Shane in the Old Store
On a sunny but still very cool day in late March of 1958, my father Shane was in New York City. He had just left his lawyer's office on Lexington Avenue and East 73rd Street and was on his way downtown. Shane was in a cheerful mood, as he danced down the streets, playing his flute and singing to himself. Shane was going to buy a birthday present for Cathy and he was looking in the store windows for just the right gift.
Shane walked all the way down to West 34th and said to himself, “Wow, Macy's! I’ll find something great in Macy's. Macy's is the largest department store in the world.”
Shane walked into Macy's, where he would surely find a special gift for Cathy. He was in Macy's for hours, going up and down the escalators and checking out every department, but he couldn't find anything that caught his eye. Shane wandered around Macy's until he finally got kicked out by the manager for making too much noise with his flute.
Shane continued on his way downtown. He danced around New York City. He was telling anyone who'd listen that he was on a wonderful journey through the city, searching for his wife’s birthday present. Before long, He was all the way down to Delancey Street on the Lower East Side. Shane had walked, danced and skipped over seventy-five blocks.
Shane walked down Delancey to Orchard Street. As he turned down Orchard, he saw the side street was full of little stores and businesses. Most were owned by Irish, Jewish or Italian immigrants, and were very small, so the merchants had their inventory out on the sidewalks and hanging from awnings and fire escapes.
“Wow,” Shane thought, “look at all those stores. I know I'll find something great now. I know a very different kind of gift for Cathy is hiding in one of these little shops.”
As Shane walked down Orchard, he bought a pickle from one of the old wooden bowls that lined the street. He looked around three or four shops before he came upon a tiny store. As soon as he walked through the door, he knew this was where he'd find Cathy's gift.
The store was piled with clothes from floor to ceiling. In the corner, Shane found an old fashioned, beaded flapper dress and a floppy flapper hat, with a large feather. Wrapped around the dress was a red fox fur, with the tail and feet hanging down the sides.
“Wow,” Shane said, “this looks just like the dresses my mother wore when I was little.”
Shane put on the hat and threw the fox fur over his shoulder, as he blew his flute and continued to look though the store for Cathy's gift.
“May I help you young man?” a little old lady asked in a squeaky voice, as she walked out from a back room.
“Yes, I'm looking for a birthday present for my wife,” Shane said. “I've been looking all morning and can't seem to find that something special I’d like to buy her.” Shane took off the silly hat and fox fur and smiled.
The lady showed Shane a sweater in the showcase. “I just got these sweaters this week. They are the newest style on the market.”
Shane looked over the sweater and said, “I think Cathy already has a nice sweater.”
“Well, what about a set of pearls or a rhinestone ring?” asked the woman.
“No, thanks,” Shane said. “Cathy doesn't wear much jewelry.”
The woman showed Shane dresses, hats, undergarments and coats, but none of them interested Shane. He was about to leave and look elsewhere, when he saw something black and shiny in the middle of a pile at the back of the old store. He walked over to the pile and pulled on the shiny black item until he got it loose.
“Wow, it's fantastic! It’s great! Wow, it's wonderful! I love it! This is the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I know Cathy will love it, too. How much does it cost?”
Shane said this all in one breath, as he held up a shiny black bathing suit.
It was one of the ugliest looking bathing suits you could imagine. It was twenty years out of style and looked like a large girdle, with a built in bra. It was made of a black rubber-like fabric. And it must have been at least a size twenty-two, while Cathy was a size six or seven.
But Shane thought it was great.
“Give me one dollar and it's yours,” the woman said, as she tried not to laugh.
Shane thanked the woman and gave her a dollar. He then walked out of her little store, dancing and singing to himself, and blowing his flute.
Shane danced back uptown. He wanted to get home as soon as possible with Cathy's wonderful birthday present. He arrived at Penn Station just in time to get on the two forty-five Jersey Central train back to Point Pleasant.
By the time the train reached Red Bank, most of the other passengers had gotten off the train, and Shane was fast asleep and snoring loudly. He slept all the way from Red Bank to Point Pleasant. He started to roll over, when he heard the conductor call out Point Pleasant. Shane jumped up and ran to the door, just as the conductor was about to close it, and ran out of the train. He then realized he didn't have Cathy's gift with him, and started running after the moving train, yelling and kicking.
