The Family, Guy

“Hey Guy!”, I was greeted with great enthusiasm by the cashier of the L&T Deli on the corner of Comstock and [street], kitty corner from our new digs at old 231. I startled slightly, for in my pocket I held a secret in the form of a carefully chalked NYS drivers license. I was no casual shopper that day, nosing about unheard of brands of chips in search of a treat, but an agent of fools, chosen for the scant 3 month delay before my 21st birthday to procure as much beer as the crumpled ones in my pocket would buy. Failure in this mission would mean asking Knaus to drive us to the Unity Mart on Bailey. My testicles shriveled at the thought.

“Ohhhh! You like beer Guy?” He saw right though me and discerned my purpose by the very aisle I traveled. “We got beer on sale Guy! American Beer. Only $5.99!” His exuberance only tightened my nerves. Was he anticipating my every move? Why couldn’t he aim his intrusive chatter at the old lady eyeing the dusty glass bottles of Clamato? Was this the old entice and pounce? I could see him luring me up to the counter with the promise of selling me below cost suds, only to confiscate my license for a fat reward from the local politzi. It was clear to me that in our crack infested neighborhood, entrapping foolish boys was likely a high priority.

I was in too deep already. Gripping the built in handle of the American Beer (a brand not carried at any other place, but existing only in the tiny sub-dimension occupied by the L&T), I approached the counter. My plan was simple. He would examine the ID I presented to him. I would watch him closely for the slightest squint of eye or curl of frown, and upon appearance of either, I would snatch my fraudulent document and bail. The L&T would be off limits thereafter of course, but I consoled myself with the presence of a Wilson Farms not 2 miles away.

His face beamed as he took the beer from me and rang it up. It really was cheap – the $5.99 included tax and deposit too! I would, however, quickly discern the reason not 10 minutes later. I waited, awash with panicked agony, for the inevitable, “You got ID Guy?”, but it never came. He made more than the required small talk, sniffing out how much anticipated new business he could expect from the neighborhoods new residents, but nothing more. Thus began our relationship with the eager young salesman, who had a penchant for calling any male customer “Guy”, and who subsequently became known by that generic moniker as well.

Forever marked and remembered for that first purchase, I was unable to enter the establishment without a cheerful, “Hey Guy! You want beer guy?”, even if my last 8 purchases were sardines, stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, parmesan cheese, more sardines, a brave attempt to try Clamato, stamps, Dinty Moore, and more sardines. The sardines, for the record, were fried in a pan with soy sauce and parmesan cheese for breakfast each day to the horror and complaints of my more sensitive house mates. I was forever branded ‘Beer Guy?’ and so it was to be. His ability to spot me was uncanny. Once I can remember him calling out to me, as I walked though a blinding white out on the other side of the street. “Guy! We open Guy! You want beer Guy?”

In those early days, it was Guy and Guy only who manned the battlements, rang up our purchases and wantonly marked up stamps. Like debutants making their dramatic first appearances in society, we were introduced to new, exciting members of the Guy clan. First only appearing with Guy himself as a supporting cast, they eventually supplanted him all together, until he was but a poignant memory to be greeted with abundant joy on those rare times he was glimpsed.

Our first introduction was to the sullen hirsute brother, cousin or uncle who would become known as ‘Mustache Guy’. Our naming convention required no more imagination than what the original entailed. Where Guy was a veritable shining beacon of eager entrepreneurship, Moustache Guy was a scornful rebel; a brimming cauldron of disdain and cruelty. When encountered alone, no greeting was offered, nor accepted. On one memorable occasion, my heart skipped a beat when he spoke directly to me and requested my presence at the counter. “Grab a hold of this a second” Still dumbfounded and overjoyed at the attention the brute deigned to show me, I blindly grabbed at the slick black protuberance he held forth. As if from air, Guy the original appeared knocking my hand away, “No Guy! No grab!” In horror and seeming slow motion, I turned toward the betrayed Mustache Guy in time to witness fiery blue lightening crackling across the previously unnoticed nodes of the device. I leap back; Mustache Guy’s head thrown back in perfect synchronization, cackling in glee at the joke he attempted. Shaken, I resolved to avoid the shifts he was known to be present.

Far more preferred was the aptly named Girl. If Guy was to be absent, one could only hope that her far more agreeable form occupied the counter, impertinent attitude a valued accoutrement. Her greetings were full of playful sarcastic wit that added to her ambiguous, ageless quality. Anyone would agree that she could use a good spanking, and there is no doubt that volunteers would be plentiful. Before anything of the sort, or even flirtations could manifest, she let slip in casual conversation her true age – a shocking 7 years my junior. The perception quickly changed from her as a playful woman to a precocious brat, but she was still a far more welcome sight than her mustachioed cousin.

The rest of the Guy clan I always considered second stringers; ancillary angels to the hold trinity of Guy, Girl, and Moustache Guy. Old Guy would sporadically appear once in a blue moon, and although clearly a respected elder, was virtually useless as a proprietor lacking the skills to speak English or discern the workings of the register. Even rarer was Old Girl, presumably Old Guy’s wife. Her function was to deliver important messages in Korean to whoever was working the counter. For one happy month we were treated to Fat Guy, who mirrored the personality of Guy so well that I thought he was a latter version of the same, fallen victim to the caloric wares of the store. As unannounced as his arrival, so was Fat Guys departure into mystery. Hazy memory flashes hint of another guy, Other Guy, but he may be only urban legend and is otherwise unremembered.

The beauty of the L&T was that they opened early, stayed open late, had food you could make into some sort of meal for under $2, cheap beer (with something always on sale Guy!), and would carry anything at all they thought you might buy. Stamps, an invaluable commodity, were made available for a 15¢ premium above face value. For the impromptu largish party, beer balls were available in back. Because they didn’t also carry the necessary pumping mechanism, the one and only purchase of such required us to crack open the top and scoop it out with cups, adding to the sticky mess on the kitchen floor. The Guys even had the foresight to install a hidden cabinet behind the cigarettes that housed all manner of illegal fireworks during the summer months. Although the risk drove the price of them beyond the reach of my paltry $4,000 a year annual income, it did my heart good to know they were there.

It’s been 13 years now since I was last propositioned as ‘Beer Guy’, but if I walked into a deli today and heard the same words, I would not even blink, so tattooed are they on my mind.

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3 Responses

  1. What kind of device did Moustache Guy try to give you … a stun gun?

  2. It was more like a cattle prod. I am NOT kidding either! I think Fay Guy was giggling behind Mustache Guy.

  3. There is no more L&T deli listed in the white pages. There is a “Comstock Deli & Grocery” at 262 Comstock which is on the corner of Comstock & Dartmouth?

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