I will be doing excerpts from my book ” Leaving Cleveland” through out the year. The plan is to publish the book in March of 2023 and if you have not pledged to my Kickstarter campaign, ending this September 29 Please do…Here is the info and the rewards for you generous pledge .
The excerpt is from Chapter 16 when the protagonist has a flashback of time he spent with his father at the Sporting Good Store in East Cleveland.
It wasn’t until I turned 13—and after my bar mitzvah—that my father trusted me to operate the cash register. I’d stand behind the counter while customers, merchandize in hand, would pull out their bills, usually crumpled and greasy, and slide them across to me. I diligently flattened out the money on the linoleum countertop and count it. Then I entered the price of each individual item into the cash register and pushed “Total.” A bell would ring as the machine indicated the sum total of the purchase. It was then my job to figure out in my head the amount of change I needed to return.
Only once in all my summers working at my father’s store did I get held up at gunpoint. It was the end of the day and my mother had left to go home and prepare dinner. Two customers were in the store, a man and a woman. The woman had just come in; the man had been walking around for quite some time checking out seemingly every article of clothing in the place. When the woman exited without purchasing anything, the man came up to the cash register carrying a pair of pants. My father was in the back preparing to lock up for the night. I thought it was odd that the customer hadn’t put the pants down on the counter for me to check the price and when I held out my hands to take the pants he pointed a gun at me and simultaneously put a finger to his lips to tell me not to make a sound. Without saying a word I opened up the register and took out all the money and put it in a paper bag with the pants. The man grabbed the bag, put the gun away and walked out the front door. When he was out of sight, I ran to the door and locked it. Then I started yelling. “Dad! Dad! We’ve been robbed!”
My father came hurrying to the front counter with his unbalanced gait—in the camps he didn’t have shoes and resorted to wrapping his feet in newspapers ward off the winter cold; the consequence had been frostbite. He said to me, with his thick European accent, “Vat do you mean ve’ve been rubbed?” I must have looked scared because he looked scared. “Dad, the last customer: he pulled out a gun and I gave him all the money.” I felt shame. I felt I had let my dad down. There was a silence that lasted forever. Finally, my dad asked, “Are you OK?” “NO!” I said and I started crying. “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to do. Should we call the police?” “NO!” my father said emphatically. “Ve vill not tell anyvone vhat happened. Especially not even your mother. It vould be more trouble.” “But Mom will wonder what happened to all the money?” I said. At this my father smiled. “Not all ze money. Your mother alvays takes vhat’s in ze register vhen she leaves. If you tell her vhat happened she vill just get upset. Ve vill tell her it vas a quiet afternoon. Alright?”
“Alright” I said.
That was the longest conversation I ever had with my father. My mom used to apologize for his lack of involvement with me and my sister. The store was the only real connection I had with him. Supposedly one day he’d pass it on to me. My sister had no interest in the store, nor was she expected to show any interest. Only when she had a new boyfriend who needed bell-bottom jeans, or a pair of combat boots to protest the Vietnam War, only then did she make an appearance.