After she kicked me out, my mother chanted prayers for the dead. God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest to the soul of Yisraela daughter of Zeev...
But I was a rebellious ghost. On Saturdays—not every Saturday, but Saturdays enough—I took the subway to Bensonhurst. The subway was new then. I felt very modern.
My family occupied the upstairs portions of a shabby, tarbox house. A duplex. The bottom was occupied by a Polish family. A new Polish family every six months or so. Poles don’t like Jews; so, they try to limit their exposure.
I left the money by the front door and its mezuzuh in a tin box that had once contained Kyriazi Freres cigarettes from Egypt. Fifty dollars. Sometimes more. Marder liked Egyptian cigarettes.
Then I’d go back down the creaky stairs and sit on the stoop, smoking. For half an hour. Sometimes less. Never longer. The streets were always empty on Saturdays. The shops were closed. Sometimes the door to the downstairs apartment would open, and a Polish man in a dirty undershirt would glare. At the quiet street. At me. I’d smile. That was the spring I taught myself how to blow smoke rings. I’d throw my head back and blow perfect smoke rings for the Polish man in the sweat-stained undershirt.
When I went back up the stairs to retrieve the tin, it was always empty.
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