Archive for September, 2015


THE SUPER SUPER

 

RING RING went the black wall mounted phone.

“Stephen, please answer that,” said Paul

“Okay Paul, I said as I took the phone from its cradle and spoke into it.

Hello? Yes this is the number for Paul The Super. Who’s calling please? One moment, I‘ll get him for you.”

“Well, who is it?” Paul asked me.

“It’s the Mayor.”

“The Mayor of what?”

“The Mayor of New York City, he wants to speak with you. “

Paul DiNioa, the superintendent of my apartment building, , my godfather and my mentor, stood up from his workbench and walked toward me as I held the phone out to him. He was the strongest man I’ve ever seen. Built like a truck, with forearms and hands that could crush a stone, I was always in awe of his strength and silent steely gaze. An immigrant from Italy with a zest for life and unwavering love for his family (and me) this man was very well respected in the neighborhood as a capable and successful jack of all trades. I watched as he took the phone into his hand looked at me, and then spoke in a soft  controlled voice with his heavy Italian accent, a sound that I can still hear to this very day.

“Mr. Mayor, so nice to hear from you again sir.” Yes, sir I do remember that I told you to call me if you needed my help. Yes sir I am always willing to help. Hmm I see, yes sir, I can be there in a few minutes. Yes sir I will do my best, I know my city is counting on me. I’m on my way sir, you’re welcome, goodbye sir.”

“Stephen, get my tool bag we have to hurry.”

I gathered up the usual tools that Paul used in these situations. His trusty measuring tape, an assortment of wrenches and screwdrivers and of course Paul’s favorite tool of all, “The Goesinta”. It’s actually only a hammer but Paul used to say that if something needed a little help, hit it hard with the hammer. The hammer makes “this goes into that”. The Goesinta”

I stood there holding The Goesinta in my hand, I marveled at its sleek wooden molded handle and the brilliance of the steel head with its curved claw at one end, while the front of it was perfectly rounded and smooth like glass.

“Stephen, get your head in the game, we’ve got to go now,” said Paul.

I threw the bag over my shoulder and raced outside to the street where we kept our vehicle.  As I climbed the steps from the alleyway to the street, I remembered all the times I used to play in this alleyway with Paul’s children. We all grew up together in this apartment building and spent most of every waking moment with each other. Paul was the superintendent, my family and I lived on the 3rd floor.  Our apartment building had so many other families and we all got along, it was a great place to be a kid. As I reached the top of the stairs I could see the wheels of The Rambler.

With its majestic sleek lines and the curves of its strong and reliable body. Its gray color came into view and as I made my way around the front of the car I reached out and touched the chrome emblem on its hood. It was our good luck charm and I rubbed that emblem every time we went out on a call.

“THE RAMBLER”

Man do I remember it well. Paul used to let me steer the wheel sometimes while we drove through the city streets of our neighborhood.

I opened the door and hopped inside while I watched Paul gracefully leap up the alleyway steps and as usual he slid across the front hood, landed perfectly and jumped inside the car. He looked at me and smiled as he turned the key in the ignition we felt the old engine come to life. Paul had spent countless hours working under the hood of this car. He practically rebuilt the entire car himself. I helped of course, he always taught me how to tune the engine, replace brake pads and anything else that we could do ourselves.

His feeling was that why we would have someone else do what we were capable of doing. I believed that fully and still pass that on to my own children. I hope they’ll be as self sufficient as he taught me to be.

Paul looked at me and said,” Stephen buckle in, we have to get to an apartment building on Seaman Ave, right away. There’s a water main leak and The Mayor is afraid that if we don’t get the leak under control the entire city could flood, it’s up to us.” Paul threw The Rambler into first gear and as I listened to the screeching tires and smelt the burning rubber of the white walls. I was again reminded of how very lucky I was to have this man in my life.

I watched out the window of the Rambler at the passing cars and street signs. All the other kids in the neighborhood saw me and I know deep down they all wished it was them sitting in my seat.  All of them knew of the man called The Super. They knew of his heroic escapades. He was the talk of all the other superintendents in the city. He did it all, and when they needed help, they always called him.

“Stephen,” he started saying, “make sure that when we get to the building you take my tool bag and go directly to the basement. I’ll enter the area of the leak and assess the situation then meet you in the basement, okay?”

“Okay, Paul.” I said, happy to once again be called into action.

“There’s the building,” he said pointing to an apartment building down the block. I didn’t have to know the number of the building; it was clear that we had arrived at the right one. There were crowds of people standing around in the street while the tenants were streaming out of the building soaking wet and terrified. A policeman moved away a barricade when he saw that it was Paul in his trademark Rambler automobile.

“CLEAR THE WAY FOLKS, THE SUPER IS COMING THRU, ” the officer was yelling to the crowd.

