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GREEK AMERICAN STORIES: What’s Fare – Is Fare

Papa didn’t like crowds. That’s why he got out at 59th Street station, adjacent to Central Park, where he could stretch his legs, take a breath, and sit on a bench until the rush hour crowd thinned out. It was a clear, sunny, cloudless, April day. He found an unoccupied bench and sat, his legs stretched out. He took off his worker’s cap and gazed around. A woman walked her dog, a silly dog whose fur had been shaped in tuffs, whose collar sported rhinestones. Papa disapproved of ostentation of person, property, or dog. “If the dog could, talk he’d tell her to get a cat.”
{49727}A romantic couple sauntered by; she, holding on to his arm for dear life. Papa thoroughly disapproved of displays of affection in public. He’d said to me, “If he respected you, he wouldn’t turn you into a display.”
Papa had a comment about almost everything. I’d usually nod and agree to keep him contented. But now, Papa decided to relax and enjoy the greening up of the trees and grass and the tranquility that surrounded him. He raised his head to feel the warm rays of the April sun on his tired face, thinking what was for dinner at home.
Dozing off, the last sounds he’d heard was the twitter of birds and the sound of a car horn just over the stone fence. Then, a jingle shook him awake. It sounded tinny – or, maybe it was a can being kicked around by some kid. He’d almost forgotten where he was. He looked at his watch, almost six. He’d slept more than he intended to. Time to get into the subway and home. Just then, a woman smiled and tossed a quarter in his cap, walking away. Papa looked up at her with resentment. “What th’ hell…” He felt insulted. “Stupid female!” About to wear his cap he got a showering of…something…come down, landing in his lap. Coins! Lots of them! Where did they come from? He collected them, placed them in his pocket and thought about the woman with the quarter. Were there others?
“Για ζιτιανο με περασαν?” he grumbled, his pride wounded. The train ride felt the longest ever, climbing the stairs to home.
When he came in he slammed the door, looking, to put it mildly, perturbed. “What’s the matter, Papa?” I asked, setting the table.
“Do I look like a beggar?” he was indignant. “No.” said I, wisely. He wore working clothes – the kind any mechanic wears. I mean, what mechanic wears a tuxedo to work? “Know what happened to me in the park? All I did was sit and wait until the trains emptied and when I woke up…I found money in my cap. That’s what! Money!”
I stifled a laugh. That’s all I had to do was laugh at something Papa thought a serious matter. I shrugged, trying to sound reasonable. “The silly strollers paid your fare. That was nice of them.” He went to wash his hands as I asked, “How much, Papa?”
He dried his hands and paused, deep in thought, still smarting over the affront. “I don’t know.” At the table he emptied his pockets of the change, placed it on the table and counted. When he finished, he looked up and a smile, slowly, replaced his former mood. “God! I’ve got two dollars and thirty cents.”
“Papa! You’ve made your fare for the whole month!”
He nodded, slowly, at the wonder of it. “That’s right! And, coffee money, too.” As he sat and began eating, he looked up and said, seriously,
“You know what? If the weather’s nice, tomorrow, maybe I’ll go and sit in the park again. Never know, right?”

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