Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Neighborhood Character - Fat Sally

Fat Sally was aptly named. He weighed around 300 lbs. and looked at exercise in any form the way you would look at something unpleasant on the bottom of your shoe. Sal also had what used to called a "club foot" and wore an over sized corrective shoe. Completing the picture were hooded eyes and a full head of oily curls that made him look like a slightly dishonest angel. In fact, Sally was slightly dishonest. He fancied himself a "wise guy" but didn't really get into any heavy stuff. He took numbers, but so did every candy store owner in the neighborhood. He was also our illegal fireworks supplier, and did a brisk business selling cherry bombs and ash cans out of his car trunk on July 4th.

Fat Sally's criminal career started early. When we were kids we all played an Italian card game called "brisk". Sally began to organize these games in exchange for skimming a dime from every winning pot. In exchange for this fee, he would bring you (for a small charge) ice cold sodas from the corner grocery store or Italian ices from Roma's pastry shop on Fulton Street. He would also keep an eye out for the cops who actually patrolled a beat back in those days. They were like the mailman; we saw them every day and they knew every kid on the block. They were not above giving you a love tap with their nightsticks if they thought you needed an attitude adjustment.

As he got older, Sally moved on to taking bets on the numbers and also sporting events. As I said, there was plenty of competition in the neighborhood, especially from our local barber who made a lot more money as a bookie than he ever did cutting hair. Fat Sally might have been risking a broken kneecap since the barber was connected to real mob guys, except that he had one big thing going for him...his brother crazy Louie. Here was a serious sociopath. Louie started out as the kid who would eat a bug on a dare. He was violent and totally unpredictable, and even in a neighborhood full of tough street kids, we all gave crazy Louie a wide berth.

Louie, despite his psychopathic tendencies, had a soft side. He served as an altar boy at Mass and at times, seemed deeply religious. How he reconciled these feelings with his penchant for throwing garbage pails through store windows or beating the crap out of people who looked the wrong way at him, I'll never know. Louie was also very protective of his little brother. Knowing this, Fat Sally felt free to act like a total jerk. He would knowingly taunt people, confident that Louie would step in if things got out of hand. Unfortunately, Sal pushed his luck a little too far.

There was a sad character in our neighborhood we called "Eddie Goose". Eddie was like the Lenny character in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men"...brutally strong but gentle as a baby. He was probably schizophrenic, and in the cruel world of kids, that meant teasing and worse. He usually tolerated our taunts, but one day Fat Sally just wouldn't let up. Knowing his big brother was close by, he began hitting Eddie Goose, first on the head, and when Eddie covered up, then in the stomach. Something snapped in Eddie's brain and he turned into The Hulk. Once aroused, his strength kicked in and he quickly put the cowardly Sal on the ground. Crazy Louie stepped in and it turned out to be the worst mistake he ever made. When Eddie was done with him, to quote the great Jim Croce song, he looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.

 In a perfect world, all the Fat Sallys and Crazy Louies would eventually meet their Eddie Goose and get what was coming to them. The world is far from perfect however, although on one day in the 1950s, under the el on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, Karma was king and it was good to see justice done.


Children's Craniofacial Association

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