.

Gramp said, "Better take ya fix, Marty."

The silence of Hell's Kitchen again. As if in slow motion, Dad reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his plastic vial of valium. He ran to the window with a waddling motion and shoved the window up and, with surprisingly good form, flung the vial out. He stood beside the open window taking huge gulps of gas-tinged air.

"Nice arm," Gramp said.

In regular motion, Dad walked to the convertible and looked down at me, then at Gramp, then back to me.

"Rod," he said in a low, clear voice, "this man never served a minute in the army, not... one ... second." He stopped in front of Gramp. "Am I right, Hero?"

"You was always prejudiced against me," Gramp said.

Dad barked a scary laugh and my body twitched.

"Nice and easy, Roddy," Gramp said. Four flights down, a fire truck or police car keened along 49th street. Then Gramp said, his neck craned back, "Sam told me about people like you."

Dad's smile was skeletal. "Enlighten me."

"Sammy told me there's Jews that hate bein' Jews. Well, that's you, a Irishman that hates bein' Irish."

"He sure is smart," Dad said. "Throw in Catholic."

"Hear that, Rod?"

"I heard it."

Dad folded his arms and stared down. "And, you're still a liar," he said.

"I'm gettin' sick of that broken record, Martin."

"Uh huh. Did you fight for one instant in the big, the great deuce?"

"You know damn well I hate England and their damn empire that the Irish fought and won for 'em."

Dad barked that laugh again. "Not you."

"Or you," Gramp snapped.

Dad began to pace in front of the convertible and it was as if he was talking to himself. "That's right. I'd never fight in any capitalist war. And neither will Rod. But we'll be honest and square about it. We'll never shoot off a foot--"

"Foot? Twas a eardrum--"

Dad stopped. "Packy was right."

" ... Packy Murray?"

"Yes. He saw you do it with a toothpick in the men's room at O'Toole's."

"That rat. After buyin' him a beer."

"Rheingold. He asked you for a Guinness."

"Tough beans. The piker." His head swinging, Gramp said, "I shoulda known. A Belfast man." Dad said, "Are you getting all this, Rod?"

"... Yes, Dad."

A door opened downstairs and a woman screamed at her husband or child. The door slammed and her screaming was thin and far off.

Gramp said, "Hell, a eardrum is nothin'; Gene Kelly busted his hand with a trunk."

"I saw that picture," Dad said. "I was a Kelly fan from Broadway. It was the lid of a trunk."

"Oh, excuse me."

"That was a goddam movie, you fraud."

"Yeah? Movies is based on real stuff. Lookit Louie Pasture, lookit Scarface. Wake up and live, willya."

Dad walked to the window, turned and walked back. He folded his arms above Gramp, who gazed up with his half-smile. Dad said,

"Let's wash it all out."

"Go on and wash, Mr. Rinso." Dad nodded hard. "The Navy Yard."

"Yop. I done my part after all."

"Eileen Grady."

"... Grady? Oh, yeah, Williamsburg."

"Red Hook. The Red Hook hooker."

"Like hell! Twas love. She swore it on the steps of Saint Leo--"

"Mackey said she swore it for every sailor in the yard."

"Mackey from Mackey's Pub? He tolya about Eileen?"

"And Fay Kamansky. And Louise Quinn. And Ida Berger--"

"Ida? She swore she'd convert and she went and married a yid.

The hell with her."

Dad sat down on the white kitchen chair and crossed his legs.

"There's your hero, Rod. The screwing champion of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Get your things, champ, we're going home."

"Wait a second," Gramp said. "Didja tell ya Ma about the Yard?"

"Of course I did. She had to know."

Gramp dropped his head, then looked up. Swinging his head from side to side, he said in his gargly voice, "Hadda? Hadda? Hadda know? Where in the name of God didja get your wickedness? Not once in my life, not once, did I go an rat on my old man. Not one single time. And to hurt that sainted woman. To stab her in the heart. How couldja?"

