I was born alongside my brother seven years ago in the Bronx, New York, and from that day forward my life has been anything but normal. We dropped to earth only minutes apart on a snowy January evening in a shop cellar near Yankee Stadium. Old Jack Frost pasted his icy breath against the set of windows located on the back wall of the room and a small overhead light pierced the darkness and provided some warmth. Our mother, an orange and white colored short-hair called Daisy, named my older brother Satchel and me, Sam.
“To live is to function; that is all there is to living.”
Satchel was jet black with no markings and yellow eyes. He had lean, handsome features and from the beginning displayed a confident and fearless manner. Mom named him after the great baseball pitcher Satchel Paige. I am a gray and black tabby with green eyes and despite my larger size, far less sure of myself. Daisy told me she liked the name Sam because of its clarity and strength. My brother and I never spent a day apart in our lives and for that I am grateful. We were as close in spirit as anyone could be, but our physical and emotional compositions were entirely different.
Like many others in our neighborhood, Satchel and I did not know our father and mother never mentioned him. The three of us lived, where my brother and I were born, in the basement of a butcher shop owned by the Rosen brothers – Abe and Morty – lifelong bachelors and two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet in your life. The pair had been in the meat business for more than forty years and for as long as I knew them, arrived at work each day dressed in pressed white long-sleeved cotton shirts, complete with matching suspenders and bow ties. Their starched aprons – also white – did not stay that way for long. They worked long hours, shared an apartment above the store, and filled our bowls each day with their special mixture of oats and freshly ground turkey or chicken.
Our block quickly became our universe and its contents mirrored the diversity of the city. Daisy had lived at Rosen Brothers for several years, earning her room and board primarily through the ability to keep the place mice-free. But she was also a friendly and loyal companion, and deft politician. Her familiar face, whether stationed at her regular spot near the checkout counter or traipsing along the sidewalk greeting the block’s constituents on her morning rounds, became part of our neighborhood. Abe Rosen had cut a small opening at the bottom of the rear door that allowed Daisy to come and go as she pleased, which she did.
Soon after my brother and I were born, mother introduced us to the people that worked in the storefronts on our block. From one corner to the next – lined up like a string of pearls – stood: a Chinese laundry, Jake’s fish market, a small bakery, the Atlantic Twin cinema, a green grocer that never closed, and a shoe repair and shine shop owned by a bear of a man named Angelo.
“How are my buddies today?” Angelo would ask, standing outside his shop door in his undershirt smoking a non-filtered Lucky Strike.
On most days mother would slowly wander towards the man with the husky voice. Like a savvy ward leader that truly understood all politics were local and possessed the skill to make anyone they met feel their lives mattered, she brushed against his wrinkled pant leg before moving on.