"Curiosities of the Trade", fiction
Driving home to Delaware last week, I was passing through my hometown when I got caught in a downpour, so I parked in the old neighborhood and waited for the storm to pass. The sky was a bruise. Rain splattered on the asphalt and flowed along the curbstone, swirling into the sewer like lost prosperity, liquid deficits flushed away, as with my company's business. We're indebtedness brokers. We option properties for a consortium of speculators, people who can afford to ride out the recession, and with time, profit from others' misfortune.
I lowered my window just an inch, felt on my forehead raindrops cool as coins, saw again the two adjacent lawns like an open ledger‑book, the spine of the ledger a slate walk leading to the common front porch of the house, a duplex: two doors and two mailboxes, the picture-windows of two living‑rooms, ceilings smearey with television light.
The rain slowed to a drizzle, lightning crackled then WHAM! Hailstones pummeled the hood of my black Mercedes like BBs on a tin hat, so loud, so relentlessly loud that I stopped my ears with my fingers. The dollar-green lawns began to glow milky white. Hail roiled on the roof of the duplex and a slurry of ice cascaded from the rain-gutters.
In the gable-window of the attic stood two kids, transfixed, their hands and foreheads pressed to the glass. A moment went by. Then they returned to their amusements, for no better playhouse exists on a stormy afternoon than an attic full of cardboard boxes and rolled‑up rugs, a steamer trunk, a baby carriage and a set of bicycle learning wheels. The blue suitcase. Such are the items to be found in the common attic of a duplex house where, prompted by curiosity, you can step through the open risers from your side to that of your neighbors to rummage through their unsealed boxes of envelopes fat with pay-stubs and receipts, income-tax returns, neatly folded brown paper grocery bags, a jigsaw puzzle in its picture-box, a collection of Look magazines, a red suitcase. Until boredom sets in you can play Chinese checkers or Canasta with their double-deck. Or Backgammon.
The summer before I would be legally old enough to have a job, my cousin Ellen came to stay with us while her mother traveled out of state. Being her namesake, Ellen called my mother “Aunt E.” and for the fun of it, while Ellen was staying with us, so did I. On weekday mornings, while my father appropriated the bathroom, Ellen and I would go up to the attic for a round of our ongoing game of Monopoly and play until both of us had purchased at least one new property, then we’d go down to find Aunt E. at the kitchen table with her coffee and Chesterfield and Newark Star Ledger. I would pour us two half-mugs of coffee, the rest milk, then put English muffins in the toaster while Ellen browsed the front page for interesting stories, such as that of Mrs. Junko Tabel, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest.
“She's Japanese, Aunt E., and she’s thirty‑five. Your age!”
“Plus tax,” Aunt E. said.
“The Women's Bank is opening.. . .”
Ellen read aloud, stressing each financial term because my parents were business people who understood these things. Aunt E. was the manager of a store that sold maternity clothes. ‘I'm in fashion‑smocks,’ she liked to say. Ellen pondered the marketplace: why buy anything to wear if you're pregnant? Just keep your pajamas on for nine months and order in.
We enjoyed hearing Aunt E. talk about the store’s clientele. She would type‑cast the men who came into her store. Some will stand by the dressing room holding clothes hangers and humming a sentimental song. These are the Crooners. Another type will wait in the front of the store with his hands in his pockets, clicking his coins: the Twitcher. Then, there's the Moper: he slouches outside, smoldering cigarette dangling from his lips.
Ellen slapped the table.
“Here's another curiosity of the trade,” Aunt E. said, and she told us about a man who so enjoyed buying maternity clothes that after the baby was born he returned with another pregnant woman, and after that he brought in a third along with the first, who was expecting again, and before she had had her baby he returned with all three of them, all fat. They were his nieces, he said, one of whom was now engaged, and they needed matching dresses for the wedding.
Ellen leaned back as if to down a shot of whiskey.
“Oh, it's a blooming business,” Aunt E. said, “and sales will be good as long as God makes people make people.”
Actually, my mother had important responsibilities at the store. While the owners kept busy with two other stores in New Jersey, Aunt E. did just about everything herself in this one: the buying, the scheduling of salespeople, the placement of newspaper advertising. She talked about starting her own business. A wholesaler had offered her half a year’s grace on enough stock for a start-up.
