So I wake up this morning, shake the sleep from my eyes and rub the cobwebs from my brain. What a dream…what a crazy dream…and was there anything to it?
 I’m a rent collector (at least it seems that way) in NYC in a neighborhood in Brooklyn. Not the nicest neighborhood by anyone’s imagination, but there is it. I live a few blocks from my territory which keeps me close but not so close I have to be buddy buddy with the people i collect money from. I don’t strongarm people, I tend to listen, use some humor to make them smile a bit and feel better, patiently explain things and 9 times out of 10 i get what I came for. Strongarm is a play for the unimaginative, being as deep down i always wanted to be a comedian, this gives me material to work with or an audience to work on my act with.
Every monday i get an envelope in my mailbox. The sheet inside tells me the addresses i need to collect from. I have a week to make good on the money owed. Sometimes it’s easy….other times not so much.
So this first apartment I have to go to is the tiny little place about the size of a bread box and an elderly jewish couple live there. Before you start in, it’s the accent that gives it away. Live here long enough and you realize that the entire United Nations lives under one sky in NYC and you better know who’s who or things could get messy. Know your audience.
So i knock… they open the door and i walk in. Typical scene: wife is in the kitchen cooking and the husband is sitting in the living room smoking and listening to the radio. They’re a nice couple, always friendly and never any trouble. I tell them they are late on the rent and the old man nods and after a puff or two says “Miriam, get Antonio his money before we get him in trouble.” Miriam hurries to the bedroom and i can hear her shuffling around in there. The old man seems to get nervous the longer she takes, so we start talking and I start to work on some material to try to loosen things up. I talk about my uncle who never met a ziti he didn’t like and my aunt who if she has one more kid she’ll be able to start her own baseball team. He lights another smoke and i ask him “what kind of cigarettes to Jews smoke?” He looks at me….. the expression on his face is priceless. The look of one who thinks he’s heard every joke and then realizes he’s stumped. His wife walks in and hands me an envelope. I wink at him and say in my best Brooklyn Jewish immigrant voice “Ge-filtered”. As I turn to leave, i hear him hack and wheeze and then start to laugh….. now i’m not talking little laughs.. i’m talking belly busting, no holding back laughter. The kind that once it starts, takes a crazy effort to hold back and infects the room. Thirty seconds later we’re all laughing like little kids who know everything is alright in their world.
Later that night there’s a knock on my door. I look through the peephole and it’s the old guy and his wife. I dont tell people where I live but i’m too confused by seeing them that i dont think to ask how they found me. I let them in and they shuffle in quickly. He says “They’re after us…. we heard them breaking in from the fire escape” I said “who?” He replies “The Nazis.” “Nazis? In Brooklyn?””Who else would break in in the middle of the night?” Summoning my best accent i said “How vould i know, I spend all my time in the Catskills making you bastids laugh”
He snickers and says “can you go by our house and get our money out of the safe?” I look around, seeking the answers from the air, apparently. I nod. He gives me the combination and off i go…..
I get to the apartment and quietly enter. The safe is in the bedroom behind the dresser. After some elbow grease, I am able to move the dresser and get into the safe. In it I find ten grand in cash and two long thin boxes. I grab all of it and head back.
I get back, hand him the money and then look at him….”two cartons, Ge’filtered. thank you thank you… I’ll be here all week. ” 
And then i woke up.

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