Tag Archives: The New York Line

The Scent of Nickel.

The freight train is moving east across 15th.

Its warning horn blends with the breeze in the newly leafing trees, and a scent wafts through that spins me into the deep past.

We are in the late 1960’s. I am a child. It is Dad’s day off from the barbershop, where he works cutting hair; Mum is outside, on her knees, putting in the red geraniums along the walkway leading to the front porch.

The black DeSoto is parked by the telephone pole. I scramble in, and Dad takes me with him down Parade Street, windows wide open. We stop at the tracks at 15th, to wait for the train. I look across at the feed store, and inhale deeply the mixture of grain, soil and soot. The sound of the train, the smell, the look. I watch each car fly by. When the caboose disappears, the sun brightens ahead of us through the windshield. We cross the tracks, and move on.

Coasting further down to 5th, we turn right one block to get to the shop. He’s whistling.

Unlocking the front storm door, Dad lets me scamper in ahead. The old cigar ashes fill the air. He flicks on the black and white cabinet Tv, gathers his broom and dustpan, and begins to sweep the floor of cut hair residue. I sit on the bouncy vinyl chair cushion and run my hands along the smoothe, tubular, nickel plated arm rests. I look at the tall pedestal ash trays, filled with grey mounds the size of cremated remains.

Worn magazines are piled on the small tables, Sports Illustrated, Mechanics Illustrated, men’s magazines, the pages all slippery, the pictures all black and angular and strange. I look for the pretty girl in the bathing suit.

The faces on the Tv are talking. Their voices have a buzz in them, not like people sound in real life. I watch my father sweep the floor, swinging my legs over the side of the puffy vinyl chair.

He’s all done. Walking past me into the back room, he gathers all the soiled towels to take home for Mum to wash. I run back quickly to use the rusty toilet. I smell the must, and stare around at the manly grunge.

We head back up Wallace, then over to Ash. We pass Peterman’s Market, the old Russian church. We turn right at Ash, and head up the slight hill under the overpass. The train is long gone, but we can still smell it. Dad toots his car horn under the pass, and the sound is loud and grande. We both laugh. The sun is still bright as we pass the Polish Falcons and then the corner store.

Soon, we are home. Mum looks up and smiles as we pull in the drive. Dad gets out of the car and walks up to her, jingling the change in his pants pocket.

There will be rigatonis for supper.

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The freight continues its trek east toward the New York State line, moaning its horn the whole way. And, I inhale again, reaching from down in the pockets of my lungs for that last remnant of the scent of nickel.

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.© Ruth Ann Scanzillo

5/12/15  All rights reserved. Thank you for the daytrip.

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“Tony” – by Betty Sweet.

( I can just hear my father:  “HAHAA!  Look at that heada hayuh! “)

* This poem was created by my mother, L. Elisabeth [Sweet] Scanzillo, for a Valentine’s Day party.  It is the chronicle of her love story.  Thank you —  RAS

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“Twas a night in December, on a railroad train

The steam engine was frozen, we waited in vain…

At the station, in Syracuse (the year, forty-two)

The car packed with soldiers, but not one that I knew!

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The stillness was startling: no “clickety-clack!!”

You awoke in your corner, jumped up, and looked back

O’er the snoozing and snoring. “Oh, no! It can’t be!”

“Is that a young chick, all alone, that I see?”

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“I’ll just mosey on back there – she looks kind of cute

I need some excitement on this boring route….

“Why, hello there, young lady. How far are you going?”

“To New York”, I replied – as my heart went “boing!”

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“Well, isn’t that something? I’m going there, too.

I hope you don’t mind if I sit beside you?”

Your eyes, how they twinkled, your smile was so sweet…

I wanted to answer: “Oh, please, take a seat!”

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But, rather than seem too ready and willing

I said: “Aren’t there other seats that need filling?”

“I’ll just sit down, anyway!” you said, with a grin.

(I didn’t even notice the week’s growth on your chin.)

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So, all the night long, til the morning at ten

We talked and we laughed, and you sang to me. Then,

we said our “goodbyes” as we got off the train

And, I wondered if ever I’d see you again.

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Now, forty-three years have elapsed, and it’s true

Your hair has turned grey, and your whiskers have, too

Your eyes have that twinkle, and your smile is still bright

(Except when you take out your teeth for the night.)

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Life with an Italian is never a bore

Although there are times when it is a real chore.

But, our years together have been rather nice

Else, why do you think I married you twice? *

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And, now, as I write this, I’m thinking again

If it weren’t for that trip, what my life might have been

For all of these years, since that one, fateful night

Because, I know now, it was “love at first sight” !

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by Betty Scanzillo, circa 1987

all rights reserved, on behalf of my mother, whose story is hers alone.

* Mum and Dad were first married in 1944, then divorced two years later for a total of nearly 10 years, after which they remarried each other. Neither one had married anyone else in the meantime. I was the first child born of their reunion.

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  Please, respect the rights of this post. Thank you.

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