“Of course,” she told Ellen, “I'm no marketing Veep like my kid sister. Think of it, honey. Right now your mom's company is paying her expenses, hotel suite included, so she can find her own house. Then you’ll be moving to Wilmington!”
“Wilmington,” I said, “where in the Dell is that?”
They ignored my pun.
“Next week begins autumn inventory,” Aunt E. told Ellen. “Would you like to help me?”
They bumped foreheads making plans.
I took my coffee and milk over to the fridge. There hung The Calendar of Homes, almost every day Xed in, July mostly gone. My parents were saving to purchase a house. Ever since I was born they had kept to a strict budget, living on Aunt E.'s pay while my father's earnings went in the bank. On the last day of each month, my father would turn to the new month, always a picture of a nice house with the name of the realtor facing out through the oblong window at the top of the page.
Sometimes during a weekend, my father would take me to the insurance company office where he was general manager. Inside the red brick building was a big room with a double row of desks that reminded me of the pool tables at Mike's Place, where a man in the back will cover your bet no matter what game. While my father looked for the print‑out he needed, or something else statistical, I imagined how his office must look on a weekday, people in business clothes seated at their desks and talking on their black telephones, him overseeing everything and working hard to make enough money to buy us a house while Aunt E. ran her fashion-smock store to earn the rent for half of one.
Aunt E. had worked a normal schedule on her first job. When she started her job at the mall, my father and I went on swing-shift. At the same time, she decided to give up cigarettes, because to get someplace new, she said, you need to leave something behind. She had us pretty nervous for a while. Not smoking was good for her, so we didn't complain, and I thought I understood what she was going through. In her second week of abstinence, rife with impatience, my father suggested that she need not quit smoking all at once. Perhaps such giving‑up required practice. She laughed, but my father was serious, although he was in shock because that night she had come home with a new hair-style, the Beatles shag become a perm, her face bright and round in a halo of tight bronze curls.
Aunt E. would leave for work at two in the afternoon, and my father would get home an hour later, so he did the cooking. Ellen and I set the table. After supper we would clean up while my father went to the grocery store or the laundromat, then he would read the paper and doze on the sofa until Aunt E. came home around ten. They talked while sipping glasses of iced decaf. Out on the porch, Ellen, and I listened.
“Busy tonight, El?”
“A madhouse,” Aunt E. said, “the economy be damned. Women spend more on mommy-smocks than they do doctors. Before baby gets born, even.”
“Cash or credit?”
“Most use plastic these days.”
“Mmm. Running up their debt. Hand me the financial section of the paper?”
She tossed it to him. He said
“Maybe it’s just as well we had our two when we did.”
She folded the rest of the newspaper and set it aside.
“You know,” she said, “we have a good bit of capital now. Why keep it all in the bank when there's a fortune to be made in big‑belly suits? The women are flushing their pills and the men are jumping out of their socks. Let them pay our mortgage.”
“You've been talking to Mutt and Jeff again.”
“Marge and Jeff. Don't they know the business? Growth in south Jersey is tremendous. New malls, thousands of pregs—just look at the demographics.”
“I do look at the demographics, Ellen. Every day I look at them.” His section of the newspaper snapped open. “Our house comes first. As we agreed. Fifty per-cent down.”
At dusk, out on the porch, mosquitoes lit on our bare arms. We watched them swell with our blood then we mashed them to red splotches. Ellen sucked her welts like snake‑bites, spat out the venom. I blew my welts cool until the itch became unbearable, then scratched until my fingernails raked up shreds of flesh. When it got dark, we quit the porch to prowl the neighborhood, assessing the houses with backyard gardens until we selected that night’s objective. We approached stealthily, soft loam underfoot. The darkness was redolent with melon musk and the pungency of tomato vines, Ellen's hot breath on the back of my neck.
“You handle this one, Cous. I'm moving out.”
Her sneaker soles slapped ground and she was gone. I bent to the harvest of carrots and radishes, tomatoes still warm from the sun. With this bounty cradled in my arms, I waited, easy prey for mosquitoes. They pricked my wrists and face, one drilling right through the seat of my jeans. Jogging in place, I spotted Ellen behind the house next door, her face aglow in window-light as she plucked items from a clothesline. A screen-door creaked, sneakers flashed, then came two sharp whistles, meaning rendezvous at the far corner.
