Coffee with Cagney
by David Paul
It's 1949, and I'm ten. This is November and the days are filled with raw air and the feeling of Christmas coming. A bell jingles over the door of Hershey’s Coffee Shop as my father and I barge in out of the cold.
Hershey's is very small. There are three little tables on one wall, and there is a counter with six stools across from them.
It's early in the morning and the place is very crowded. It's all men here, most of them piled around tables that can't even be seen. Some are hunched over the tiny counter, plopped on stools that are too little for big people.
I like being here. It's bright and warm and I can sniff in the delicious smells of doughnuts and hot coffee. My father grabs my hand and leads me to the only empty stools. He tells me to sit on the one by the wall and he scoots on the one next to me.
Hershey comes over. He is red-faced and bald. He rubs his hands on his apron and looks at us, waiting for my father to tell him something.
My father is wearing a mackinaw jacket and a gray hat with the brim pulled down, like James Cagney wears when he's being a gangster, and he smells kind of soapy scrubbed. I can smell him more than the other smells of coffee and doughnuts and I'm happy to be in this place with him.
"Coffee," my father says, "and give us a couple of them crullers."
Hershey grins at me and he says "So this is your boy, Red?"
"Yep, this is my boy, David. And he can have a cup of coffee too, to go with his cruller. He's getting big enough for coffee. Put a lot of milk in it, so it's not too hot."
I drink the coffee and eat the cruller, and everything is bright and warm. It is swell to be with my father and to be around all these noisy men. Someday I'll be all grown up, just like my father and all these men.