Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Little Boy Who Taps

Len Klein
Memory Sketch # 04,
January 2001

The candy store was on Blake Avenue, just around the corner from where I lived on Bristol Street. When I was big enough I got permission to go there alone. I felt so very proud whenever I did it. My mother would give me a penny, or sometimes a nickel, so I could buy my own candy by myself. Down the three flights of stairs I’d go, walking out of my building I looked around to see who was there to see me go to the store.

The door to the Candy Store, on which I had to use both hands, always jingled when I pulled it open. At the counter, I would reach up and tap on the marble with the edge of my Nickel or Penny, and keep it up until someone paid attention to me. Since my head barely reached the counter, I couldn’t be sure they would ever notice me without some kind of sound effects. Most of the time, I was greeted with smiles, but sometimes, especially once I had learned to select my candy by myself and just wanted to be sure they knew I was paying for it, the lady behind the counter would snap at me. “Stop that tapping already!” Or she would take my Nickel and with a look of disdain she’d slap it down on the counter as if that would teach me to leave my Nickel there, untended, just lying there, like it was anybody’s nickel. Then who was to know that it was my Nickel? No, no, I was not going to leave my money like that.

Fresh in my mind was the beating my mother had given me for mistakenly putting a dime instead of a penny in the Polly seed machine. Her reaction seemed so out of proportion to what I had done. Ok, it was a dime, but only a dime. I really felt stupid about it, and I didn’t want anyone else to know, but my mother dragged me back to the Candy Store and asked the man if he could retrieve the dime. He said there was no way for him to do that. Only the service man, with his special key, could open the coin box, and he wasn’t due for several days. As soon as my father came home, my mother told him what had happened. The lost dime didn’t seem to upset him they way it did my mother, and he just told me that I have to be more careful. What I learned was that for my mother a dime was a really big deal.

After the dime thing, I didn’t go near those stupid machines for quite a while, but I continued to tap my coin on the marble counter, just to make sure my money was accounted for. Once, upon entering the store, I overheard the Candy Lady say, “That’s the little boy who taps.” No one else; just me, I thought? Was it a bad thing? Was it peculiar? I became more attentive to what my friends did, after all we were about the same height at the counter. They seemed to call out things like: “Lady!” or, “Candy Lady!” sometimes “Missus, Missus!” Well, I supposed I could do that, but it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t going to call out… People that worked in the store were supposed to know when a customer was waiting. Besides, I was afraid I might call out the wrong thing. I don’t really know what that could have been, but I never called out and always tapped.

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