“Stop the train! Stop the train!” he said, but the train didn't stop. It went faster and faster. Poor Shane ran down the railroad tracks as fast as he could, but he was no match for the speeding train.
Shane rushed across the street to the taxi station and yelled, “I need a cab immediately.”
The man at the desk called out a driver. “Mr. O'Neill needs a ride.”
Shane jumped in the back seat of the checkered cab.
“1005 Rue Avenue?” the driver asked.
“No, No!” Shane said, “I need to go to the Bay Head train station. Drive as fast as you can. I have to catch that train that just left.”
When they arrived at the Bay Head station, the train was just about to leave and park for the night. Shane ran up to the engineer and said, “Please let me take a look in the train. I left something in it.”
“Go in and get,” the engineer said, “but make it snappy. I need to get this train out of here so I can go home to dinner.”
Shane ran back into the train and through the cars until he found his bag. He then ran back out and thanked the engineer. Shane got back into the cab and said, “1005 Rue Avenue. Home!”
Soon the cab pulled up in front of our house. Shane paid and thanked the driver. As Shane stepped out the door, I heard the driver say, “I think your wife is going to love it.”
Ted was in the front yard with his friend Billy, making boats out of old wood they had found around the yard.
“Hi, boys,” Shane said. “What are you making?”
“We’re making boats,” Billy said.
“Wow,” Shane said, “maybe when you’re done, we can take them down to the river to see if they float.”
I was on the front porch with my sister Maura, playing with paper dolls. Shane came up and said, “I have a beautiful gift for your mother. Do you know where she is?”
“She's in the kitchen,” Maura said, “washing Kathleen's hair.”
“Can’t you hear Kathleen's big mouth?” I said.
Kathleen screamed so loud when she got her hair washed that you could hear her all over Point Pleasant.
Shane walked in the house, with Maura and me right behind him.
“Hi, Cathy,” Shane said, as he walked into the kitchen. “I have a surprise for you in this bag.”
He handed his wife the brown paper bag with the wonderful birthday present he had spent so long looking for.
“Thank you, Shane,” Cathy said. “It was nice of you to remember my birthday.”
She handed crying little Kathleen to Shane, still full of soap, and opened the bag. As my mother took her gift out of the bag and held it up, she started laughing. The built in bra of the shiny bathing suit was sticking straight out in the air!
I looked at Maura and smiled. Maura was standing with her mouth wide open.
“Shane, where the hell did you get this?” my mother asked. “It's the ugliest looking thing I’ve seen in my entire life! What were you thinking? Don't expect me to wear this. I won't be caught dead in it. My God, Shane, it's made for a fat lady. Even your mother wouldn't wear something this ugly. If I go to the beach in this bathing suit, I'll be the laughing stock of the town.”
Poor Shane didn't say a word. He put Kathleen down on a chair, walked out of the kitchen and up the stairs to his room, and went to bed.
“What is that?” I asked Maura. “It looks like a rubber inner tube.”
Shane Gets Mad
A few hours
later, Shane was in one of his nasty moods. It started with
him wandering around his room, bitching
and talking to himself. We all knew it wasn't
good when Shane started with this behavior.
at the cats. He was so mad,
he swept his long skinny arm across the table, sending spaghetti
and meatballs flying through the
air and all over the walls
He stormed out of
the kitchen, bitching at Cathy, who was trying to sleep on the
living room couch.
an hour and a half later, I heard a
loud crash and breaking glass coming from the staircase.
About ten minutes later, I heard another loud crash from the bottom of the stairs.
A Beautiful Summer Day
I ran into the living
room and there was Shane.
As we turned the corner
onto Borden Avenue, where Maura's friend Kelly lived, Shane yelled,
“Kelly! Maura wants to know if you would like to go to the
beach with us. Are you home?”
We crossed Ocean Avenue, walked up the rickety
wooden boardwalk, and stepped on the sand to enter the beach.
was horrified to see FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE, WITH
TEN THOUSAND EYES,
all staring at us!
© Copyright 2008 Sheila O’Neill. All rights reserved.
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