- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Just then Lucky breezed by with tongs and a basket of dinner rolls, shouting, as he always does, "Compliments of the chef!"
But Cheryl Sue was already whispering, "I didn't know he was your father, Tommy. I couldn't have known."
Before I could say anything her tears, and her tan, were falling on the table.
She pulled the silk square from Lucky's pocket and dolefully blew her nose.
[ III ]
"UHH, YOU KEEP IT, DOLL," SAID LUCKY, unable to conceal his revulsion as she proffered him the hanky, into which she'd just honked like a migrating Canadian goose. "I got more where that came from." � And that was true: He bought in bulk from TieOneOn because it was surprising how fast you went through haberdashery while running a greasy spoon catering to the fight crowd. It wasn't just oil spattering up from the deep fryer. There was the palooka who, pulling on Lucky's cravat a few years back, yanking his head down to table level to give him a better view of the moth in his split pea soup.
That guy was Fred Rogers in a cardigan compared to Paddy Cavanaugh, a.k.a. Potatoes O'Grotin, a.k.a. Eight-Count Kelly, etc. Now there's a man with a mean streak. Making a living as a flesh-and-blood pi�ata tended to leave him in a bad mood out of the ring. Lucky gave Paddy a wide berth, turning a blind eye when he pocketed the little packets of ketchup and granulated sugar; always forcing a smile when he made the same joke about the flank steak: So tough it asked ME to step outside!
One slow night in the diner Lucky told me the story about the woman who'd stood up to Pop, must've been eight years ago. She was a bottle blonde who'd been hitting the bottle too hard: Her hair was a chemical yellow not found in nature (as was, he recalled, her pantsuit). But she carried herself with a quiet dignity. He'd seen the hurt expression on her face that night as she told my father, "I can't believe you forgot my birthday."
Pop said nothing. He just took from the table the two quarters he'd intended to leave as a tip, walked outside to the gum-ball machine in front of the newsstand and came back with a toy ring in a clear plastic bubble. "Happy friggin' birthday," he said, bowling it across the Formica.
His attempt to duck, when she flung it back at him, was a full second late, as usual. The plastic bubble caught him on the crown of his knotted forehead, then richocheted up and bounced off the ceiling. By the time it stopped rolling on the linoleum floor, the woman was out of the diner and out of Pop's life.