Paul slowly drove to the front of the apartment building while we both looked out the car window at the water that was dripping from the rooftop down the side of the building into the street. As we exited the car we both stepped into the small stream of water that was now passing under our feet.

“You ready, Stephen?” He asked me

“Yes I am.”

“Okay hurry now, it looks like we don’t have much time. If we don’t fix this leak soon, you and I both will be out of a job. And, our neighborhood will be called Swimwood not Inwood.” He patted me on the back and off I went to the basement. I caught a glimpse of him as he ran into the front door of the building, he showed no fear, only determination to get the job done.

I was in the basement and in position near the boiler room when I heard a huge roar coming down the dumbwaiter shaft. “It must be the water overflowing”. I went to the alleyway and looked up towards the second floor. There was Paul pushing with all his strength against a steel door on the second floor landing. I could see him holding the door with one hand while reaching over with the other to slide a thick metal bar to keep the door closed.

HE DID IT!

He looked down and saw me. Then I saw a look in his eyes, he was looking past me, but at what?

“STEPHEN LOOK OUT,” he yelled.

I turned just in time to see a wall of water rushing towards me. The water from the dumbwaiter was my last thought as I was swept into the alleyway. Smashing me into metal garbage cans, the water was rising now and as it did I took me with it. I was getting tangled up in the clothes lines that hung there. Paul saw this and yelled for me to hang on. I was trying to but the water was stronger. One of the clotheslines was hanging loose and I kept trying to grab it as it fished like a snake in the rushing water. I almost had a few times and I felt myself getting weaker and going under.

Suddenly I heard Paul yelling; only he wasn’t yelling my name. Through my grogginess and constant gulping of air I could almost make out what he was saying.

“Grrrr lunniy.”

Up and down into the water I went. I kept hearing the yelling.

“GO LUCY.”

GO LUCY, why would Paul be yelling that? Then it came clearer to me. I pushed myself out of the waters pull one last time. I could see Paul in a window, he was pointing to something in the water. Something that was coming directly towards me.

IT WAS LUCKY, Paul was yelling GO LUCKY.

It was Lucky, the DiNioa’s black dog. Lucky was swimming towards me with the clothesline in her teeth. I reached out and took the line. Wrapping it around my hand and with Lucky safely in my other arm, Paul pulled us both to the window where he stood.

“Are you alright?” he asked me.

“I’m fine now, thanks to you and Lucky”, I replied.

“Good”, he said, “now let’s go finish this job.”

We all ran towards the basement where I had left Paul’s tool bag. There it was right where I left it, thank god. Paul grabbed the bag and we all sprinted towards the boiler room. When we got there he pointed up at a massive steering wheel looking thing.

“That’s the main for the water pressure. We need to get there and shut that down, “he said as the water was starting to puddle up around my already soaking wet Pro Keds. “When I get to the top, you need to throw me the tool bag, it’s too much for me to climb and carry the bag.”

“Okay Paul,” please be careful I whimpered along with Lucky.

“Don’t you two worry, okay I can handle this,” he said as he scooted up the side of the boiler.

While he climbed I positioned myself underneath the huge boiler and got ready to throw him the tools.

“Okay,” he yelled thru the roar of the water coming down all around him. His clothes were soaked and he was barley holding onto a small piece of steel mounted to the top of the boiler.

“Throw me the bag” “Okay,” I said as water filled my open mouth.

I took the canvas tool bag in both hands. Swinging it thru my open legs I gathered enough momentum and heaved it in the air towards Paul. The bag sailed higher and higher. Paul reached out one hand and with his very fingertips he touched the wet canvas handle of the tool bag. Just then the water exploded into the air and Paul was thrown from where he was. Lucky and I stood there unable to do anything, I was sure that he had been knocked off the top of the boiler; I listened for the sound of his body landing near us. Squinting thru tear and water soaked eyes; I painfully looked up at the spot where I last saw him.

THERE HE WAS, he was still hanging onto the massive wheel. And there in his right hand was THE GOESINTA.

With his trademark smile always warm, bright and reassuring, he winked at Lucky and I as he swang the Goesinta at the rusty steel wheel.  I could see the bulging muscles of his bicep. His arm swung at the steel like he was playing a musical instrument. Slowly at first then with increasing speed the wheel started to turn. The water was slowing down, till finally with one last might swing of the Goesinta the last drop of water fell.

Paul holstered the Goesinta into his belt and slid down the boiler to Lucky and me.

I picked up the wet tool bag as he came over and ruffled my wet hair. Lucky did a gigantic dog shake and almost knocked herself off her own feet. Paul and I both laughed as we walked out of the basement and into the bright sunshine.

“How about a Coke a Cola and a Hostess cupcake Stephen, I think you deserved it.”

I looked up at him and nodded yes. I couldn’t wait to get back to his workshop and hear the phone ring again.

 

The End…….for now

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