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Everyone knew that Joe still peddled clothing door to door in his old neighborhood. He was a little guy, a street fighter, most likely, before he started to paint and draw and lie to everyone about it. As a kid he'd stuff brushes, turps, newsprint into a gym bad, pretend to board a trolley then sneak to art class. Even now, there was nothing to hint that he earned a living by strong-arming weekly payments for layaway baby togs, never-to-be-worn gowns in less than mint condition. His car was new, each May his backyard bloomed. And no one knew that his garage studioed stretched canvas. Just as no one knew that his post-war-bride, Mimi, was underage when she offered to model in his G.I. Bill financed Paris room, no larger than a cage, pregnant. He brought her over here, having had his fill Of La Vie de Boheme. So much subterfuge to keep it all under wraps - until the cancer struck and his tumored eye was removed; he hired me to manoeuvre his huge Bonneville through row house streets. That's when he confessed it all, then raised my pay making me his stooge. My driving was so poor it caused his eye to pop out each time my toes depressed the power brakes, avoiding stickball hit and marauding kids. Then it would roll beneath the seat and he'd curse the dusty globule, before wiping it with chintz.

Story by:

Leonard Kress

3 March 2013

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