Munzer could feel his heart pounding in his shirt as he struggled to get a parking space outside Smith's Diner.
"You look kinda poiple," said the man in the next booth a half hour later, when Sid Munzer finally had been seated by a harried little hostess with pink cheeks.
"I look poiple," Munzer said, "because I yam." He added: "Say, you sound like someone from back home."
"Flatbush," the stranger said. He vaguely resembled Sid's old barber, Greenbaum, who had gold teeth and a fluffy wig.
"Cooper Square," Sid said. "We musta gone to different schools together." It was an old expression, and he laughed.
The girl came with the pad. "You fellas know each other?"
Sid shrugged. What was to say?
"Would you mind scooting in one booth together? We've got people waiting for miles."
"You're telling me," Sid said. He started to rise, but she carried the stranger's coffee over to make the exchange go faster. Sid ordered lunch; the same thing he had every day; egg salad on toast, no lettuce, tomato, special peppercorn pepper from the kitchen; decaf black, one packet Shugaroo sweetener.
"Thanks, guys." Off she went in a swish of apron ends.
"Goldberg," the stranger said, offering a knobby hand.
"Munzer," Sid rejoined, shaking. The other man's grip was broad, dry, and firm. "What's with this place? This morning all of a sudden I think it's midtown Manhattan in the rush hour."
Goldberg chuckled at some secret. "How long you been?"
"Just two months. My son's out here, accountant, big practice. They're all set, him and the daughter in law, so when my wife, lifeboat, passed on in the spring they said Dad come on stay with us, you can water the flowers and walk to the library. Population 5,000 they said. Phah!"
Goldberg nodded. "I understand you. I came here five years ago and before then I knew nothing about people."
"People?" Sid said, puzzled. "Here they all are." He turned slowly holding the palms of his hands up, like a weather vane. There were thousands of them. Tourists? Mostly in T-shirts and shorts and sandals, of course it was high summer. Sweaty. Hungry-looking. "They want to watch us eat?"
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Copyright © 2018 by Jean-Thomas Cullen, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.