I hugged my bounty to my chest and ran hard, the sidewalk flashing by as streetlights passed overhead like orbiting satellites. I shot past her to the far corner then looked back. She strode toward me as if she were a fashion model traversing the runway, over her jeans a man's striped boxer shorts, over her polo shirt an extra-large white T-shirt bellying with her arms and hands.
“I'm due, Cous.”
Squatting behind a hedge, shaded from street-lights and the headlights of passing cars. We bit into the tomatoes, seedy juice dripping from our chins.
“Maybe,” I said, “these tomatoes got insecticide sprayed on them. Maybe they’re wormy.”
“Good thing it’s too dark to see.”
Gnawing dirt-spicy carrots, we were walking back to the house just as our next-door neighbor Fay took off in her pickup, rounded the corner of Walnut Street and power-shifted into second gear, tweaking rubber. We lay on the porch shoulder-to-shoulder, watching television light on the two living-room ceilings and stringing together story lines. All we needed were the hues: a pink flush meant a woman in a red dress, straw-yellow was people on a beach, green a golf course or a farm. Night scenes glowed tinny blue, violet. Fay freewheeled back around the corner, down‑shifting as the engine whined and her tires kissed the curb. The door clunked. Her sandals slapped as she came up the porch steps with a white paper sack from the ice cream store.
“Hi‑yaas” she said. From where we lay, her chin and nose were tree-top high. The screen-door clicked shut. Sam haw‑hawed at something.
We waited a few minutes then went around and peeked through the blur of their window‑fan. They were seated at the kitchen-table, spoons clinking in their bowls. Clumps of Fay’s talk came out through the fan, her voice full of aahs. Sam spooned ice‑cream into his mouth, let it melt on his tongue then garbled something. Fay nodded, sipping from a tall, ice‑colored glass. They laughed about things that happen on the job, which was where they met, Ellen, and I had figured out.
Fay and Sam worked for a company that manufactured telephone parts. Ellen had discovered Fay's instruction manuals, which were quite complicated, also her paycheck stubs. Fay earned an hourly wage plus piece‑work pay for weaving different-colored wires into cables. Sam did something else for the company, operated a machine and got a salary with medical insurance, although some weeks Fay's checks were bigger than Sam's. We found records of these things on their side of the attic.
It had been my bad luck to be born in September, so all that summer, my thirteenth, I did not have working papers. My only earnings came from mowing lawns. Nor would there be afternoon baseball games to play, because my friends had real jobs. They were making money to buy cars. While I raked grass clippings I listened to ballgames, and while the grass grew I studied National League stats. Wherever I went that summer, men were betting on baseball. The Reds might go all the way to the Series. New York management stunk. I listened and made plans. One day I would go to Veterans' Stadium and see the Phillies play the Reds. Alone. I knew where the Philadelphia bus picked up passengers, and I had stashed a bus schedule under the rug in my room. To conceal the cost of the trip, because my father insisted that most of my lawn-mowing money went straight into the bank, I would need extra cash, so I went downtown to Mike's Place with ten one-dollar bills in my pocket, left my bike in the alley and stepped inside. Rectangular lamps hung shoulder‑high above each pool table. Illuminated torsos seemed to float among the tables, each player calling his shot as he leaned into the greenish light. In back, a man with rings on three fingers wrote my name in his notebook and took my money four‑to‑one Cincinnati.
When I got home, Ellen was exercising barefoot on the lawn. The stolen tee‑shirt was sweat-soaked, the boxer shorts grass‑smudged. I walked my bike toward her, leaning on the handlebars and looking down at the toes of my sneakers, white as cue balls in the grass while Ellen finished a final set of high‑steps, huffing, and squinting into the sun. Then she grabbed my arm and told me what had happened.
“Aunt E. was cleaning your room. It's where I sleep, so I helped her, and since I was helping, she thought for us to take your rug out back and beat it. What's the matter, cuz? You're sunburnt, you know. Your nose looks like a radish. See, when we rolled up the rug, Aunt E. found a Lust magazine and a bus schedule for somewhere. Hey, no sweat. She left ’em like it was none of her business.”
I tried to push by. Ellen put her foot between mine, I fell one way, by bike the other, then she jumped me, saddled my chest and grabbed my crotch and groaned the theme from Jaws. I flipped her, got her into a scissor‑lock, and as she tried to break the hold I heard her grunts but not my father’s shouts as I pressed my hand between her thighs and felt a firecracker go off beside my head. Never before had my father hit me, and he never again would, but at that moment his fist was the only thing I knew about him. Kneeling low, my sunburnt nose in the cool grass, I heard Ellen explain. She accepted all the blame. My father cupped his hands, breathed into them, helped me to my feet and dried my face with his handkerchief then folded it to a pad and pressed it to his eyes. We would talk soon, he told me. Meanwhile, I must keep my hands to myself.
