Excerpts from Spring 1958 Edition
Simon Kalish owned a store in the poorer section of the city and was also the landlord of the adjacent tenement house. It was a dusty, cluttered store with dirty floors, and lighted by one large bulb, dangling on a wire from the ceiling. In it he sold cigars, newspapers, and small novelties. He lived in the back room separated from the store by a faded curtain.
On Saturdays he always opened up his store late because he collected rent from his tenants in the morning. He made a queer picture hurrying from his shop, up the steps, and into the building next door. Although it was a rather balmy day in April, he scurried along wrapped in an old gray sweater. He was short, stocky and rather bald. His face was fleshy, and he had a bulbous nose netted with small red veins. Shaggy eyebrows gave him a staring appearance.
As Simon stepped into the dimly-lit hall and slammed the door, the stale smell of food and grease met him, he instinctively rubbed his nose. His first stop was a family named Mitchell. They had moved in a few months ago with a little boy and a baby. As he climbed the stairs to their door, they sagged under the weight of his body. He knocked and Mrs. Mitchell opened the door. She was a thin woman with untidy brown hair. She had an old house-dress on and the baby was tugging at the hem of it. Work had made her look older than she was and had given her tiny wrinkles on her forehead and around her mouth.
Simon said, "I've come for the rent."
"So I figured," she said, and handed him the money.
Simon almost grabbed it from her hand in his haste to get it, and this annoyed her. Quickly his accustomed hands fingered the money, counting carefully.
"It's all there," she snapped with her voice full of contempt.
Simon looked up and just stared at her, but she didn't pay any attention to him.
Suddenly she blurted out, "Look, Mr. Kalish, do you remember I told you last month there was something wrong with the sink in the hall? You know that a lot of people in this building have to use it, and if it's all clogged up, how do you expect us to wash dishes and everything in there?" Tensely she stood at the door waiting for his answer.
"How do you expect me to fix anything without tools?" he snarled. "They cost money you know. The rent I get out of this place is hardly even enough to keep me alive, much less pay for repairs. Oh, that reminds me of something I was going to tell you. Starting next week, the rent is going to be raised."
Mrs. Mitchell went pale and leaned back against the door. All the anger went out of her and she said, "But, Mr. Kalish, you just can't raise it any higher than it already is. Right now we pay the highest rent of any tenement house in this section. My husband says so. Why, we can hardly find enough money to live on during the week."
"I'm not interested in your troubles," Simon retorted; "but if you want to stay in this building, you know what you have to do. Of course, if you still want that sink fixed, it will be extra."
Seeing she wasn't going to make any reply, he then said with a slight smirk, "You'll see what you can do about getting that money now, won't you?"
Mrs.. Mitchell, looking very pale, mumbled something about asking her husband, and quickly shut her door.
Later that morning, Simon left the building and entered his store. He had a very satisfied look on his face. Once inside, he quickly moved behind the counter, stooped down, and brought out a steel box. He took a key out of his pocket, and opened it. Carefully handling the morning's rent money, he counted it once again and put it in the box. Quickly he locked it and put it back just as someone came into the store.
That evening, after Mr. Mitchell had come home from work, he sent his boy down to Simon's store for a paper. When the little boy got to the door, he found that the store was closed and all the shades were drawn. That evening at dinner he remembered that he had heard his mother and father saying nasty things about Mr. Kalish and he wondered if that was why his store was closed. Then he became curious as to why the shades had all been pulled down. He began to walk down the alley on the side of the store. He wasn't really interested in seeing inside until a little light coming from a window, attracted his attention. He went closer and found that the paper shade was tipped near the bottom. Standing on his tiptoes, what he saw made his eyes open wide. There was Simon, sitting at his counter, counting stacks and stacks of money.
Just then the little boy heard his father calling him. He turned and rushed up to him. He was standing at the door. The little boy was so excited he could hardly talk. After his father finally understood what Simon was doing, he stood thinking for a second, then turned and ran up the stairs. Running through the hall, he knocked on a lot of doors. Men came into the hall and he told them what old Kalish was - a greedy miser, just hoarding their hard-earned money. All their thoughts of hard work and worry that had gone into the making of that rent money year after year swelled up and choked them with anger. They came out of the building in one mass, crossed to the store, broke the flimsy lock and went in.
Old Simon looked up from his money with an awful expression on his face; they came toward him, hatred on their faces. Like a mother hen, he hovered over his money and stared at them. Then everything happened. They pushed Simon off of his stool, grabbed up the money and ran out. It was all too much for old Simon. He just didn't understand. He got up and walked around the counter with a strange, dazed look on his face. Then he stooped down and slowly began picking up some pieces of money that had been dropped. He smoothed them out with all the care of an old lady fingering her mementos. He was mumbling happily to himself as he lovingly carressed the bills and carefully arranged them in the steel box.