The last time I saw Tick Tock Tannenbaum was in the summer of 1975, just a few months before he was presumed dead.
I had just finished high school, hadn't yet entered college and I had a lot of time on my hands. That summer I worked at Playland, a small amusement park in Westchester County that was situated alongside the murky waters of the Long Island Sound.
The job I had was simple. Basically, I sat in a small booth in an arcade and made change. When the arcade got crowded, I was meant to walk around and make sure nobody monkeyed with the machines. Or if someone lost a quarter, I used the trip they gave me to clear the coin slot. Or I gave them a quarter for a new game.
Most of the time, however, the game room was empty. I sat in my booth and read books. That's what I was doing when Tick Tock showed up.
"Fuck face," he said, "whatcha reading?"
"Uncle Tick Tock."
"Cheese it, keed." He slid through the recess in my booth a small parcel wrapped in old newspaper. "Hold this for me until I come for it. Don't rat to the Potsies, ok, keed?"
"Sure. What is it?" I asked naively.
"Cheese it, keed," the old man repeated, "I gotta blow."
I kept Uncle Tick Tock's package in my change booth for the rest of the summer. He never showed up. I took it to college with me that fall and secured it in the bottom drawer of my desk underneath a sheaf of typewritten pages.
When I heard Uncle Tick Tock died later that year, I removed the package from my desk drawer. I deposited it in my trash bin.
I didn't have the balls to open it.