2nd Prize Winner
Glimmer Train Press 2005
Short Story Award for New Writers

Finkelstein the Bear

by Allan Wasserman

Sometimes life gives you a few gifts. The passing of Finkelstein's parents, first Harry the CPA from a weak heart, and years later Ida from a stroke in Florida, resulted in their son inheriting the apartment on Bronxdale Avenue with the sunken living room and the parquet floors. The rent was ridiculous, frozen in time at ninety-six dollars a month, much to the landlord's chagrin. The building was constructed in the Art Deco era with marble, high ceilings, gargoyles, frou-frou, brick, mortar, and schvitz. Half the day, the building was darkened by the shadow of the high rise that was built in the seventies on the site of the former Bronx Beach Club, a haven for yentas, their schmendrick husbands, and loud, obnoxious, Bronx street urchins.
Myron Finkelstein, pronounced "stine," was a loyal employee of the City of New York. Like his father, a man of numbers. His parents' departures left a void in Myron's life. His years alone had been long and slow. He went to work, read voraciously, watched TV, slept. In his twenties, he started weight lifting religiously, but even his big biceps couldn't cure the pain of loneliness.
Myron was an extremely hairy man, a Russian-Jewish grizzly. Myron's "disease" also seemed to worsen each season. As his anxiety levels heightened, he would suffer tics and twitching, topped off by a "hooping" sound. He had started in public school, and was teased mercilessly until Mr. Bernstein, pronounced "steen," dragged him to the basement of the Roosevelt Synagogue and spent six months teaching Myron to box. Ernie Bernstein, a retired post office worker and part-time band leader, had been a top-notch boxing instructor. Myron now had a "powerhouse left zetz," as Bernstein put it. Bullies now tiptoed home with shiners, fat lips, and a strong desire to keep their distance from "that meshuganah Finkelstein."
Descending the staircase from the elevated station one dismal Friday, Myron noticed a Santini Brothers moving van in front of his building. Two moving men were wrestling a couch out of the back door of the vehicle. A shapely woman in a nurse's uniform was talking to them. She had long brown hair, olive skin, and an eye-pleasing figure. Myron was checking out her very round behind when he heard a little voice chirp, "I can do twenty."
Myron turned around and out of the shadow of the building stepped a little girl holding a hula-hoop. She also had long brown hair and big brown eyes. Myron guessed she might be the nurse's daughter. Without a stammer or any hesitation, Myron answered, "Really? Twenty -- wow!"
"Yes," said the girl proudly, "you count." She commenced whipping the hoop around as Myron obliged with the count. After all, he was a man of numbers. "Twenty," Myron announced, then put down his briefcase and applauded. The girl curtsied.
Myron asked, "Do you know how to make it come back to you?"
She shook her head.
"Can I show you?" Myron asked tentatively. She nodded her head. Myron folded his sport jacket over his briefcase and put the hula-hoop in his left hand. With the expertise of a veteran of Bronx schoolyard athletics, he whipped the hoop with a backward wrist motion that sent it rolling away on the sidewalk and return quickly.
The girl smiled and asked, "Can I try?"
"Sure," said Myron.
She mimicked Myron's movement, and the hoop walked away and came back right into her hand. "I did it," she cried gleefully.
"Outstanding," Myron concluded and again applauded. "I think that might be a Zhoop-Zhoop Hula-Hoop," he commented.
"What's that?" the girl asked.
"When the hula-hoop was losing its popularity, the manufacturers were desperate to keep their product active with kids. So, they put ball bearings inside to make that cool sound. It was named the Zhoop-Zhoop Hula-Hoop. I believe yours is rare and, most likely, a collector's item," Myron concluded.
"Wow," the girl exclaimed.
"Adrianna," a Nuyorican-accented voice called. Myron turned as the attractive woman in the nurse's uniform approached with a concerned expression. She looked at Myron, saw his briefcase and business attire, and her face relaxed a trifle.
"You're moving in?" Myron inquired, fighting a stammer and a small tic.
"We're trying," she answered with a laugh.
Myron remembered manners from his mother's tutorials, stuck out his hand, and said, "Myron Finkelstein, 3F." The nurse grinned and said, "Rosa Rodriguez, 3G! We're neighbors." She shook his hand with both of hers. Myron felt warmth and electricity for a fraction of a second.
"You already met Adrianna -- who is not supposed to talk to strangers, " she scolded.
"Sorry, Mami," Adrianna pouted, "but he knows about hula-hoops, and he's our neighbor. Hello, neighbor," Adrianna said and offered her hand like a politician. Rosa and Myron laughed.
"Now we've been properly introduced," Myron announced, as he shook the delicate little hand.
"We've got unpacking to do, baby. Upstairs. Let's go," Rosa commanded.
"If you need anything, please, just knock," Myron offered.
"Thank you, Myron," Rosa said, and gently rolled the 'r' in his name. Rosa took Adrianna by the hand and as they walked to the building entrance, Adrianna turned and said, "See ya later, alligator."
