Abba Da Gooch

I didn’t know his real name. To all the men at the club, he was Abba Da Gooch. Da Gooch was a colourful character. He’d hang around the poker table for hours until he’d decide to sit in on the game in progress. He played quietly, and sometimes won a bit, sometimes lost a bit. Nobody knew where Da Gooch got his money or what he actually did with his days.

Like a character out of a Damon Runyon novel, he slouched around in loose fitting striped trousers that were crumpled onto his well-worn penny loafers. His shirt was plaid flannel; very out of place in the poker club. His mustache was too long, and his hair was a black, greasy-looking mess under a stained, pork-pie hat.

Da Gooch was something of a mystery among the players. All of the players were what we called ‘rounders’; guys who got around the city, doing various kinds of business, usually for cash. I don’t think they were criminals, just street guys, taking care of business.

I had a job as a courier. One day I get called to a pickup from Templeton Cosmetics. At the Templeton office I am given a small, gift-wrapped box, with instructions to deliver it to Morris Gross, with an address in a very expensive part of town. It was the same as any of a hundred calls, until I got to the large, splendid home and knocked at the door.

A uniformed maid answered the door. I told her why I was there, and she asked me to step inside. She called out that it was for Mr. Gross. The maid walked away, and I stood waiting. After a minute, Mr. Gross came down the wide staircase. My eyes bugged out of my head; Mr. Gross was Abba Da Gooch. His hair was carefully combed, there was no hat, and he looked good.

It was like Da Gooch was another guy. He wore a silk robe in black, with a gold crest on the right breast. His slippers were polished black patent leather. He called me kid, said he didn’t know I was a courier, and took the box from me. He called out for Lorna. A beautiful teenaged girl in jeans and a T-shirt entered from the next room. Da Gooch handed the box to his daughter and asked her to go try it on.

I turned to leave, and Da Gooch stopped me. He said that I was the only one that knew of his double life, and his real name. I assured him it was just between him and me. He slipped me a $20 tip and ushered me out the door. I wonder which life was his real life, the character at the poker club, or the elegant man in the splendid house. And how did he earn his money? Only Mr. Gross knows.

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