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A plumb tree on Summit Avenue in Union City, NJ was packed with plumbs this year. I have observed the tree for four summers. I finally picked one and ate it, as did many others who walked directly under branches that offer sweet shade along the sidewalk. All the plumbs were gone this morning.

On a walk on my first summer in Union City I called my grandmother while walking under that tree and shared with her that I cannot remember the last time I saw a plumb tree. She spoke of the pear tree in her yard she had cut down in the Seventies because “it was a pain in the ass picking up all those pears in the Fall and besides, we needed the firewood that year.”

My grandmother died shortly after that conversation. Every morning when I pass that tree on my way to work I say hello to her. This morning it was hot so I did not cross to that side of the street and I said to myself, “If Mal Mal can hear me under that tree she can hear me anywhere.”

My mind slipped into worry about having enough money for beer this evening moments before I got to the spot across the street from the plumb tree. “Good morning, Mal, Mal,” I whispered.

I spotted a $20 dollar bill at my foot, folded up neatly.

I know it was from her.

The beer is almost as good as those plumbs on Summit.

Cheers!

One day, I’m going to bring my ice pick to work and stab you in the back. You will hardly feel it. I’ll walk away and you’ll say, ‘Oh fuck, I’m feeling dizzy’,” James threatened. “I’m too old to fight you. You are lucky I’m still on probation.”

Tyrone, a former crack dealer who still brags about his gig in the Eighties smiles at James. The tooth that came out of his mouth several weeks ago does not cause a lisp as he remarks, “You better keep your little bitch in check.” He is addressing Mike Day, James’ best friend at work. Mike is a former crack addict, who, thanks a nun who rescued he and his dog from the street, is now totally sober and one of the most respected messengers in the Wall Street area. Mike often loans money to James who often has trouble repaying it on time, yet, because of the nun perhaps, or maybe because he no longer has anything to spend money on, forgives James and often loans him more. “Does she suck a mean dick?” Tyrone asks Mike.

James laughs and glances at me sorting the huge piles of paychecks and asks, “Charles, are you going to let him talk to me like that?”

“Do you want me to fuck him up for you?” I ask, knowing that no one sucks a dick as meanly as I do and understanding that what was said was by no means an insult to my sexuality which somehow is way out in the open at work mainly because I will not go with the three of them to “The Golden Lady” in the Bronx, and throw money a big tits.

They all laugh loudly as if my remark was the funniest thing they heard since leaving Riker’s Island.

“Not yet. I wish I had my ice pick though.”

I was assigned the Donald Trump account several years ago. Manager Grace Gonzalez ordered me like a slave– “We stole this one from Urban. They couldn’t get it there by 7:30. I don’t want to lose this account and I know if I give it to you, it will get there on time.” Trump’s tower is on 5th Avenue and 57th Street, the warehouse and Grace and her full of crap management style are on 29th and Seventh. Even in snowstorms when it was still dark outside, I made that walk every Tuesday. I enjoy the stroll past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the loveliest of all buildings in New York City, in my opinion. They were refurnishing pews this week. I walked by as the long, mahogany pews were taken from a truck with some business that specialized specifically in pew restoration, for the side of the long truck advertised this. I have other rush paychecks on Tuesday that all must be delivered by 9 am, including East Hampton’s own, The Douglas Elliman Real Estate Firm down on 43rd and 3rd. They are largest real estate agency in all of America I imagine while carrying their heavy-ass boxes of paychecks in a backpack. Neither Trump nor Elliman tipped me at Christmas, a point worth noting in a time when one is running for President and the other is just days away from another major market crash, in my view.

Trump had a delivery the same day he announced he was running for president. I arrived at least 15 minutes early, anticipating the press. The doorman permitted me to enter, just as he has done over the past several years at 7:20 or so. A man who was coordinating the reception area for the soon to be presidential announcement approached me like I was a terrorist or something–

“Who are you?” He asked, as if addressing one of the paid Trump supporters who had shown up early.

“I’m here to deliver a paycheck,” I explained.

