My Name Is Joe

by Steve Bernstein

Jimmy, Son

“My Daddy used to miss some games. He had to work. Even on my birthday. And Christmas. Can I tell you something else? Now, I pretend daddy is in the bleachers, sitting next to mommy and my nonna.”

Rosa, Neighbor

“They buy last house, end of street. Then twins come. Ah Dios! So round, so happy boys! I babysit, I make platanos, big pot, nothing left. He love my Puerto Rican food! My back is no good. I never use a shovel for snow. Now, the twins shovel, like he use to. Good man, good man.”

Sherri, Wife

“In the morning, early, I’d hear his Bronco pull into the driveway. I’d let out a breath. You know, I think I held my breath our whole marriage. In the back of his Bronco is a big old truck tire and some heavy rope. Their next project was hanging a swing off the old oak tree out back. That truck is still sitting in the driveway. His marinara sauce and sausage meatballs are sitting in plastic containers lined up in the freezer. Each one Sharpied with a date in his handwriting. He was showing the boys how to make the sauce, cutting up the tomatoes, the onions, garlic. His clothes are still hanging in our bedroom closet, but where do I put our dreams?”

Michelle, Waitress at Denny’s

“Most Sundays the whole family came in after church for a Grand Slam Banana Boat. Four spoons, four cherries. These days, the three of them come in, but . . . well, you know.”

Dan, Brother

“He was only six months away from retiring. After twenty years, six fucking months.”

Chen, Colleague

“Twelve years together, partners, side by side. More than once, he saved my sorry ass. After our shift I’d take him to my uncle Lu’s restaurant in Chinatown, up off Delancey. We only ate appetizers, his idea. Coconut shrimp, popcorn chicken, teriyaki boneless ribs, the works. We’d have a few beers. The job was getting to both of us. I’d tell him I was worried about his drinking, he’d say he was worried about mine. Come New Year’s we had a plan to check out an AA meeting together. Truth be told, he wasn’t supposed to be working that day, he was going to his kid’s game. No surprise he was one of the first to arrive.”

Sophia, Mother

“Dio mio! I never thought I’d be burying one of my boys. How can you have a funeral without a body? Figlio mio! Oh Dio mio!”

Olivia, Hedge Fund Manager at Lehman Brothers, Lower Manhattan Branch

“I saw a woman jump out of a window, smoke and noise and dust, that awful burning smell, sirens, screams, people crushing each other to get out of the tower, I made it to the mezzanine, I was crouching under some stairs, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see anything, I heard him ask, “What’s your name ma’am? Can you reach my hand? My name is Joe.”

\"\"Steve Bernstein is a retired plumber who for over three decades has been a teacher and mentor for at-risk-teens as wall as an animal rights activist and humane educator. He recently self-published STORIES FROM THE STOOP, seven adventure stories from his colorful childhood growing up in the Bronx in the 1960s. He can be reached at

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *