Will the corned beef sandwich and the pickle save your life?


tale of a corn-beef sandwich


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Morrie and Zelda

By Dolly Reisman

Miami buzzed with questions.

"Morrie, what do you feel like eating?" The question was asked by Zelda, Morrie's wife.

Morrie and Zelda sat at the all-night deli counter having lunch. It was the same deli where they had met over forty years ago. Pin-curled old waitresses in slippers, their taut arms akimbo, listened critically to orders.

"What should I eat?" Morrie asked Zelda.

"How would I know what you should eat?" Zelda's arms flapped as she shooed a fly.

"And if you don't know what I want, who should?" he asked. Morrie's pants were hiked up over his waist, almost hitting his chest.

"Who should?" Whack. Zelda swept the dead fly onto the ground with her bare hand then swivelled centre and studied the daily specials.

"That's what I want to know?" he said. "Oy, tucka, what do I feel like eating?" he asked sighing.

Morrie closed his eyes as Zelda read.

"You want an order schmaltz herring with a piece of black bread?"

"No, Zelda, I don't think so. What else they got?"

"An omelette? Spanish?"


"A delicious bowl of chicken soup."


"Stewed chicken?"

Morrie rubbed his large belly. "Maybe," he said, "but my stomach is a little upset."

"You're sick?"

Morrie shrugged, he opened his eyes and wiped his brow and armpits with his hanky. His hand shook.

"Is it hot?" he asked.

Zelda looked at him. She arched her brow refusing to answer.

"But is it me, or is it hot?" He dabbed at the sweat trickling down his face.

"What do you think?" she said, fanning herself with a paper napkin.

Morrie chortled. "If God wanted Adam to know what he was thinking, he wouldn't have created Eve, would he?" He pinched Zelda's cheek. She pushed his hand away.

"So now I'm Eve?"

"Zelda," he said beaming at her, "how could you be anyone else but you?"

She smiled, reluctantly. "That is true, isn't it, Morrie?"

Morrie swivelled his seat to face the counter. He pinched a pickle and dangled it over his mouth, lowered it and snapped it in half.

"Oy," he said, "is this good or is this good?"

"Tell me, is it good?"

"It isn't as good as Ma's, now, is it?"

Rosemary, their waitress, sauntered up to counter. She tapped her pen against her ordering pad while Morrie chewed.

"So," she said, waiting for him to swallow. "You ready?"

"Yeah," he said. "We're ready. Gimme a corned beef sandwich with enough fat that I can see it."

Zelda turned and looked at him, surprised.

Morrie shrugged. "Sometimes you gotta live."

The waitress wrote down the order then shifted her mascara-smeared eyes over to Zelda.

"Me, I'll have the same," she said, reluctantly.

Morrie nodded. "That a girl. Live it up!" He patted her arm and took her hand in his. "Happy Anniversary, darling." Morrie kissed Zelda on the forehead and then gently on her lips. Zelda began to cry.

"Morrie," Zelda said. "Will the corned beef sandwich and the pickle save your life?"

Morrie's hand trembled imperceptibly as he wiped away Zelda's tears. "A corned beef sandwich won't save me, but it won't hurt me either."

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from the January 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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