“Who are they for?”

“Trump,” I answered. The Italian queen grabbed the three checks from my hands as though they were sunburned and brown, and Mexican. He walked away to speak to one of his aides about the soon to begin ceremony on the escalator above. The lobby of that building is adorned with Trump materials– his books are on display as if his writing was as keen as mine, and he sells coffee cups to foolish tourists who wander into the marble lined trap after shopping at Tiffany’s just down the street.

I stood there with my pen and manifest and waited for who may one day be the Secretary of the Interior to return to me and sign for the delivery. He did, of course, it was obivious I was not leaving without the autograph.

“What’s your name?” I demanded as if I were competing on the Apprentice.

I forgot his name the moment I typed it into my scanner.

The ‘One Mile House’ on Delancy Street opens like a Venus Flytrap at precisely 2:30 pm, although service from pretty bar maid Megan happens much later in the day, closer to Midnight, I suppose. The menu boasts of the best of food one can get in this artsy-fartsy part of the Big Apple– burgers decorated with clams and such– the perfect follow after experiencing a good buzz one may catch while bar hopping in this Jewish and Chinese infested part of Donald Trump America.

Megan, a girl from Florida with purple hair, is notoriously punctual when opening the One Mile House. “I live right around the corner,” she shared one winter day. She arrives at exactly 2:30 pm and expects to see me on the steps of the One Mile House with her paycheck. Being a messenger is like being a battered husband, I imagine.

It was extremely hot in New York earlier this week. I typically do not sit down while on my route; my legs often cramp like and old male pussy and it’s hard to get back up after walking for miles on the hot cement streets that seem to melt one’s sneakers. Since Megan was my last stop for the day, I deemed it safe to sit for 15 minutes and wait for her.

While watching a black cat sit on a window ledge five flights up at 195 Chrystie, I noticed from the corner of my green eye, three individuals crossing Chrystie Street in what seemed, in my cat-eye view, like too many clothes for a hot day in the city. Two nuns and a man, perhaps a priest, God only knows, but a man in any regard, approached me as I sat on the bench with my legs crossed like a queen. One of the nuns asked, “Would you like something to eat?”

I laughed like Lucifer in Hell’s kitchen and replied through dry lips, “I’d love some.”

The man of God was carrying a plastic container filled with what was obviously iced tea. Ice cubes had not yet melted. My tongue was on fire and despite all my sins, I pretended to be one of the homeless that mill about during the day in this area. I must have looked homeless, I pile a heavy coat of Banana Boat sunscreen on my face every morning and by later in the afternoon, I’m melting, and looking like a tramp delivering upwards of 60 paychecks a day, to Jews in this part of town. I really wasn’t hungry but desperately wanted some of what was not the symbolic blood of our Lord, but rather what I saw as a true blessing from the Catholic God, if there is such a thing.

The priest pulled out a small Dixie Cup and poured me some. I wanted to ask for more but decided to take what was offered and leave it there. For God’s sake, I thought, there is a warm water fountain just up the street. I drink from there almost every day. Who can afford $1 water when I get paid $1.50 to take Megan her check at 2:30?

Chrystie Street is no place for one to start confessing one’s sins, especially while thirstier than a Jew out of Egypt. One of the nuns handed me a sandwich– ham and mustard on white bread– almost enough to turns one stomach and faith on a hot day. There was enough plastic covering it to stretch from 43rd and 3rd, all the way to Chrystie, ten miles away I imagine with sore feet as I carry these paychecks like I’m on my way to be cruicified or something– and some God awful banana bread that I ate simply because the nun said, “God bless you,” as they walked away.

I requested discharge from the Army because I am gay. The look on my commander’s face was that of sloppy shock. His hairlip opened slightly and he chose his words carefully: “I have no problems with your homosexuality, Taylor. There is no reason why you cannot finish out your enlistment. Why must you go about bringing all of this out into the open?”