"In a while, crocodile," Myron responded automatically.
Myron grabbed his jacket and briefcase and instead of going upstairs, he hotfooted it over to the Snowflake Bakery. New neighbors needed to be welcomed. Esther Gorenstein, pronounced "stain," was about to lock the front door of the Snowflake Bakery when she saw a determined figure heading towards her. Her pulse slowed as she recognized the son of her favorite customer, Ida Finkelstein.
"Myron, it's almost shabbos!" "Sorry, Mrs. Gorenstein," he apologized.
"Esther. You call me Esther, Myron. We're practically mishpukhah. You know how many Wednesdays I spent with your sweet mama and her crummy yenta friends playing Mah-Jong?"
"A lot?" Myron guessed.
"Plenty. Plenty," she declared. "I miss my sweetie. That Idaleh was a gem." She punctuated her last remark with a grab into her sweater pocket, producing a thrice-used tissue, and blew her nose.
"Nu, tataleh?" Esther inquired. "What do you need?"
"A box of black and whites, Mrs. Goren -- I mean, Esther," Myron corrected.
"You got it, boychick," she responded as she hustled around the back of the counter. Esther filled a small, square cake box with so many black and whites, it looked like rush hour for pastries, all jammed in.
"You making a party, Myron?" Esther asked.
"Yeah," Myron lied.
"You got a girlfriend?"
"Just you," Myron flirted, sounding like his father.
"Oy, Myron. I miss him, too, the schmendrick."
"How much?" Myron asked.
"Your money's no good here," Esther stated, sounding regal.
"No, really. How much?" Myron squeaked.
With precision, Esther tied the box with string, then shimmied around the counter and put the box firmly in Myron's chest.
"Take. Enjoy. And, visit more often, you chuchem, you," she complained. Esther reached up and pinched Myron's cheek with the grip of a lobster.
"Why don't you give my Natalie a call? " Esther suggested hopefully. Myron remembered Natalie Gorenstein. The last time he saw her, she was fourteen, very round, with a retainer, and eyes that pointed in two directions.
"I will," Myron lied again.
"When?" Esther pleaded.
"Soon," Myron lied for the third time.
"Go, go, sweetie. Make a nice party. I gotta close before the Chasids give me dirty looks." She shooed him out the door.
"Thank you," Myron bleated over his shoulder.
"You're welcome, cookie," Esther chirped.
"Myron," Esther yelled, "don't forget about Natalie. And, Myron, swing your arms when you walk. Otherwise, you look like a mental patient."
Forehead glistening from the walk home, Myron pushed open the glass door of his building, marched across the marble floor of the lobby, and pounded the service button for the elevator. The whining, moaning, choking of the ancient elevator cables sounded. He stepped into the elevator car and pressed "3" enough times to enter the Type A Personality Hall of Fame.
The elevator lurched and moaned its way up to the third floor and abruptly stopped. Myron pushed open the door and stepped into the third floor hallway. Myron walked down the hall, then stopped in front of 3G. But he was unable to lift his hand to ring the bell. He shook off a twitch, swallowed a "hoop," and summoned his courage.
The zhoop-zhoop sound emanating from 3G ceased, and thumping shoes echoed as Adrianna ran to the apartment's front door. "Who's there?" a melodic voice sing-songed.
"Myron Finkelstein, 3F," Myron answered officially. The sound of a chair scraping was followed by the opening of the peephole. "Helloooo, Myron," Adrianna trumpeted through the door.
"Helloooo, Adrianna," Myron responded.
"Baby, get down from that chair. You'll get hurt. Who's at the door?" Rosa demanded.
"Myron Finkelstein, 3F!" Adrianna reported in clipped military fashion. Rosa and Myron both laughed simultaneously from each side of the door.
The door opened and Myron held out the pink, string-tied Snowflake Bakery box and announced, "Welcome to Bronxdale Avenue." Rosa grinned warmly. "You are so sweet," Rosa said, looking at the box, then right into Myron's eyes. "This was not necessary, Myron," Rosa commented.
"Welcoming neighbors is always necessary," Myron responded, sounding like Ida Finkelstein.
"What's in the box?" Adrianna inquired.
"Open it and see," said Myron.
"Can I, Mami?" Adrianna asked.
"Maybe after dinner, baby," Rosa responded.
"Now, please? Pulleeez, Mami?" Adrianna pleaded.
"Come on in, Mister 3F," Rosa invited. "Your neighborly assistance may be required," Rosa giggled.
"I don't want to intrude, " Myron lied for the fourth time that day.
Adrianna pulled Myron by the hand into the foyer, which was piled up with boxes and announced, "Welcome to Casa Rodriguez."
"Let's open the present, Mami," Adrianna suggested.
Rosa sat on a moving carton, wrestled open Esther's knot and lifted the cake box's lid. Adrianna exclaimed loudly, "Cookies, in two flavors."
"Black and whites," Myron explained, "a neighborhood delicacy."
"I unpacked some glasses, and I think there's leche in the fridge," Rosa grinned at her daughter. Adrianna ran to the kitchen and opened the reconditioned Kelvinator.
Myron raised his glass and, like a toastmaster, regally stated: "Welcome to the building." The three clinked glasses, and began the delightful task of making three large cookies disappear.

