Thursday, March 13, 2014

Uncle Slappy visits the Bronx.

Uncle Slappy just called, precisely as I asked him to. He and Aunt Sylvie left our apartment early this morning and what with the unseasonable cold and 45-mile-per-hour gusts, I wanted to make sure he and Aunt Sylvie made it home safe and sound.

“Boychick,” he began, “the Riverdale bus was like clockwork. But who wants to ride in a clock.”

“You made it up to the Bronx ok?”

“If anything can be ok after spending the whole day in the Hebrew Home for the Wretched with Sidney Lowenstein, we’re ok.”

“Thank god,” I said.

“There’s soup in the Frigidaire?”

Uncle Slappy has visited me about four or six times a year since he moved to Boca about five years ago. There has never once not been soup in the Frigidaire.

“Mushroom barley,” I answered “and chicken in the pot,” which is a noodle-ly concoction of broth, carrot spears, large pieces of chicken and of course noodles. It is, I believe, the only soup in the world which you have to eat with a knife and fork.

“A choice,” he mocked. “A regular Grossinger’s on 83rd Street.”

“So how was Mr. Lowenstein? How is he adjusting to assisted living?”

“Ach,” the old man said. “Assassinated living. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enema.”

I’ve known Uncle Slappy for the whole of my 56 years. I can spot one of his monologues coming from a mile away. They’re a bit like a sandstorm in the desert. You can’t avoid them. All you can do is take cover.

“He’s recovering quite well, Lowenstein. Only last week when we came up here, we were quite worried about him.”

I didn’t feed Uncle Slappy a line. Instead I allowed my silence to be used as his timing. I have played his straight-man since my earliest days.

“We were worried about him. He had a triple overpass.”

This time I gave in.

“You mean ‘triple bypass,’” I pressed.

“No.” He paused. “Triple overpass. He got lost on the Henry Hudson Parkway.”

In the background I heard the old man slurp some soup. And with his usual impeccable timing, hang up the phone.

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