“You heard him,” Ellen said. “Hands to yourself?”
This was an hour later, a goose‑egg throbbing behind my left ear. I looked around to see what she was doing, pumping down and up with her fist.
For a couple of weeks, Ellen, and Aunt E. spent their days together. When I wasn't mowing lawns I kept away from the house until they left for the mall. When my father came home we did the laundry together, shopped for groceries together, fixed supper together, and then we watched the news. President Ford was in California and the Communists were in Saigon.
“That's the end of that,” my father said, clearing away the dessert dishes.
Astonished, I watched two spacecraft docking, Soyuz, and Apollo. Through the hatchway Cosmonaut Leonov shook hands with Astronaut Stafford. One hundred and forty miles overhead they were stepping through to the other side.
My father sat beside me on the sofa. He wanted to talk about baseball. He asked me what a sinker was, so I explained, but if it hasn't happened to you, I told him, if you've never seen one coming right level as a sure-to-be line‑drive then drop to your ankles and strike you out, well. There's just no way to say how that feels, Dad.
He changed the subject to sexual intercourse.
Young men joke about it, but as a man matures, he takes life more seriously. Sex is not play, he said. Physical love is God's gift, which enables both partners to remain devoted, and this devotion helps each partner to help the other. Love in marriage is mutual, he explained. I watched the ball scores roll up the screen and rubbed the lump behind my ear with the insight of someone who recently has come to possess super‑powers, who has learned to leap over houses in a single bound, and who for this self-knowledge has his cousin to thank. The day before she left for Delaware, I almost did.
Aunt E. was in the kitchen, hurrying to keep an appointment with Marge and Jeff and the wholesale‑people. With a paring knife she cut the tags from a blouse she had just purchased. A summer storm was closing in, a flash of lightning catching on the blade of the knife. Ellen and I went to the attic and started a new game of Monopoly, the top-hat her piece, mine the roadster. This game, I would try a new strategy: avoid long-term investments, keep my assets fluid. But the game would not be played out. Beneath us the phone rang. A minute later Aunt E. called up the stairway to give us the news: Ellen's mother had purchased a four‑bedroom two-story home near Wilmington.
The rain resumed, got harder, then just as I passed GO the downpour ceased and lightning flashed close. Ellen held her breath while I counted off seconds till the thunder-clap: one-thousand-one, one-thou . . . WHAM! Up in the air went our wads of money, pink, and yellow and blue banknotes precipitating in a drum‑roll of hail. We fell into a giddy embrace as the turbulence of the storm wound round us like a bed-sheet.
“I can't hear a thing!”
We untangled and rushed to the window and stood there, just stood there, the rain-spattered glass cold against our foreheads and palms, the lawns below become the greenish gray of mold on bread. The street became pebbly with ice. Hail ping-ponged off the long hood of a black car parked at the curb, the driver looking up at us foolishly, his fingers in his ears. Some day, I thought, a car like that will be mine, big, and black as the numbers on money. The drum-roll of hail on the attic roof faded to a buzz as the hailstones clattered into the rain gutters, then silence. Outside everything looked soft. Sunshine appeared, yet it was raining. Lightly raining. Rainbow weather.
Ellen went first. I followed her through the open risers to Sam and Fay's side of the attic. I opened the jigsaw puzzle box, on it a picture of what could be. Ellen set up the Backgammon board on a stack of Look magazines. She shook dice in a leather cup.
“You want the black or the white stones, cuz?”
The jigsaw puzzle was a country cottage, the dark green parts not easily assembled because of all the trees but the light‑colored pieces matched right away. A doorway and a window. Ellen opened the red suitcase. In it were overalls and wool socks, two sweaters, a blue-and-red checked shirt. She put it on. I showed her my interlocked puzzle-pieces; she slipped them into her breast-pocket and buttoned the flap. Then, from the suitcase, she lifted a packet of letters, the stamp on the top envelope a picture of a tree, a balsam fir. She opened a letter and began to read aloud:
Without you Fay this place is barren.
When you come home, we'll. . . .
