Three weeks had passed since Zach and Charlie had purchased their new home. They finally got settled in, and decided to go to San Francisco to become familiar with the city. They also needed to get tuxedos for an opera that Zach bought tickets for. He had read that San Francisco had one of the largest opera companies, in addition to, popular theaters and museums. He thought that he and Charlie could use a night out after weeks of organizing their new home.
It was a Monday morning when a taxi dropped Zach and Charlie off on the corner of Market Street and 4th Avenue. The sidewalks were crowded with people on their way to work while they searched for Eli’s Shop & Tailoring.
The tailor shop was a small family business that Zach found in the Yellow pages. What appealed to Zach was it provided tailoring on purchased suits and tuxedos. Zach knew that being small, and Charlie being so large would probably create problems finding tuxedos that fit. It was inevitable that they would need to have them custom-fit. Eli’s was one of the few tailor shops in the metropolitan area that provided such services at a reasonable price.
Zach and Charlie passed various businesses as they made their way down Market Street searching for the shop. “What kinda suit we looking for again?” Charlie asked.
“It’s not kinda, it’s kind of,” Zach said correcting Charlie’s grammar. “We need to stop talking like we were raised on farms.”
“But we were raised on farms,” Charlie said.
“Yeah, I know, but nobody needs to know that each time we open our mouths,” Zach said. “We sound like two country bumpkins ... and they’re called tuxedos. It’s what all gentlemen wear when they go to the opera.”
Charlie wasn’t exactly thrilled over the idea of going to an opera or wearing a tuxedo, but he went along with it anyway to please Zach.
“There it is,” Zach said spotting the sign from where they were. The tailor shop was in the middle of the block with a shoe store on one side and a butcher shop on the other. A little bell on the door rang when Zach and Charlie entered the store. They immediately noticed a portly man and his wife being assisted by the store manager.
The wife was a little over five feet and chubby, but not excessive like her husband. Her husband looked as though he enjoyed eating. He was a short, round man about five-foot-six inches. They both looked to be in their early fifties.
The store manager wore a measuring tape around his neck. He was wearing a brown vest over a sleeved shirt rolled up just below his elbows. He examined the man’s pants that were draped over the counter.
As they waited to be helped, Zach and Charlie browsed through the shop. There were mannequins on display wearing the latest fashions in business suits and tuxedos. Zach was getting impatient and wondered how long they’d have to wait for the manager to finish up with his customers.
The manager didn’t like the looks of Zach and Charlie. He became suspicious and glanced over to see what they were up to. Then his eyes shifted back to his customer when he spoke up.
“I just don’t understand it,” the portly man said, “these slacks fit just fine last month when we went to our niece’s wedding.”
His wife stood beside him and wasted no time expressing her unsolicited opinion. “Maybe if you didn’t eat so much they’d still fit,” his wife said. “You remember what the doctor said about your diet.”
“Well, I like my meat and potatoes, what can I tell you,” he said to his wife.
“Meat and potatoes?” she said. “What about the ice cream, and pretzels, and peanuts, and the—”
“Okay, okay, so I like to snack a little,” he snapped back at his wife. “Is that a crime?”
"A little?” his wife said.
Suddenly the manager cleared his throat and removed the measuring tape from around his neck. He wanted to defuse the situation before the husband and wife really got into a heated argument. He began to measure the customer’s waist. “Okay, just raise your arms and we’ll see how much we have to adjust,” the manager said with a Yiddish accent. “Not a problem.”
Zach glanced at the overweight customer. Then he whispered to Charlie from across the clothing rack, “Sounds like you both have the same appetite.”
“Yeah, but I don’t look like that,” Charlie whispered back, which made them giggle like schoolboys.
The manager leered at them with a disdain look. Then he called out to his assistant. “Betty!” he called out in a fractious tone. He proceeded to walk behind the counter as he measured the waist of the pants. “Betty! ... where is that woman?”
From the back room, Betty Washington appeared. She was an attractive African-American woman in her mid-twenties. She did all of the tailoring, cleaning, and almost everything else there was to do around the shop. “Yes, Mr. Schneider?”
