We Don’t Do Take-Out

13 Dec

“I come from stock tainted with anachronistic philosophical ideas,” he crowed from behind the decrepit, blackened stove while flipping a giant pancake with blueberries embedded in its still watery, raw batter. “See this? Some fucking stockbroker who’s about to go on with his day sodomizing the hell out of all of us is gonna eat this little magnificent creation in about ten minutes.”
He pointed to the griddle with his giant head. Sweat beads had formed on his forehead and temples.
“And after he’s finished fucking everybody up the ass, he’ll go home to his girlfriend and give her a Dirty Sanchez. A taste of the bourgeoisie, you see.”
He laughed at his own lewd metaphor and flipped the pancake one more time.
“Watch…you wanna see how I get the glaze on it? Watch this.”
He poured sugar on top of the pancake. To the side closest to his left arm, he had placed a steel spatula into the fire of his largest burner. The utensil had started to turn red from the heat.
“Here you go…”
He removed the spatula and ran it smoothly across the sugared top of the pancake, creating a sweet, caramelized caul of sorts.
“Here’s your usual mister shithead,” he laughed. “You know I dropped everything I ever owned in the stock market.” He wiped the beads of salty sweat about to drop onto the hot griddle with his sleeve. “It was stupidity. My own fault. My kids hassled me not to do it. It’s what happens when you’re stubborn and stupid.”
The orders came in. His daughter yelled back through the rectangular space separating the small eating area and the kitchen.
“Dad, come on.”
“She takes this shit way too seriously,” he laughed. “Pearl, relax! Baby. It’s only food.”
“Stuff it.”
“She really does. She’s like a komandant, you know.”
The orders came in from Pearl, fired out of a verbal Tommy gun in a way that only lifelong Brooklynites can deliver.
“I love him,” said one of the regulars—a man with a bushy beard, round spectacles, and baseball hat. “I’ve been eating here for thirty-two years. Best food in the city. Great portions. He’s an institution, you know. Zagat digs him. And you always stand the chance of getting kicked out for whichever reason he feels necessary. I love him. He’s terrifying. You never know what he’s gonna do. He’s walking behind me, isn’t he?”

In August, three men with shotguns entered Sheindlin’s and robbed the restaurant in plain view of customers, passers-by, kids. Kenny Sheindlin’s daughter was shot in the head as an afterthought, as the robbers were exiting. The story ran in the New York Post and later even made the Times in the form of a long profile on the little dive Kenny Sheindlin and his family ran for over thirty years.

The phone rings. He throws the spatula into the iron sink. He picks up and cradles the receiver in between his left ear and shoulder.
“Yea. No. No, we don’t serve parties of five. It’s the rules. Yea, well it’s our rules. No, you cannot split off into a party of three and a party of two. You’re still a party of five, see? Yes. No, ma’am. One hundred years from now, one hundred blocks from here you’ll still be a party of five. That’s right. Aha. What? No! We don’t do carry-out!”
He slams the receiver into its hook.


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