Johnny Castro hustled to the Atlantic City Greyhound Station in his stolen bellhop's uniform. He tossed the jacket into a trash barrel as he ran up the stairs to catch the 3:30 express to New York City. Johnny's pockets were stuffed with jewelry and cash he had stolen from room 127  at Bally's. He quickly ripped off his black bow tie and stuffed it between the seat of the bus he had boarded just as the driver was about to shut the air-lock door. Grinding his teeth from the two lines he had just snorted off the Visa card belonging to one Anil Gupta, Johnny slowly broke into a wide grin. Rikers Island would have one less guest. He planned to celebrate with a car service up to Arthur Avenue. He might need to eat, have a shower, and get some new threads, then head on over to the Bronx River projects to find Rosa. Johnny charmed and bullied women, depending on his mood. He was good with a knife, fast with his hands, and could easily get hold of a .22 caliber throwaway when necessary. Johnny closed his eyes, exhausted from seventy-two hours of coke, theft, and poker. The Greyhound picked up speed on the turnpike, heading for the Big Apple.

Myron descended the steps of the elevated station at White Plains Road one marvelous Friday with a grin pasted across his mug. He had missed his station at Bronx Park East. Myron Finkelstein, daydreaming about his new life, missed his stop and wasn't upset.
The last six weeks had been a dream come true. Myron Finkelstein was dating Rosa, as in going to movies and concerts, holding hands, and make-out sessions that rivaled anything he had ever experienced. They had not become lovers yet, but Myron was a patient man and was enjoying the process. He had not "hooped," ticked or trembled in six weeks.
He had been taking Mondays off from work to walk Rosa and Adrianna to kindergarten at P.S. 105. Then he walked Rosa to Pelham Parkway, where they waited for the number 12 bus that took Rosa to a new job at Jacobi Hospital.
At night, he got on his knees and thanked whatever higher power had bestowed such good fortune on him. Myron recalled all the nicknames Adrianna had created for him: Mister Bear; Doctor Bear; Bearzy; Hairy-Bear; Mister Fuzzy-Wuzzy; World's Best Teddy Bear; on and on. He counted them like sheep at night.
Tomorrow was Saturday. He couldn't wait. The three of them were going to a movie Saturday night, then on Sunday to the Orchard Beach picnic grounds to hook up with Rosa's sisters and their families. Myron had seemed apprehensive about meeting family. Rosa calmed him with a hug and whispered, "Don't worry, Myron. They gonna love you."
Drifting off to sleep, a changed man went to the Land of Nod in apartment 3F.

