I always wanted to be a Sandhog. Yep building those tunnels underneath water, connecting one landmass to another was my dream. I would sit on the beach in Coney Island just a couple of blocks from our apartment and look out at the ocean and imagine connecting Coney Island, Brooklyn to Sandy Hook, New Jersey by tunneling underneath Raritan Bay.
I felt I had sand in my veins, but most of it was in my bathing suit.
Mother felt I would be better as a Neurosurgeon because of my dexterity at playing pickup sticks. Actually, she wouldn’t mind me going into any profession, long as letters appeared after my name.
I felt my destiny was sealed after seeing a movie about Sandhogs called “No Time for Love” with Fred McMurray and Claudette Colbert. I came home transformed. My older brothers were sitting at the kitchen table and I said to them why don’t one of you mugs get up and give me a seat. They both stood and proceeded to pummel me to the floor… that was my first experience with the bends.
At suppertime, I would make tunnels in my mashed potatoes and try to hold back the gravy until the tunnel was just finished. My mom would ask how do you like the mashed potatoes?”
And I replied, “They taste great but the consistency caused three cave-ins and I lost two of my best men… because of you.”
“I’m going out for a drink.”
“Wouldn’t you rather play pickup sticks?” she said.
I disregarded her offer and left for the corner candy store.
Mr. Fleischmann asked “what can I get you sonny?” and I replied, I’ll have an Egg Cream and don’t skimp on the chocolate syrup.”
His younger daughter Rachel looked at me with awe.
Listen, Mr. Fleischmann said, “When have I ever skimped on the chocolate syrup you little pisher?
I shrugged off his remark, took my drink to a corner table where Rachel enthralled by my assertiveness joined me.
“Michael what’s come over you, talking to my father that way?”
“I had three cave-ins and lost two of my best men, I needed a stiff drink before I tell their families.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Listen kid you’re the kind off girl I need to be with… guys in my racket need a pretty girl to come home to. How good are you at making mashed potatoes?”
“I tried once but they came out thick and lumpy.”
“I knew you were the girl for me. Meet me at the beach tomorrow and we’ll talk some more.”
“So what did you want to talk to me about?”
“I’m going to be a Sandhog, and I want to build a tunnel to Sandy Hook and name it after you.”
“I don’t think Brooklyn needs a tunnel from Coney Island to NJ, especially one called, The Rachel Fleischmann Tunnel.”
“It will be called the Rachel Godfrey Tunnel.”
“You’re planning to marry me? Michael I’m only nine years old and you’re 11.”
“Why are you putting obstacles in our path? You’re just like my mother.”
“I’ll take that as a complement. Your mother is a very wise woman.
“How come you’re so against this?”
Listen Michael last month you wanted to be a Canadian Mounty after you saw “Rose Marie” with Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald. I can’t live my life this way.”
“You seemed okay with it the other day?”
I was humoring you. You still need an adult to help you cross Mermaid Avenue. Did you think you can take the subway to Canada?”
“Maybe you’re right. Do you want to go to the movie and see Dr. Kildare?”
Now you’re talking Michael. I’ll bring candy from the store.
Author Mitch Phillips, all of his books are available on Amazon.com
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