4

My grandfather didn't come home with us that night, or any other night. He remained with Sam, who spent most of his time with Mrs. Gomez. Dad never visited, but Mom did, almost every evening. She took him Bay Rum, Listerine and cigars. She said he always asked about me. I visited a week after the night of the daggers. Sam had fixed him up with a cot he bought in an army and navy store near the waterfront. The cot was set up next to a window that gave Gramp a sliver of the Hudson. The afternoon I visited, I took along his paperback of Audie Murphy's To Hell and Back, which Mom said he adored. We talked basketball: the Peglegs had won the Manhattan title and lost to Curtis of Staten Island in the first round. I had nine points and 13 assists, which was amazin' considerin' the pressure. Neither of us mentioned the war except for Audie Murphy. "Jesus, compared to Sergeant York, the boy was a pygmy." Nor did we bring up his "trip" to Ithaca.

The next morning at six AM, after being a "guest" of Mrs. Gomez, Sam found him dead in the army cot. On the floor beside the cot was the dog-eared To Hell and Back.

Mom knew Jake Flaherty at his funeral home on Ninth Avenue and 49th Street, near the old Garden. Jake was "a good man and you could always trust his tickets on the Irish Sweepstakes." Jake fixed Tim Daley up like he remembered him when they went to six day bicycle races together. Gramp came out a smiley young Abe Beame.

There was a service at the Church of the Holy Cross on 42nd Street, Father Duffy's old headquarters. A kid priest named Jorge Serrano presided and spoke in beautiful English about how one death in the historic community diminished New York and, although he didn't know Timothy Daley, he had heard some wonderful things about him. Ten people, seven men and three women, nodded and the women dabbed handkerchiefs at their eyes. Several men yanked out bandana handkerchiefs and blew into them with foghorn noses.

After Father Serrano, Aldo Fanelli walked up to the lectern: "Tim was a darn good granddad. He held his grandson, Roddy, in high esteem. He voted for Mayor LaGuardia even when Tammany leaned on him to vote for the Paddy. He played a excellent game of bocce for not bein Italian. He always said Joe D. and Sinatra put us people on the map."

Guido said he agreed with Aldo.

Billy Soa said: "Tim Daley supported high school basketball. He rooted for the football Giants when they had Ed Danowski at quarterback and he stuck with them. He said the heck with them when they moved to Jersey. He was big on Pope John Paul and Ron Jaworski, the Polish Rifle."

Then came Sam: "The man was my oldest friend. We had arguments but he was basically honest. He never cut the booze he handled during prohibition. Before and after he dropped outa high school, he ran honest policy for Mike Jacobs. The colored always trusted him. He could walk around Harlem easy as Father Divine after a Joe Louis fight. Even the night Joe lost to Schmeling. Toots McGee, who played clarinet at the Savoy, seen this with his own eyes. If you were a landsman fresh off the boat and needed a beer or a buck, Tim Daley was right there. He treated his grandson like I treated my Harold, but Roddy Daley was a kid that appreciated."

Sam, Jake, Mom and I buried Tim in Calvary Cemetery in Queens next to my grandmother, where forty years ago he had bought a plot. My father, who was now a math adjunct in the evening at NYU, remained in London Terrace and worked on lesson plans.

That summer I worked with a Stuyvesant buddy as a city lifeguard at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. In the fall, with the help of a Pell Grant and a government-backed loan, I went to Cornell Aggie. I made the team in my freshman year and by the middle of the season I was starting. A teammate and I drove down to New York in his car during spring break and I stayed the week with him in Brooklyn. I called the Fashion Institute and took my mother to dinner and the ballet at Lincoln Center. I showed my Cornell friend Hell's Kitchen and the next day visited Sam Weintraub and took Rosa Gomez and Sam to a Broadway matinee.

When I got back to campus, there was a letter waiting from Mom. She thanked me for our splendid evening and for helping her with Papa. She said my father was now on something called Prozac and seemed to be doing pretty well; but, she added, and I could almost hear the sigh in Ithaca, you know how it is.

* La-dee-da Marva Bianca said I wore the freshest smelling shirts in our homeroom.
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Title Annotation:New Stories
Author:Faust, Irvin
Publication:Confrontation
Article Type:Short story
Date:Sep 22, 2007
Words:6481
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