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My Candyman

By Tina Portelli


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I was six and he was sixty, and we got along just fine.

He had fingers like chewed animal claws and hands that felt like sandpaper.

He would wear other peoples discarded eyeglasses and say they were good

enough. I spent a lot of time with him, although we hardly spoke. Being the

first grandchild of the family, I think I was really special to him.

My nose would be buried in his comic books while he would be involved

stacking and bundling newspapers. I would sit at the soda counter for

hours at a time with Archie and Casper. Often my little hand would slide

like a solider on his belly to the two cent Jelly Roll box sitting inches

from my reach. I would eat these delicious chocolate covered jellies

thinking I was getting away with something big, until I'd notice my

grandfather peering over his second hand eyeglasses grinning at me from

across the store. More than running a candy store, his passion was for the

junk trade. In the back room of that small store was a larger room filled

with broken toys, tools, carriages, radiators and things I'd never seen

before. Parts of parts, piled to the ceiling. This was his sideline,

selling and collecting junk. I could never understand why anyone would

want any of that stuff, but now I do. Treasures of the past is what will

pay for. I wish I had his junk now.

I remember this small wiry man always in a sleeveless undershirt and khaki

pants, cigarette always hanging from his mouth. He was very clean, always

close shaved, hair slicked back, almost dapper in his informal attire. He

wore a blue apron with a kangaroo pouch in the front to store his loose

change. The driver of the Daily News truck would fling the papers at the

store entrance and Ralph would quickly get them on the stand for sale,

taking one for himself to read with his coffee.

When other kids came into the store to buy gum or soda, I remember feeling

superior, sitting up on that high stool thinking, "I never have to pay".

I can read these comic books and day, eat his candy for free, who has it

better than me?

I have my very own Candyman!

Tina Portelli