‘Finally, I Broke Down and Bought a 20-Comb Assortment Pack’

Combed Over

Dear Diary:

I had searched for a week to buy a pocket comb to replace one I had lost. No one seemed to be selling them. I tried several Duane Reade and CVS stores. Maybe it was a supply chain issue.

Finally, I broke down and bought a 20-comb assortment pack in a chain drugstore on John Street. It had multicolored combs in all widths, shapes and sizes. Some had handles and spike ends. There were even a few pocket-size ones.

“This is great,” the cashier said as he rang me up. “You lose combs all the time.”

I told him I had wanted to buy just one comb but that no one was selling singles.

“I need a comb,” he said. “Can I buy one of these for a dollar?”

I happily opened the pack.

“You choose which one,” he said.

I gave him a big one with a handle and widely separated teeth. I declined the dollar bill he tried to hand to me.

“This is perfect,” he said.

It occurred to me as I left the store that he had a very close-cropped crew cut.

— Ed Fitzelle

(Central Park, 9 a.m.)

Dear Diary:

I had not breathed
in years

but one

a wind
the strings
of my sinewed

an old man-

and a melody
moved through

— Rolli Anderson

Taxi Etiquette

Dear Diary:

I was waiting for a cab to take me from an urgent care clinic near Lincoln Square to a nearby emergency room. I had fallen the night before while leaving the theater, smashing my knee and face on the sidewalk.

After an interminable wait, I spotted a lone cab stopped at a red light. The driver indicated that he would pick me up as soon as the light changed.

Then, in a clear breach of taxi etiquette, a man who was maybe 20 years younger than I am jumped into the street ahead of me. He saw me and must have realized I was waiting for the cab. He obviously didn’t care because when the light turned green, he hopped in brazenly.

I was angry. Then the unthinkable happened.

The cab approached me, the taxi thief opened the door, asked where I was going, invited me in, waited as I hobbled aboard and told the driver to take me where I was going, which was a few avenues out of this man’s way.

He told me he was late for a doctor’s appointment and asked how I had gotten hurt.

I said I had fallen after leaving the theater. He asked if I worked in theater and said that his wife did.

When we got to the emergency room, he wouldn’t accept any money for the ride and asked just one thing in return: He wanted me to tell his wife what I had told him: that he was the nicest person to ever steal a cab from me.

“She needs proof sometimes that I’m nice,” he said.

I didn’t get his name or his wife’s, but hopefully she will read this.

— Gwen Marcus

Walking the Dog

It was the early 1990s, and my husband had just published his first novel. His editor insisted we stay with him and his partner in their spacious Upper West Side apartment. It was between Zabar’s and Central Park and had a clear view of the Empire State.

As first-time guests, we tried to pitch in wherever possible, including by walking their enormous, furry white dog, Ripley.

Ripley, it turned out, was known by name throughout the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to pet her, and she relished attention of any kind.

On one of our outings, we crossed paths with an elegantly dressed woman who clicking quickly toward the subway in steep heels.

“What kind is it?” I heard her ask.

“She’s a Samoyed!” I answered proudly. Perplexed, the woman repeated her question.

“A Sa-MOY-ed,” I said, enunciating in an exaggerated fashion.

Waving me off, she dashed away in her heels.

When I turned toward my husband, he was doubled-over in laughter.

“She was asking, ‘What time is it?’” he said when he regained his composure.

— Jeffrey P. Smith

Book Review

Dear Diary:

On a hot summer morning, I squeezed in next to a woman on the B train, opened my book and tapped off my earbuds. The book required attention.

I could hear my seatmate singing. Normally this would annoy me, but I soon realized the woman had a pretty voice. I resisted the urge to react and kept reading instead.

When we got to my stop, I got up and turned to look at her. She was smiling.

“Excuse me,” she said.

“Yes,” I replied. In all honesty, I was expecting her to compliment me on my dress, one I wear often.

“What is the name of your book?”

I was taken aback.

“The Anomaly,” I said. “It’s really good.”

“I know,” she said, “I read a page over your shoulder.”

— Vanessa Spray

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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