“That's all?” I said.
Ellen read the rest to herself.
“It's private,” she said. “Let's see another one.”
She grabbed an envelope and the elastic band parted and the letters scattered to my feet. I knelt to gather them. Each envelope bore a different tree‑stamp, each stamp canceled a few weeks earlier than the next, maybe a years’ worth of envelopes from Maine: red maple, yellow birch, blue spruce, eastern hemlock. I placed Fay’s letters in post-mark order and returned them to the suitcase, asking who the letters were from.
“Her lover,” Ellen said.
“Sam is here.”
She kicked off her flats and we started down, me in my socks behind her. The stairs creaked and the Backgammon dice rattled in the leather cup. At the edge of the bottom step we paused, our toes silhouetted by a bar of light below the door. I reached for the doorknob, turned the cornered glass and let go. Unlatched, the door swung open. We stepped onto a braided rug, a whorl of brown spiraling through crimson then marigold to slate blue at the center.
The rooms on Sam and Fay's side of the house were the same as the rooms on our side of the house but reversed, with the bathroom and kitchen in the back, then the bedroom with their double‑bed and its patchwork quilt and ruffly pillows. Next was my room, where Ellen slept these days, and in the front of the apartment was the living room where I slept on the sofa. In here too was a Navy-blue recliner with a side-lever like on a barbershop chair, beside it, on a small table, a lamp and a set of race-horse coasters and a Look magazine with Muriel Hemingway on the cover. I pictured Sam comfortable in his recliner, legs crossed at the ankles, Fay on the sofa with her legs drawn up while out on the porch Ellen and I watched the light of their television.
“Turn it on,” she said, so I did. Cartoons. She rolled the sleeves of Fay's shirt to her elbows, shook the Backgammon cup and cast the dice. “Channel seven!”
A woman wearing a yellow rain hat. She looks over her shoulder before she knocks. The door opens (organ music). A man's face, surprised.
Ellen cast again. “Two fours. Channel eight.”
The Phillies game, Cincinnati ahead. A swing and a miss. Next pitch: a low fly past Concepcion straight into Rose's glove. The Reds win. And me. Having quadrupled my money, there would be enough for two people for the bus to see a game.
“Bear off,” Ellen said. Channel 13. Someone cooking Chinese food. “Yeah, this is good.”
She sprawled on the sofa. I sat in Sam's recliner and levered myself back as far as the chair would go.
“Look,” she said, “how he cuts the green onions, so their ends curl when they cook.”
More interesting than the green onions was how the slender fingers filled each noodle with gingered shrimp then folded the flaccid dough into a triangle and pinched it together. When the noodles were cooked, he plated them in concentric arcs, positioned the ruffly green‑onion garnish just so. Then he prayered his hands on his apron.
“Now we make a delicious sauce you like very much.”
“I'm starved,” Ellen said.
“Me too. Let’s go back.”
I pumped the lever to straighten Sam’s recliner, which action launched me from it to my knees, so I walked on my knees as far as the TV to shut it off. Ellen jumped up, pulled away the cushions of the sofa and yanked it open to reveal the mechanism of metal springs, the thin mattress and wrinkled sheets and striped pajamas, which she flung into the air.
“Here’s where Sam sleeps! The blot!”
While I put the sofa‑bed back together, Ellen opened the door to a closet nonexistent on our side of the house. I followed her, saw shelves of men’s underwear and handkerchiefs, hangers of Sam's shirts and pants, two neckties, a blue one with brown stripes and a brown one with blue. I hurried her out of there with just a glimpse of what she had missed, that which I had found more of in the attic, tucked inside Life magazines. Issues of Lust.
I followed Ellen through the hallway into the kitchen and sat down at the wood table by the window. Cool air wafted in. I gazed out. A platoon of starlings swaggered through the grass, ignoring clumps of melting hailstones as if such a thing happened every day. Ellen opened the fridge. She swigged from a carton of orange juice. Then she yanked open the freezer.
“Ice-cream! Care for some Cherries Jubilee? ChocoMint?”
She opened drawers, got a tablespoon and dipped up a mouthful. I looked down. The idle blades of the window fan cast ovoid shadows on the rain-damp tabletop. Near the center of the table, where the heart of the oak had been cleaved and rejoined for symmetry, I flattened my hand on the damp wood, and when I lifted my hand, a shadowy impression of my palm and fingers remained.