Sheldon Schneider was the store manager and brother-in-law to the owner, Eli Rosenbaum. He was a balding man of sixty with a small mustache over a rather hard mouth and an overbearing manner. His two small haughty eyes peered through bifocals. He gave the appearance of always leaning forward when he spoke to Betty, which she hated, but she was grateful that she at least had a job. “It’s about time,” he said to Betty. “I need you to let these trousers out two inches.” He rudely handed her the customer’s pants. He treated her as though she was a servant rather than an employee.
“Yes sir,” Betty said. Then she headed to the back room. When she glanced up, she made eye contact with Charlie and smiled at him.
Charlie was captivated. By the time he managed to smile back at Betty, she had already gone into the back room. He recalled how she had light bronze skin, which appeared clear and smooth. She also had green eyes and short, black, wavy hair. He thought she was the loveliest thing he had ever seen.
When the bell on the door rang it snapped Charlie out of his trance. He noticed that the portly man and his wife were leaving.
Once the couple left the store, Zach and Charlie headed to the counter. They were eager to see what the store had in tuxedo sizes. By the time they had reached the counter, Schneider abruptly headed into the back room.
Zach rolled his eyes at Charlie. “You believe this guy?” Zach said loud enough that the store manager could hear him. Then he continued browsing through the store. He figured whenever Houdini returned, they’d ask for assistance.
When the bell on the door rang again when a young, slender man carrying a sports jacket entered the shop. Schneider quickly emerged from the back room and immediately assisted the customer at the counter. “What could I help you with, sir?”
“I was wondering if this could be fixed,” the young man asked Schneider, revealing a tear in the seam on the shoulder of his jacket.
Zach was ready to blow his top and wanted to give the store manager a piece of his mind. He approached the counter and stood steadfast with his fists on his hips. “Excuse me,” he said, “but we’ve been waiting patiently. We came in after the fat guy and his wife, and we’re still waiting.”
Charlie chuckled to himself. Sometimes Zach had a way with words that were just funny.
The store manager was shocked at the way Zach had addressed his customer. “This will only take a moment,” he said disregarding Zach. He adjusted his glasses and examined the tear in the man’s jacket.
“Can it be fixed?” the young man asked.
“Yes, of course it can be repaired,” Schneider replied.
“Super, what’s the damage?”
“The damage?” Schneider asked. He looked puzzled. “There is a tear in it.”
“No, I mean how much will it cost?”
“Oh,” Schneider said. He began to chuckle, “I’ve never been asked that before. You young people with your crazy expressions. It will be two dollars.” He smiled casually and then glanced over at Zach who was staring directly at him.
Zach didn’t like being discounted and became wise to Schneider. Then he watched as Schneider handed the man a yellow slip of paper and said, “You can pay for it on Thursday, it will be ready then.”
“Okey-doke, thanks pops,” the young man said. He took the slip and headed out the door.
“Betty!” Schneider called out.
Betty emerged from behind the black curtain that separated the back room from the rest of the shop. She was obviously frustrated and overworked. “Yes, Mr. Schneider?”
Schneider handed her the jacket. “This needs to be fixed by Thursday,” Schneider said pointing his index finger at the tear.
“Yes, Mr. Schneider,” Betty said. Then she took the jacket and headed to the back room. She saw that Charlie watching her timidly, so she smiled at him again, but this time Schneider took notice and frowned.
Suddenly the bell on the door rang, and two gentlemen entered the store. “How can I help you gentlemen?” Schneider asked the men, making it obvious he was ignoring Zach.
One of the men handed Schneider the yellow slip. That was all Zach needed, he finally had enough.
“Hey pal, what’s the story?” Zach shouted. “Are we invisible or what? It’s not like we have all day ya know.”
“Calm down, sir. This will only take a moment,” Schneider said to Zach without looking at him.
“Yeah, ya said that last time!” Zach said. Normally, Charlie would have stepped in by now and demanded service, but he didn’t mind waiting as long as he got to see Betty again.
“If he’s first then take care of him, we can wait,” one of the men said to Schneider.
Schneider took the slip from the man and quickly headed to the back room.
“That’s it!” Zach said. “C’mon Charlie, we’re leaving!”
When they reached the door, Schneider had returned from the back room carrying a suit. He smirked as he watched them walk out the door. Scoundrels.