Sledding in Manhattan


Dear Mommy:

 Christmas with our nanny's boyfriend is sure different. Nothing nearly as stuffy as what Daddy puts us through with clothing, dinner and some silly kids show at Radio City. This year me and Minnie have seen a part of the city we never saw before, and all because of Pauly.

 You would like him a lot. He's funny and always acts like he hates kids, though he does grumble a little too much about not having money or a job. He looks through the want ads whenever he stays over with Jane saying how no one seems to be offering work which would fit his temperament.

 Daddy doesn't like him much-- but you know Daddy. He doesn't like anybody let alone someone who sits in his chair and smokes his cigars. Of course, Pauly only does this when Daddy is away, but Daddy notices and complains about him constantly to Jane.

 But he doesn't dare complain too much because he's afraid to lose Jane, and she's the best nanny we ever had. But he's not nice to Pauly. Sometimes he doesn't even say hello to him except to move him from a chair or have Pauly put down a piece of his precious sculpture which is all around the flat.

 Yet Daddy was peeved the other day when he came home and found Pauly alone with us, demanding to know where Jane was and how she could leave us in the hands of a shyster.

 Pauly, who never takes Daddy too seriously, shrugged and said it must have been temporary insanity.

 "It's the pressure of having to do last minute Christmas shopping," Pauly told him. "It drove her right over the edge."

 We thought Daddy would explode, but he seemed more annoyed at Jane than Pauly, saying she was supposed to have done some shopping for him. He looked at us and sighed.

 "The kids wanted some sleds for Christmas. What was the name?" he asked me.

 "Flexible Flyer," I said.

 "Sleds? In Manhattan?" Pauly said and laughed. "Where are they going to ride, down Broadway?"

 "There is the park, I suppose," Daddy said. "And they do go out to their mother's place around Christmas. Besides if they want the things I'm not going to ask what they're going to do with them, as long as they're happy. The problem is I don't have time to be wandering through a department store."

 Which meant the chauffeur was supposed to have gotten them and forgot, leaving Jane to buy them for us, but she was already gone.

 "I was counting on her as to not disappoint the kids," Daddy said. "And I would have given her a little extra for her trouble, too."

 You should have seen Pauly's eyes light up.

 "You mean as in money?" he asked.

 "Of course I mean money, fool!" Daddy said. "But I don't suppose Jane'll be back in time."

 "I could do it," Pauly said, drawing Daddy's dark gaze.

 "You? And who would watch my kids?"

 "I could take them with me. I'm sure they'd like the ride."

 Daddy didn't like it. That much was clear from his face. But he looked at us an d knew he didn't want to face us empty-handed on Christmas either."

 "All right," he said.

 "Flexible Flyers are expensive," Pauly said, his eyes still glowing. "At least $200 each."

 "Nonsense. I've seen them on sale for $150," Daddy said, unfolding $400 from his pocket.

 "There is cab fare."

 "That should cover it."

 "Barely," Pauly said, staring at the money as if he wanted to change his mind.

 Lucky for us, he didn't-- because we wound up having the best time ever. Only we didn't take a cab downtown like Pauly told Daddy. Instead we took a subway uptown. You should have heard the noise and saw the strange people. Pauly was particularly vexed with us for wanting to wander away. There was so much we'd never seen before.

 "You'll see plenty where we're going," he said. "Just stay close and for God's sake don't tell anyone your names. All I need is for someone to think of kidnapping you."

 It wasn't far. But boy was 125th Street different from 96th-- and with black people walking all around as if they owned the place. Neither me nor Minnie had ever seen so many black people in one place before and none had on a maid's uniform or a doorman's hat either.

 We pointed this out to Pauly and he told us to keep quiet about that, too.

 "People around here don't like to be reminded about such things," he said.

 Now I wonder what he meant?

 Well, anyway, there were tons of dark little shops with odd people standing out in front of them. Pauly stopped often to talk with them, asking where he could find a pair of Flexible Flyers. People shook their heads and Pauly seemed to get worried. But me and Minnie were having such a grand old time, laughing and singing, that we didn't care much about whether he found the sleds or not. We even saw a black Santa Claus if you can imagine that!

 Finally we came to a dirty little store with a dirty man outside who wasn't black at all.

 "Flexible Flyers? Sure I got them," he said. "But it's gonna cost you."

 Oh, and did he and Pauly argue, shouting so loud we thought they were going to hit each other. But after a while the man nodded and went inside the store. He returned with two sleds and handed them to us.

 "You happy?" Pauly asked.

 "Sure!" we said.

 "So am I," Pauly said, directing us back to the subway as he folded a bunch of money and put it in his pocket.

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