The word of Johnny's return spread like wildfire on Arthur Avenue. The stories of his exploits surfaced like oil on a Bronx street after a light rain. Some feared the "little prick psycho." Others swore they'd kill him on sight. He owed everybody money and favors. Most of the talk was schoolyard bravado. Deep down everyone knew how lethal the little pretty boy was. The best course of action with the half-pint whackadoo was to steer clear.
Johnny Castro found his mamma coming out of bingo and quickly ushered her home. After twenty minutes of slapping her around, he held her as she cried, cajoled her to cook him a pasta dinner and arrange some clean clothes for him on the foldout couch. He treated her like his poppa had -- like shit. She filled the bath with warm water, born to bear a cross. Johnny stood up and caught his reflection in a full-length mirror on the closet door. "Hey, ma," he growled, "you gotta go to a museum to see somethin' this gorgeous. Hah?" Mrs. Castro allowed a small smile to appear across her leathery face. She was embarrassed by his nakedness, a little proud of her pretty son.
Johnny crashed on the foldout as his mamma washed the dishes and bolted a shot of Chivas. She stared at the angel-faced demon asleep like an infant. With tear-stained cheeks, she got on her knees in the kitchenette and prayed to the saints with all her might.

The air was filled with the aroma of sausages and charcoal. The Rodriguez family had Willy Bobo on their boom box, and the whole familia was talking and laughing and dancing. The Orchard Beach picnic grounds vibrated with conga drums and urban cacophony. Rosa's sisters, Teresa, Lourdes, and Michelle, instantly adored Myron. They made Myron dance with them, to Adrianna's delight. Rosa's brothers-in-law, all small business owners, asked a zillion tax questions, which Myron answered patiently. The biggest brother-in-law, Junior, put a massive arm around Myron and whispered in his ear, "Bro, you got to marry my sis-in-law. We need a guy like you around. And, besides, Rosa loves you."
Myron's heart almost stopped beating. He saw Rosa looking at him from thirty yards away. They smiled at each other. Sitting off to the side was Rosa's Aunt Carmen. She had long silver braided hair, reddish-brown leathery skin, and one brown eye and one blue eye. Junior pointed out her out to Myron. "That's Tia Carmen. She's a bruja."
"What's a bruja?" Myron asked.
"A witch," Junior answered solemnly.
Myron felt Tia Carmen's gaze shooting at him across the picnic area. Maybe this fuzzy boy with the big arms might be what her Rosa needed. She had summoned protection for Rosa and Adrianna, even spoken to Chango. The familia didn't notice Tia Carmen slyly snip a lock of Rosa's hair. She floated through the crowd like a ghost. Then she snipped the back of Myron's head with the tiny scissors she palmed. Myron thought a hungry fly had buzzed him and he waved his hand around. The ancient woman floated over to an empty barbecue grill that still had glowing embers. She mixed Rosa's and Myron's hair in her hand. Tia Carmen uttered an incantation and dropped the hair on the dying embers. The fire swelled for a second, then died. She rejoined the familia, and wrapped her arms around Adrianna for a cuddle. A flock of pelicans flew above the picnic grounds, heading to the jetty.

