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Greek-American Stories: Have a Seat

June 17, 2019
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

Looking annoyed, George entered Dixon’s, going to the regular table where Dimos, John, and Kipreos sat, all drinking their hot coffee. “Something’s bothering you, George. What’s up?”

Setting his coffee down, he explained. “Areti phoned my wife and told her about an old chair she had for years. Yiannis, looking it over complained to his wife that there’s nothing wrong with it. Areti explained that it wobbles. He tells her, “so? It’s old, that’s why it wobbles. People wobble when they get old, too. You don’t throw them out, do you?” Grinning, John asked, “did he try to fix it?” George shook his head. “Yiannis can’t fix anything. What he did was he placed an ad in the town’s local paper and sold it as an antique.”

Surprised, Dimos said, “Someone bought it?”  George, exasperated, nodded. “He’d sell a jar of pickle juice as authentic Hippocrates’ cure for arthritis. And, someone will buy it from him!” They all laughed and agreed. Just then, Yiannis approached the table, coffee in hand. “Greetings, good friends.” They greeted him back as Kipreos pushed the donut tray closer to him. John spoke first. “We heard you sold an antique chair. That right?” Yiannis, biting a piece off the first donut, responded, “That’s right!”

“That’s fraud, Yiannis.” Yiannis shrugged. “I didn’t say it was an antique. All I did was point to a hole on the back and said it was a bullet hole. The guy studied it, carefully, and said he’d take it.” Dimos asked why he had said that. “So he wouldn’t notice that the chair wobbled,” Yiannis responded.

“How much did you get for the chair” Kipreos asked. Smiling broadly, he told him, “Forty dollars.” “Wooooow!” They chorused. “How much did that chair cost new?” asked Kipreos. “Never bought it,” said Yiannis. “I found it on the sidewalk, years ago, when a janitor was emptying an apartment after the tenant died.”

“When was that?” asked Dimos. Yiannis replied, “About fifteen years ago, I think.”

“What apartment house, Yiannis? Do you remember?” John inquired. “Sure! It was down in Little Italy, in front of a building on Mulberry Street. I remember because it had a lot of stuff that looked good. But, I couldn’t carry all that in the subway. I went back again the next day. But, it was all gone.”

Dimos had a strange expression on his face. “Mulberry Street?” he rubbed his chin in thought.  “Next door to an Italian bakery, maybe?” Yiannis, taking another bite said, “I think so.” Shaking his head grimly Dimos said, “I seem to recall reading something about that Mulberry Street. Yeah! That’s it! It was the apartment of some Mafia boss.” He nodded, slowly, giving Yiannis a look that said, ‘missed opportunity’.  “Yiannis, I’m afraid that the chair wasn’t an antique but it was an historic piece. That bullet hole story was real. A gangster was shot in that chair.”

John, familiar with Dimos’ innovative tactics, added, “Ah, I remember that, too! Yeah! In fact, the police offered a reward for anyone who had that chair. It was slated for the New York Criminal History museum, down on Court Street. Could be worth hundreds of bucks, I believe.” Yiannis paled, choking sounds emanated from him. “How…how…much?” John shrugged. “Oh, a lot! The police wanted any information on the whereabouts of that famous chair.”

Doing some tall thinking, Yiannis swallowed the rest of the donut, drank his coffee and rose to his feet. “See you”, and headed for the door. After some chuckling, George, looking satisfied, told them, “Think he’ll find the chair?” John shrugged. “If he does, I’d bet the guy’ll want more than what he paid for it.”

The following Sunday found them all in their places, looking hopeful that, ‘wheelin’ and dealin’ Yiannis got what he deserved.  “Any news about the chair?” Dimos asked. “Oh, he found the guy, alright.” Not looking amused, George reported, “The buyer wanted $50. Thinking about the reward, Yiannis paid. Then, they went to the guy’s store to collect the chair.” They all looked at George expectantly. “Well? What happened next?” George broke into a wide grin. “The chair had gone through a big transformation. It was sanded, refurbished, repaired and varnished. Yiannis wasn’t very happy. He bought himself a new chair.” After a few sips of coffee, he told them, “But, it’s ok. Areti was delighted!”

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