The lady and boy stood at the curb.
Watching the stoplight across the wide, busy street, the lady looked forward, waiting for the light to turn to green.
The five-year-old boy at her side looked to his left, watching the light across the smaller street, waiting for it to turn to red.
The lights changed colors: from red to green, from green to red.
Automobiles stopped on either side of the wide street.
From the little boy’s perspective, looking much like a red monster, its steel wheels squealing in steel tracks, a streetcar halted its rattling forward motion and seemed to be straining to begin moving again.
Tightening her grip on the boy’s hand, the woman and child started across the wide street.
On the other side of the street a man carefully stepped off the curb to begin his journey in the opposite direction.
Scraggly gray hair hung over his age‑splotched forehead and he propelled himself slowly with the help of a wooden cane that he held tightly in his gnarled hand.
Crossing paths, the fog‑cast, green eyes of the old man made contact with the clear, green eyes of the little boy and held for the seconds it took to pass.
Passing, the little boy turned his head, watching the old man. Tripping on the curb, he hung by his mother’s hand until she pulled him up onto the sidewalk and his own two feet.
“Mommy, what’s wrong with that man?”
“What man?” Turning, the woman looked at the slowly receding figure. “Oh. Nothing, baby, he’s just an old man.”
Watching another moment, “Will daddy be an old man someday?”.
“Why yes, baby. I hope so.”
“And will you be old someday, too, Mommy?”
“Yes, Mitchie. God willing. Unless something bad happens, I’ll be an old lady someday.”
“And me too, Mommy, I’ll be old, too?”
“Yes, baby, someday.”
His throat tightening, his eyes stinging, the boy began to cry.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Reaching into her purse, removing a handkerchief, she wiped away his tears.
“I don’t want to be old, Mommy!”
Stooping, “Shhh,” hugging her son to her chest, “don’t worry, Mitchie. You’ve a whole lifetime ’till you’ll be an old man.”
Standing, taking hold of her son’s hand, the two began to walk again.
The boy looked over his shoulder at him one last time, but the old man had disappeared from sight.
Brighton Beach, New York
Standing at the curb, the old man looked forward, watching the stoplight, waiting for it to turn green.
The lights on the four corners changed colors: from red to green, from green to red.
A dark-blue convertible, its top open to the early spring sun, rolled to a halt.
Stepping off the curb carefully, the old man began his shuffling journey across the wide street.
Scraggly gray hair hanging over his wrinkled, age-splotched forehead, he propelled himself slowly with the help of a wooden cane that he held tightly within his gnarled hand.
In the convertible, the young man placed his hand onto the bare, sun-warmed knee of the young woman that sat next to him.
Approaching the convertible, lifting his head, the fog-cast, green eyes of the old man made contact with the clear, green eyes of the young man, and…
…for a prolonged moment the eyes of the old man and the eyes of the young man locked, for…
…there was a sort of unknown, but long-remembered, distant recognition.
And a shroud of unbearable sadness griped the old man’s heart…
…for he remembered “what was,” when once he was young.
The young man, though, had no fear, for after all he has a whole lifetime until he became an old man.
Shuffling on… passing the car, stopping, turning, the old man peered through the open window, at the beautiful, dark-haired young woman…
And a veil of tears covered the old man’s eyes, as…
Looking back at the old man, the young woman smiled, and…
Nodding his head, sadly turning his eyes from the face of the young woman, the old man continued across the street.
The lights changed colors: from green to red, from red to green.
Stepping onto the curb, the old man turned to look at the girl and “him” one last time …
But the convertible was gone.
"For Better or Worse" Prologue
Brighton Beach, New York
Twisting on the seat, the young woman looked at the receding figure, watching the old man as he crossed the street. When he was no longer in view, facing forward, “Did you see that old man back there, the way he looked at us?”
As the convertible waited for the red to change to green, the young man did see the old man.
When they began to drive, his eyes had flicked nervously to the rear-view mirror and back to the busy, early evening traffic of Neptune Avenue.
Glancing at the pretty, dark-haired young woman sitting alongside him, “No,” he said. “What old man?”
“That old man back there!” she said impatiently. “When we stopped for the light he crossed the street. Remember? And he stopped and stared at you, then at me, almost like he knew us.” Feeling a chill, she shuddered. “I don’t know… the way he looked at us was… weird.”
Placing his hand upon her bare, sun-warmed knee, hesitating… “Back there? An old guy? Nah, I didn’t notice any old guy.”
For Better or Worse
Coney Island, New York
June 20, 1956
“Four, Mitchie. Get me four!”
The young man looked over his shoulder, “Four? You want four?” as he, with his wife close behind, got into line behind a hairy, barefooted man wearing bathing trunks. “I thought you were the guy that wasn’t ever going to eat lobster.”
Even though it was mid-week, the combination of the weekly Wednesday-night fireworks display, a near-ninety-degree day and the balmy evening had brought thousands of milling people to Coney Island. The boardwalk was packed, but nowhere more jam-packed then in front of the blue and yellow clapboard structure with the yellow and blue sign that read:
LOBSTER ROLLS—SHRIMP ROLLS
“Yeah, that’s right.” Moving even closer, putting both arms around his waist, rubbing her breasts provocatively against his back, whispering into his ear, “But that was before you made me, mmm…” Nipping his earlobe, breathing her sultry breath into his ear, “eat a, mmm…” Bending her knees outward, into the backs of his knees, causing his knees to buckle forward, flicking the inner ridge of his ear with her tongue, “lobster roll. Mmmm!”
Feeling the soft pressure of Marsha’s breasts on his back and the cool touch of her bare legs against the back of his bare legs, and her warm breath and moist tongue in his ear, even though he knew she was teasing him, even here, even within this mass of people, the feel of her breasts, the brushing of her body and the touch of her tongue brought about the usual, and—really, though, any of the three individually would bring about the very same result and—a part of Mitchell’s body responded.
Leaning to the side, looking down, Marsha saw that she’d gotten the response she’d inspired—and expected. Smiling, taking her arms from about his waist, but pinching his behind in the process…
“Ouch! Jesus, Marcie,” pretending to pout, but truly loving her every touch, “you got sharp nails!”
“The better to pinch you with, my dear.” Backing away, “I’ll get a bench.”
“No,” moving forward as the line shortened, “I’ll need help.” But Marsha was gone and Mitchell, and his stretched fly, were alone in the crowd.
Holding two Coke bottles by their necks in one hand and a bag with fries and eight miniature hamburger buns filled with grilled lobster salad in the other, looking for Marsha…
The multi-hued light of the setting sun reflecting upon Marsha Lipensky’s face…
Sitting on a bench gazing at the choppy ocean, shiny strands of long black hair moving about her head in the slight, summer breeze, Marsha’s long, slender legs stretched forward, the soles of her sandals pressed upon the bottom slat of the wooden balustrade…
His breath catching, My God, he thought, she’s so beautiful!
Sensing she was being watched, turning her face in his direction…
Crossing her eyes, Marsha stuck her tongue out at him.
I sincerely wish to thank those of you that have stayed with “Becoming” throughout these many months. And, of course, a whole hearted “thank you” for those that took the time to comment.
I hope that you enjoyed “Becoming” and am going to end with the above excerpt from “For Better or Worse.”