What’s for Lunch?
© Mark Twain
I had seen a 10 minute play which starts with a character complaining that when he tried to purchase a bottle of aspirin at a drug store, the clerk told him: “We don’t have that.”
It reminded me of a strange experience I had on Staten Island more than 30 years ago.
We were in Stapleton, a few miles from our home in St. George. It looked like an ordinary luncheonette — big CocaCola sign — soda fountain counter with a row of round stools that you can spin on, booths along the wall.
The place was empty, yet it was lunch hour. Carol and I sat down with Grace and Eve at one of the booths.
The waitress came over. “Can I help you?”
We ordered hot dogs, french fries, and a grilled cheese sandwich. “We don’t have that,” said the waitress.
“You don’t have hot dogs or french fries,” I said, astonished.
“How about a Coke?”
“We don’t have that either.”
“How could a luncheonette not serve CocaCola?” I asked. “There’s even a Coke sign!”
“Just a minute,” she said, and walked to the back and through a door. A minute later a middle-aged man came out and walked to our table.
He pulled over a chair, sat down, introduced himself. “My name is Bruno,” he said, and ask us our names. We introduced ourselves.
Bruno apologized for not having anything for us to order. He was soft-spoken with a sincere manner. Bruno told us that he likes children, and was very sorry that he doesn’t have any hotdogs or Coke (or anything else to eat).
He kept talking, and none of us felt like interrupting him. He told us about how he had been kind to a dog, and other stories emphasizing what a nice and caring person he is…and he kept apologizing.
After we left, I was puzzled; until Carol told me that the “luncheonette” must be a front for some racket. She said that the reason Bruno was telling us how good he is to dogs and children was because he did not want us to think badly of him for being a mobster.