BET ON CRAZY 4 / FIRST SALE by Peter Nolan Smith

The day after Super Bowl XXIV, I paid off two months?rent with my winnings. Everyone in the exchange was richer thanks to betting the other way from Manny. They ribbed him relentlessly for having lost yet another bet on the NFL championship game. I said nothing since Manny had confided that he had bet on the Cowboys and the 4.5 spread.

After setting up the window he send me on errands; bank, diamond broker, setter, polishers, and his bookie. Rip was standing in front of Berger’s Deli in a fur coat. The 50 year-old swore it was beaver. He took action on the payphone attached to the wall and claimed this stretch of the sidewalk as his office

“I suppose you’re here for Manny’s winnings?” He pulled his coat tight. It was cold.

“Manny actually won.” I hadn’t really believed Manny.

“Yeah, he bet the Boys, but he was supposed to tell everyone he bet the Steelers. I got killed because of him. Manny’s lucky I like him.” Rip dealt out 10 c-notes. They were crisp as potato chips. Two go-fers handed him $100 each. “And I’m lucky I was able to lay off his friends’ bets. Who you bet with?”

“My cousin.” Uncle Carmine’s nephew lived one street away from my East 10th Street apartment.

“Dougie.” Rip put the ringing phone.

“How you know?”

“Hey, it’s a small world.” Rip waved me away and I returned to the office. Richie Boy and Domingo were not behind the counter and Googs, Manny oldest son, had called in ‘drunk’. Manny cuffed the cash and lifted an index finger to his lips. This was our secret.

“What you want me to do?”

“Stand in the front window and wait for a customer.”

“You’re going to let me make a sale?” Three weeks on the job and I hadn’t made one sale. I’d greet the walk-in and either Googs, Domingo, Richie Boy, or Manny would t-o or ‘take over’ the sale. They called it ‘getting bumped’.

“You’re here as a schlepper. You know nothing about the business. Everyone else has been here longer. They deserve first shot.”

“They’re not here now.”

“What I’m not paying you enough?”

$500 cash was a good salary. I wanted more.

“Manny, when I worked with Seymour at nightclubs, I made $500 a night.”

“And if I know my brother Seymour, that means you were glomming off the door.” Manny had no use for thieves. No one in the diamond business did.

“I’m not a thief and neither was Seymour.” There was another name for it. “I want a shot at a sale.”

“Such chutzpah from a pisher.”

“Yeah, I have a lot of balls for a nobody.”

Manny forgot I knew Yiddish better than his sons.

“Okay, you get a shot, but I’m gonna help you when the time comes.”

“How?” I figured he’d bumped me off the sale.

“Ergern nisht the small change. You’ll get your commish.” Manny sat down at his desk and I waited for a customer. It was late-January. Valentine’s Day was around the corner. I looked out the window. It was starting to snow. A young couple stood before the display of our goods. They were looking at wedding bands. Manny noticed them too and called me over. He held up a hearing aid.


“Stick in your ear.”


“Because wedding band shoppers are usually a WOT.”

“How can you tell they’re a ‘waste of time’?”

‘You been in the business as long as me and you know. These schmucks will go up and down the street looking at every ring until they make their decision which is based on one thing. Money. They wanted a $10 bill for $8, so when they come in pretend to be deaf. When they ask the price of something, add a hundred dollars upon the wholesale price and yell back to me, “How much?” I’ll ask the price and say that’s right, but you take off a hundred. You know the codes?”

“Yeah.” The code was based on a 10 letter word or phrase without any repetition. The Randolphs across the aisle used ‘tacomaword’. T equalling 1, A for 2 and so on.

“Then go get ’em.” Manny shoved me forward and pointed to his ear. I stuck the hearing aid in my ear. The batteries were dead. The door opened and the couple entered the exchange. The Randolphs were above selling wedding rings and I asked, “Can I help you with something.”

Domingo used the same line.

“Yes, we’d like to look at some wedding bands.” The girl was holding about fifteen cards from other stores. They had writing on the back, Manny was right. They were making the rounds.

“Sure, was there anything you like in the front window?” I was polite. My suit was freshly pressed. I was everything a salesman should be, except knowledgeable.

“Yes, I’ll point them out.” The man went outside and indicated the tray with plain gold bands. He looked like a lawyer. So did his girlfriend. Richie Boy considered lawyers the most distrustful people in the world, since their livelihoods depended on turning their clients lies into the truth. I brought the ring tray to the counter and showed them several rings. The woman liked the 2mm width`18k band and the man liked the 6mm width 14K.

“Can you give us a price on this?” The man surveyed the previously written information on his collection of business cards

I read the upside-down and took out a calculator. Manny was standing by his desk with his head down. The rings cost us $200 for the two. I had to sell them for $300, which beat all the other offers from the street. Manny had told me to add on a $100 and I told the man. “The rings are $400.”

“$400?” The man blinked like he hadn’t heard me right. “Can you do any better?”

“I’ll ask my boss.” I called Manny and said, “I offered these rings for $400. Is that the best we can do?”

“Take off $20.”

“What?” I cuffed my hand to my ear, so they could see the hearing aid.

“Sell ’em for $380.” Manny sat down at his desk like he was unconcerned by this transaction.

“Did he say $320.” It was twenty more than Manny told me to ask. “I’m hard of hearing.”

The couple glanced guiltily at each other and the man said, “Yes. We’ll take them.”

I wrote them up for $320. They scooted out of the store like they had had received stolen merchandise and I handed Manny $320 in cash. I also dropped the earring aid on his desk.

“Thanks you so much for making my day.” Mr. Randolph applauded from the other side of the aisle. “I haven’t seen that trick since I left the Bowery.”

“It’s an oldie but a goodie.” Manny handed me a $20. It was more than the normal 10% commission on the profit.

“Congratulations on breaking your cherry. May you make millions for me.”

“That trick is old?” I asked Mr. Randolph. He barely said anything to our side, except for Richie Boy.

“That trick was old when Manny was young. The best one for that was a haberdasher on Orchard Street. “Moishe, how much?”

“Izzy, it’s 300.” “Did he say $200.” The Gs fall for it every time, because they think they’re getting something for nothing. And they looked like lawyers. Feh, not an honest on in the bunch.”

There were over a million lawyers in America. My brother and sister were lawyers. I didn’t waste my breath defending them.

“What are you standing around for?” Manny nodded at the door and handed me the hearing aid. Two more customers were entering the exchange. “Who knows? It could be your lucky day.”

And it was, because on 47th Street there’s a sucker born every minute and without them nit gedyget in the words of immortal Manny, if there’s always family and if you can’t screw family, who can you screw?

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