It had been a wonderful day. Myron tucked Adrianna into bed, gave her a kiss on the forehead.  Rosa and Myron made out like teenagers in the foyer of Rosa's apartment for an hour. As he was about to leave, he shocked himself as he said, "I love you, Rosa." She looked deep into his eyes, and replied, "I love you, too, Myron."
Walking down the hall to apartment 3F, Myron felt high. Myron decided he would give his cousin Harvey a call. Harvey worked in the jewelry district and could hook Myron up with an engagement ring, especially if there was a commission involved. Cousin Harvey lived to close deals.
Afterwards, he put on his light blue pajamas and went to sleep.

The lights were on in the Snowflake Bakery. Johnny peered through the window. A heavy-set woman was cleaning the display cases. Trying to act casual, he opened the door and entered the bakery. The woman froze. "We're closed, sweetie," she sang.
"Could you tell me how to get to Bronxdale and Cruger?" Johnny asked.
"Of course, darling," she chortled, "out the door, a right, go two blocks, a left, go two blocks. Simple."
"Can I buy some cookies?" he asked, trying to be sweet.
"Well, let's see. I have a couple of Linzer tarts left." She grabbed the last four tarts, wrapped them in wax paper, boxed and tied them. "That'll be four fifty, honey."
Johnny reached in his pocket and the blood drained from his face. His money clip was gone.
"You dropped your wallet, maybe?" the old lady inquired.
"The c-c-c-cab," Johnny stammered, "oh, sh-sh-shit!"
"I got a flashlight. You wanna look outside?"
"Yeah," Johnny answered.
Esther handed Johnny a flashlight and he bounced outside. Nothing, from the bakery to the corner and back except an old Bazooka Joe wrapper. Johnny re-entered the store.
"Any luck?" Esther asked. Johnny shook his head. "Well, boychick, have the Linzer tarts on the house," she announced.
Johnny motioned towards the back of the store.  "Who's back there?"
"Nobody," Esther blurted and was immediately sorry she opened her mouth. With the speed and dexterity of a panther, Johnny Castro leaped up and over the counter and was desperately prying open the cash register with his switchblade.
"No, no, no," Esther bleated like a frustrated sheep, and pounded Johnny's back with her little balled-up fists. Johnny's arm flew out of the register, the stiletto knife lashing forward like an attacking serpent and plunged into Esther's chest. Esther's legs sagged as she slid down the counter.  As her blue eyes fluttered, she uttered "Natalie" and left the world. The old cash register rang as it was pried open.
Johnny grabbed the wad of bills, bolted over the counter, flew out the door, and disappeared into the night. A right and a left, a hundred-yard dash. In a crouch, he went into the shadows of the P.S. 105 schoolyard to catch his breath.

Sleeping on a cot in Junior's living room, Tia Carmen went into a convulsion. Her whimpering was almost silent.

Johnny hugged his knees, trying to slow his breathing. Shivering, Johnny left the schoolyard descending the Cruger Avenue steps and making a left turn towards Brady Avenue. Johnny loped towards Bronxdale Avenue, grinding his teeth with each step.
Johnny saw an old man entering through the outer lobby door and slipped in behind him, just in time to get buzzed in. By the time he got to the third floor, Johnny had a stitch in his side. He leaned against the wall outside apartment 3G, panting.