Truck doors banged outside, footsteps scuffed on the porch, and we made it to the attic stairs, pulled the door closed just before they came up the hallway, Fay going to her room, Sam to the kitchen with paper grocery bags crinkling in his arms. I held on tight to the glass doorknob. We heard the sounds of groceries being shelved, thunk of each can on the counter, the umph of the fridge then the rumple of bags collapsed and folded. Water splashed into a pot.
“Sugar and spice,” Sam said. “Where are the matches?”
As Fay walked past the attic door, a fuzzy clump of house-dust rolled into the bar of light at our feet. We heard the scratch of a match, the kiss of gas, a sound like tulip as the flame caught.
“Saam! Someone's been heah, Saam. The table, Saam? Pah‑print big as a beah's.”
A lumpy shadow appeared under the door: Fay’s slippers.
On the attic stairs, we sat hip‑to‑hip on the third step, me leaning forward to clench the doorknob as the faceted glass came alive in my hand, wriggling to get free, twisting one way, the other, then no more.
Fay stepped back, and the space under the door brightened.
“Hits an ohmen,” she said.
“Naw” Sam said. “Nextdoor kids. Won’t worry kids none.”
In a dime of light from the keyhole, illuminating my wrist,
my blood pulsed. I held on. My fingers began to numb.
“Tomorrah, Saam. Time I give notice.”
“Fay, come sit,” he said. “I'm getting us tea.”
She went into the kitchen. My stiffening fingers parted and the attic door swung out across the braided rug’s grand swirl of autumnal colors. We backed one stair, withdrew our feet, backed again. The next stair complained of our weight, the next groaned like splitting timber, so we quit trying to be quiet and stepped up to the landing. I took the dice from Ellen, put away the Backgammon. She folded Fay's shirt, buttoned both pockets and laid the shirt over the packet of letters from Maine then closed the red suitcase, shutting one latch at a time, each click a hatchet stroke.
We had crossed over to our side of the attic when Ellen whistled.
“Aunt E., you’re wearing your new raincoat. It looks really nice.” Sam's door got shut and bolted. “Oh, I need to ask you a couple of things.”
Aunt E. spoke softly.
“We'll have plenty of time to talk, Ellen, while we drive.”
I went down. My father was cooking and crying. Ellen came down and led me into the living room. She switched on the TV.
I lay on the floor as if to watch the colors on the ceiling. My mother came down from the attic, at each step something bumping hollow. The blue suitcase. She put it on the sofa beside her purse and she went back and she closed the attic door.
J. Francis Battaglia (email@example.com) grew up in Plainfield, N.J. and presently resides in Hampton, N.J. He received two prose fellowships from the New Jersey Foundation for the Arts. Most of his fictional characters are Jersey-based people, some young, some grown and quixotic, who attempt to negotiate rapid social and technological change. Until 2014, Battaglia taught fresh-person writing and literature at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.
Looking back he sees a distant storyscape, ranging from “Serpentina” in Michigan Quarterly (Fall 1972, Ed. Radcliffe Squires) and “Two Dreams” in Middle Jersey Writers (1979, fiction editor Mark Mirsky) to “CQCQCQ Maddy” in The MacGuffin (2007). Other stories appeared in The Madison Review, The Washington Review,Cimarron Review, and New Myths/MSS.
Poems have appeared in The Paterson Literary Review, The MacGuffin, several chapbooks and most recently Exit 13. A long narrative poem (“Christian Brobst, 2003”) was published on the website Polyphony (Ed. Keith Eckert). A 1997 interview with poet Ruth Stone was published in Boulevard.
As an assistant professor at Bloomsburg University, he was a member of the Frederick Douglass Teaching Collaborative, Spring 2001-05. Prior posts during the 70s and 80s included Writing Program Director of the Summer Arts Institute, Douglass College; Arts-Education Coordinator of the Monmouth County (N.J.) Arts Council; Writing-Workshop Leader of N.J. County & State Teen-Arts Programs; creative writing teacher for high-school students during the N.J. Summer Arts Program, and the summer before that Group Leader of the Young Writer's Camp, Brookdale Community College.
In pre-internet days, pre-word-processor days actually, while attending Rutgers evening college he worked as a bench mechanic, repairing various types of now-obsolete audio-visual equipment. Somehow this led to bartending, restaurant management, fiction writing, thence graduate school and college teaching for half of a half-time professorial career.