“It is not your decision to make, Sir,” I replied with a smirk on my face. I had just been topped by a black soldier stationed down in southern Germany. He drove three hours just to see me. We met at the gay disco ‘Construction 5′ in downtown Frankfurt. I was feeling pretty as hell and had the utmost courage when I handed my commander my typed statement that proclaimed my gay innocence and request to be discharged. My lover Gilly Wells had just been reassinged stateside and I knew I’d never get topped like that again, especially after permitting that queen from South Germany to get all up in my like that. I felt so dirty and alone. I wanted out. Why give my young life to my country when as a bottom there are but a few good years for one to find the top of one’s life.

Meme grew a tea garden. With a huge stash of powdery 10-10-10 fertilizer and a hoe she worked like a pastry blender, she planted her sacred herbs near her award-winning blue potatoes and the two rows of marijuana planted atop heaps of chicken droppings along the side of a hen house.

Dad claims the little tea garden saved her from a terrible bout of summer flu. Almost everyone catches this mysterious illness, no matter what time of the year. It is a sudden sickness that hits one hard, out-of-the-blue, and suddenly. “I feel like hell, Barry. I can hardly move,” Meme cried, her red hair matted along the side of her Irish face like the claws of a crow grabbing an ear of corn. “Go outside to my tea garden and clip two pieces from each of the plants and bring them inside. None of your pot, though.”

“We boiled all the little stems—the catnip, mint and everything else she had planted out there. There must have been a dozen or so plants,” Dad explained. “She was up and walking around twenty minutes later. I was scared when I found her insider her trailer looking so sick.”

Meme entered her blue potatoes in the Huntingdon County Fair and always won the blue ribbon, but the tea was for her own consumption. At the time, very few farmers in Huntingdon ever saw blue potatoes and already Lipton had destroyed nearly all tea gardens in Appalachia. She sent away for the potato seed from a garden catalog that also sold her an egg that she incubated in a little plastic contraption with a light bulb that came from the same manufacturer and distributor of the eggs. We watched the chick hatch and grow into a short-tailed hen that Meme called ‘Sally’. Sally laid eggs that were not brown, but rather slightly green on the shell, just as was advertised.

Meme’s cider was the better than her tea, I bet. I don’t remember the tea garden that Dad spoke of this morning nor the rows of marijuana that dad used to make many friends, but I remember making cider with my grandmother, the most beautiful red-head this side of Dublin. There was an entire orchard surrounding her trailer. My grandfather planted it. We used a juicer that required paper filters that Meme sent away for. Jug after jug was filled and every now and then I took another sip in a little glass with yellow flowers painted on it.

Meme was not impressed with marijuana, according to Dad: “I asked her if she wanted to smoke some one summer night. She took a few puffs and said, ‘I don’t feel a damned thing.’ A few minutes later she ate half a cold chicken.”

We grew so many potatoes in Pennsylvania that come April, we had enough left over to cut into pieces and plant next year’s crop. They went six inches under a rather chilly ground in what was, in retrospect, the best damned organic topsoil west of Hershey. Dad always hauled in several loads of cow manure from a local dairy farm.

Skin sides of the tubers went down with the white part sticking up. We planted only according to the “Old Farmer’s Almanac”. One year, my grandmother planted potatoes under a full moon, going against recommendations from that yellow paperback, and an old wives’ tale that warned against planting potatoes in the dark of night and not early in the morning. Meme awoke to find all those little white pieces of potato she had carefully planted six inches apart, had made their way, six inches below ground, to the top of the soil where they slowly spoiled under the warm rays of an early April sun. She must have blamed the incident on some sort of curse and not the realization that gravity from a full moon may have had something to do with it. They still tell that story back there this time of year.

We ate potatoes almost every night. On a blue moon, Mom sometimes made spaghetti. Most nights it was those potatoes we planted in April that lasted all year in a cellar that stuck off from our real cellar—a little hole dug underground from our double-wide, where the potatoes stayed cool all year, despite a woodstove just a few feet away. When Mom sent me downstairs after school in the evenings, I always picked the largest, so come April there were mostly wrinkled little potatoes with all those eyes looking up at you under a thin covering of lime dust.

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