I was a college student at the time working part-time at Fromin’s deli, the first time he came in. There was something powerful and domineering about him.
“I need things,” he said to me, his voice a rough mix of Brooklyn and post-nasal drip that sent an electric current though my whole body.
“What sort of things?” I said in all innocence.
“Things. Bagels, cream cheese, lox. I need them. I want them.” No one had ever talked to me like this. I didn’t know if it repelled me or attracted me.
“How do you know my name?”
“It’s…” Had he seen me before? Was this fate?
“It’s on your nametag. Mind if I call you Ana?’
I nodded. I was already submitting to his will.
“Ana, can you get my order? I think it’s sitting up there on the counter.”
He took his order and left, leaving me confused and thinking I was somehow not up to his standards.
The next day, he called and ordered me to come to his house.
“I’ve got very specific tastes,” he said. A shiver ran through me. What kinky world was he into?
I held my breath as he ordered me bring a selection of smoked fish, some whitefish salad and a kippered herring. He gave me his address. And then he said his last name was Brooks. I assumed that was a cover name. He didn’t sound like a “Brooks.”
“I don’t even know your first name.”
He laughed that crazy laugh. “Guess”
His home was on a beautiful street lined with old trees, and looked like a chateau or palace. I had heard he was wealthy but I had no idea.
I rang the doorbell, my heart racing equal parts afraid and excited. I expected a liveried servant to open the door, but it was him. He was wearing a polo short, and his chest hairs peeked through its V. Is the trying to torture me?
“Right this way.” He led me into a room filled with gleaming knives and hanging iron and copper devices. “Put that down on the counter.”
Was my initiation about to begin. I wasn’t sure I liked being ordered around by him. I did but I wasn’t sure I could do his bidding.
He pulled out a pen. “I’ll sign this.”
It was the contract that binds us. I watched him sign. He handed me the long scoll. I looked it over. It listed all his orders. But there was no place for me to sign. Apparently, he thinks I am already his slave.
“Follow me, I’ll show you my playroom.” He leads me back out towards the entry and then to a side room, where he flings open the doors. I walk in and it’s as if I’ve been transported back to the Catskills in the 1950s. There are posters everywhere, each one more frightening than the next: There is one with a Nazis dancing; another with an African-American Cowboy rearing his horse in a menacing manner; an inhuman creature; and a some Furries piloting in space. Throughout the room were displayed a bizarre collection of little gold statuettes of naked men he called “Oscar”; others that held coins with two-faced clowns that he had named “Tony”. There were golden victorolas and statues of winged women. It was unnerving.
Dominating the room was a gleaming black instrument that he took control of, placing his soft large hands on its ivory protrusions. He pressed down on them, and they made an unholy sound. Then he looked me in the eye and began an incantation:
“Here I am… I’m Melvin Brooks, I’ve come to stop the show/ Just a ham who’s minus looks but in your hearts I’ll grow…”
“I just can’t do this,” I murmured and fled the room and house.
But I knew I’d be back.