By Jerry Guarino
“I’d like the corned beef hash, please,” said Tony.
“What kind of toast?” said the slightly rotund waiter with the white apron.
“Eggs, over easy?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
“What kind of juice?”
“Cranberry. No, make that orange.”
“I can bring you one of each. Coffee?”
“No, black tea with milk and sugar.”
“And for you, ma’am?”
“Just a bagel and cream cheese with coffee, thank you.”
“Very good, ma’am.” The waiter wrote down the order, nodded and slipped away.
Tony and Barbara were seated at a table in front of the delicatessen. They had a great view of Times Square, already bustling with people by 8am. “See that large glass booth over there, Barbara. That’s where you get the discount tickets for Broadway shows.”
“Oooh. There aren’t any people there yet. When does it open?”
Tony tapped on his phone for the answer. “Eleven o’clock. After breakfast we can walk around and look at the theaters to decide what we want to see, then come back to get the tickets for a matinee, or we can go to an 8pm show.”
“Or both” said Barbara, smiling as she squeezed Tony’s hand. It was her first trip to the city. Tony grew up here, so he was the tour guide for this vacation.
“Well, it’s a good thing these tickets are discounted. Prices have really soared since I lived here.”
“It’s been thirty years, dear. That’s not surprising.”The waiter returned with Barbara’s oversized bagel and generous block of cream cheese and placed two small plastic glasses of orange and cranberry juice next to Tony, along with an extra glass. “In case you want to mix them,” said the waiter.
“Thanks, he does that at home,” said Barbara.
Tony could already smell the corned beef, carried by another waiter, prepping him for the taste to come.He set down a huge plate of corned beef, hash brown potatoes, three over easy eggs and two slices of wheat toast in front of Tony. “Now that’s what I call corned beef hash,” he said.
“You better save me a bite,” said Barbara.
“There’s plenty, you can have as much as you like.” Tony pushed aside some hash browns to make room for ketchup.
“When I saw that this was $19.95, I almost didn’t get it, but look how much food there is.”
“Look at the size of this bagel and there’s enough cream cheese here for a party.”
“I told you a New York delicatessen was the place for breakfast. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Tony shared his corned beef with his wife and she helped him finish the hash browns and one of the eggs.
The waiter waited the appropriate amount of time, then returned to check in on the couple. “How is everything?”
“Wonderful,” said Tony. “So much to eat and cooked to perfection.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I’ll come back in a while to take your picture if you like.”
“They really know how to treat tourists, don’t they dear?” said Barbara.
“I think they know how to get a good tip sweetheart.”
Tony and Barbara ate leisurely, not rushed by a crowd waiting for a table. Tony opened up his iPad. “They even have Wi-Fi! We can look up the shows right here.”
“Are you ready for that picture?” said the waiter.
“That would be lovely, thank you,” said Barbara. She handed the camera to him and leaned toward Tony, smiling.
The waiter framed the couple in the viewfinder. “Say Big Apple.” Click. “Let me take two, just to be sure.”
“Big Apple” Tony and Barbara said in unison.
Barbara wanted to see a musical, while Tony was in the mood for a regular play. They decided to each pick one as they had always done in their marriage, not compromising, but caring for each other’s needs. By the time they finished eating, they were ready to buy tickets for a play that afternoon and a musical that night.
“Looks like we can have a nice dinner out, with the money we saved on breakfast,” said Barbara.
The waiter brought over their bill. “Thank you so much for coming. Have a wonderful day in New York.”
Their perfect breakfast had come to an end. “Leave a good tip dear.”“Of course, they treated us like family. And we’re not even Jewish!”
Then Tony saw the charges on the receipt. “$19.95 for corned beef hash, $5.95 for the eggs, $3.95 for toast, $3.95 for the juice (twice!), $3.95 for the tea, $6.95 for the bagel and $3.95 for Barbara’s coffee. $62.57 with the tax!”
Barbara’s smile turned to a pout. “Well, almost perfect. Guess we’ll be having pizza for dinner.”
Tony and Barbara paid the bill and left to look at plays for the evening. They probably wouldn’t be able to afford a fancy dinner now, but looked forward to seeing a Broadway show. As they walked by the marquis, all lit up, even at early morning, the Friday morning commuters were walking out of Starbucks and off to work.
They walked across the street to look at the prices for Wicked, the updated musical about The Wizard of Oz. Orchestra tickets were $175 each and all the lower priced seats were sold out for the next week, when they had to be back in California.
“Maybe the TKTS booth will have them half price?” said Barbara. They walked over to the booth where they could see the plays providing discount tickets. At the bottom of the board there was a notice. Due to popular demand, the following plays are not discounted at this time: Chicago, Death of a Salesman, Turn off the Dark and Wicked. Barbara sighed, the disappointment obvious on her face. Tony tried to think of how to make it up to her. Maybe a visit to the Empire State Building or a cruise around the city in one of those boats.
“Excuse me,” said a man dressed in a white shirt, black pants and jacket and a black fedora. His hair flowed out of the sides of the fedora, with curls on each side of his ears. He had a scraggly beard and horn rimmed eyeglasses.
Barbara turned to him and smiled. “Yes, hello. Were you talking to us?”
“Forgive me for listening to you, but am I correct that you wanted to find tickets for Wicked?”
Because of the earlier incident at the delicatessen, Tony was reluctant to bargain with this man. “Well, we had hoped to find affordable tickets here or at TKTS, but it looks like that isn’t possible.”
“I have two good tickets. They are for tonight at 8:00pm. Very good seats, third row orchestra on the aisle.”
Tony looked at Barbara and she replied. “I’m afraid we couldn’t afford those, but thank you for offering.”
The man looked disappointed as well. “You don’t understand, these are for tonight, after sunset. We are not allowed to attend shows on the Sabbath. You can have the tickets, no cost.”
Now Tony and Barbara felt embarrassed, thinking this man was trying to extort them. Barbara gave the man a hug and shed a small tear. “Oh thank you. This means a lot to us.”
“Simcha” said the man, blessing the couple. Then he walked away, nodding and reciting morning prayers.
“Like family” said Barbara.
“Like family” replied Tony.
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Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His new book, "40 Slices of Pizza" is now available on amazon.com (http://amzn.to/HYYIxv) and as a kindle ebook (http://amzn.to/HXvIV9). Please visit his website at http://cafestories.net