Rosa's eyes widened as she recognized the face staring through the peephole. Johnny was charming. He flattered Rosa with compliments on how fine she looked, what a beautiful crib she was renting, on her new job. Adrianna stood behind the railing of the sunken living room, in her robe and Indian princess moccasins, with a tight expression on her face. Johnny apologized for not calling, and teasingly blamed Rosa for not staying in touch with him. He was insistent that they go out and celebrate Rosa's new life. Rosa's face hardened as she realized Johnny was high. She gently asked him to leave, explaining that she had work the next morning and Adrianna had school. The backhanded slap sent Rosa reeling. She bounced off the wall and landed on the floor.
"Puta! Who the fuck you think you're pushing? I bust my ass to visit you, and you treat me like a dog." Adrianna opened her mouth, swallowed, and tried to make a sound. She gripped the railing, looked at the wall where her friend lived, and screamed as loud as she could, "Bear! I want the bear."
Myron awoke suddenly and bolted upright in bed. Across the Bronx, Tia Carmen woke up screaming. As Myron staggered out of bed, he looked in his dresser mirror and froze. His body pulsated. His head, arms, torso, and legs expanded. Muscle and sinew bulged. Through his skin, shafts of fur pushed their way out of every follicle until he was completely covered in a thick brown coat. Myron's pajamas burst into shreds, the buttons popping off like rockets. His ears shifted from the side of his head to the top, where they sat like two enormous sound-catching flaps. Myron's face elongated into a huge muzzle filled with yellow spikes of teeth. Myron saw a nine-foot Kodiak bear staring back at him in the dresser mirror. Myron opened his mouth to say "Oh, my God," but what emerged was a deep rumbling "ahhhroooooo."
Across the street, the high rise had vanished. Replacing it, the Bronx Beach Club stood gleaming, teeming with the ghosts of sunbathers, tailors, elderly picnickers, paperboys, bakers, cabbies, postal workers, and horse-players. Every resident that had ever trod the local cobblestoned streets was back. They were all translucent, talking and arguing until Adrianna screamed again. The ghosts formed a posse and headed across the street, leaving to help the maideleh in the other world.
In apartment 3F, Myron tried to open his apartment door with his huge paw. Fumbling, he ripped the door off it hinges. He lumbered down the hall to 3G. Trying to be a mensch, he rang the doorbell with one gentle motion of a eight-inch claw.
One of his neighbors, Mrs. Plotnick, looked out from her apartment. Myron turned to apologize. He opened his snout to say "Sorry about the noise, Mrs. Plotnick" but what came out of his mouth was "Rag raga roooooo."  Plotnick fainted.
Adrianna screeched, "Stop that. Leave her alone." Myron yelled, but what he heard was, "Rop-rap ree-ree ahroooooo." Myron ripped the door of 3G out of its frame, and charged to Rosa's rescue. Johnny's eyes bugged out, cartoon-like, and Adrianna looked straight into the bear's eyes. Her expression turned to joyous recognition.
"Ah-roooooo," Adrianna called in bear-speak, and at once, Myron swatted Johnny Castro out the door. Johnny slammed into the hallway wall. Myron leaned over and licked Rosa's face. She began to stir, throwing wild schoolyard punches into the air.
Johnny pushed himself up from the floor and stumbled to the staircase.  Adrianna cradled Rosa's head in her lap, stroked her mother's face.  "Stop that mean boy before he hurts someone else," Adrianna pleaded. Myron nodded his huge head. He turned and lumbered downstairs in hot pursuit of the fleeing Johnny Castro.
Johnny careened his way to the lobby door. He ran blindly out into the middle of Bronxdale Avenue, the sound of the bear's grunting breath behind him. A crowd of strangely dressed humans surrounded Johnny, looking like extras in a faded old silent film. The ghost of Esther Gorenstein floated in, a bloodstain on her apron. Her expression hardened when she recognized Johnny Castro. Esther's ghost pointed at Johnny. "He did it," she wailed, "he made my Natalie an orphan." The crowd raised their fists and yelled, "Bum!" and "Shtinker!"
Johnny turned and ran full speed toward White Plains Road, with Myron hot on his heels. The darkening sky flashed and, within seconds, the rumble of thunder echoed. Big raindrops fell, thudding on car hoods, sounding like thousands of conga drums.  Johnny caught his reflection in a store window on White Plains Road, and stifled a scream. His hair had turned white. Faces from the past appeared in the store windows. A gallery of his victims stared out at him: boys from Spofford, girls from the projects. Slowing down at the corner, his heart sank to discover an empty cab stand. Thunder exploded above, releasing a torrential downpour. Nearby, the wail of sirens pierced the storm. The bus was his only hope.
Johnny ran across the parkway, soaked to his skin, trying to recall where the bus stop was. The pounding rain dislodged a piece of pavement on Pelham Parkway. A newly opened crevice swallowed Johnny's right foot. He thought he heard a shriek, and turned his head to the right. Two large, burning devil eyes bore down on him like the weight of the world. Johnny was thrown into the night like an old bottle cap, into darkness and silence. Mrs. Castro had nothing left to pray for.

Tim Duffy was a veteran of two wars and two marriages, and had lost two brothers in the Towers. He white-knuckled the steering wheel of his westbound number 12 bus and squinted into the rainstorm when he heard a thud on the grill.  He caught a glimpse of white hair deflected into the black wet storm. He pulled the bus over and set his hazard lights. Wiping his mouth with a bandanna, Tim dialed 911 on his cell phone, then radioed his dispatcher.
Across the Bronx in the Edenwald projects, Tia Carmen was lifted back on her cot by her familia. She fell fast asleep.

The foggy atmosphere was beginning to lift. Myron turned his huge yawning, furry bulk and staggered back to apartment 3G, barely able to stay awake. Tufts of fur began to fall off his body as he climbed the stairs. As Myron collapsed onto his bed, his body shrank back to human form.
Then Myron heard voices calling his name. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder. "Finkelsteen, wake up." Myron opened his eyes and saw two tough male faces in shirts and ties staring down at him.  "Finkelstine," Myron corrected.
"Whatever," the man said flatly, flashing a gold badge. "I'm Detective Beale; this is my partner, Detective Lanzano. We're from the Four-Three and we wanna ask you a few questions."
Myron accompanied the two detectives to the sunken living room. Mr. Garcas, the building's super, was re-attaching his apartment door to its hinges. "Listen up, Fink. I'm gonna cut to the chase. Where's the bear?"
"Excuse me?" Myron managed to squeak.
"We questioned the lady across the hall. She says she saw a bear. The kid next door says the bear belonged to one Johnny Castro. You acquainted with this Castro?"
Myron shook his head, and furrowed his brow even more deeply.  "What would I be doing with a bear?" Beale and Lanzano crossed their arms and waited. Their attention was drawn to the apartment door opening, followed by half the neighbors in the building filing into Myron's apartment. "He's a lovely person," Plotnick sang, feeling guilty.
"This kid's got no bear," Bernstein bellowed. All the neighbors started kvetching in different languages, scaring Lanzano.  Beale resumed command: "People, please! We have to follow up on every call these days."
"He could be a terrorist," Lanzano added. "Terrorist, schmerrorist," Bernstein barked and pounded his walker on the floor. Adrianna ran in and sat protectively on Myron's lap. Beale's pager went off in the midst of the debate. "Let's go. We got a call."   Beale yanked him out the door. Plotnick ran to her apartment and returned with rugaleh, making everyone ecstatic, especially Adrianna. Rosa held an icepack to the side of her head.
Myron, Rosa and Adrianna held each other tightly. Rosa felt compelled to kiss Myron, and did.

The following weeks were difficult. Esther's funeral upset everyone who attended, especially Myron. He made a pledge to keep an eye on Natalie, which he did with a daily phone call. Johnny Castro's funeral was poorly attended.
Autumn passed into an extremely harsh winter. Tia Carmen waved away Junior and Lourdes one evening as they pleaded with her to go to a doctor. The leather-faced women with the two-color eyes and long indio braids lay back on her cot in the living room, thought of her sweet Adrianna, smiled, and her eyes went still. She was cremated, and insisted on no funeral, but instead encouraged her familia to have a party in her memory.
New Year's Eve, Rosa Rodriguez became Rosa Rodriguez-Finkelstein. Adrianna was thrilled to have three names, like a movie star.
On the first day of Spring, Ernie Bernstein pointed his walker towards Trojan Field in Bronx Park East. As Ernie entered the park, he stopped focus on the activity on the grassy triangle down the hill.   In the middle of the triangle Myron, Rosa, and Adrianna stood, giggling and whipping their brand-new hula-hoops around and around. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, feeling the warm sunshine, and inhaled the crisp, cool air as his heart beat to the sound of the revolving hula-hoops: zhoop -- zhoop -- zhoop -- zhoop -- .zhoop.
1996 © 2004