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I stood on tiptoe and handed the card from my school’s help-wanted board to the man behind the counter of Mort’s Deli2 at Farmers Market in Los Angeles. Even before I opened my mouth, he was frowning3 and shaking his head.
“This is a tough job for any high school kid,” the man said. “I need somebody big and strong.”
At 16, I looked younger and was barely five feet tall. “Really, we need someone bigger,” he said, “You’ll find something easier than this, kid.”
  It was September 1957, and my family had just arrived in California. Without seniority in the local union, my father, a sheet-metal worker, was lucky to get work two or three days a week. Our meager4 saving was gone, and as the oldest boy of the family, I was the only one able to help. I’d applied at retail stores, but without local references shopkeepers were reluctant to let me handle cash.
“Tell you what,” I said, “let me work the rest of the week, and if you don’t like the way I do the job, don’t pay me.”
The tall man stared at me, then nodded,“I’m Mort Rubin. What’s your name?”
At Mort’s, I worked very hard. As closing time approached on Saturday, I was in agony5. I also had no idea whether Mort would pay me. Near the end of the day he called me up front.“How much did that card at school say this job paid?” he asked.
“One dollar an hour,” I murmured, “the minimum wage.” I was willing to take less.
“That’s not enough for someone who works as hard as you,” Mort said, “You start at $1.25.”
  Over the next few weeks I learned a lot about Mort. A few years older than my dad, he was from Chicago and had a daughter my age. When things were slow, he often shared stories from his army days. Early in World War Ⅱ, he was nearly killed in a savage battle in New Guinea. He’d spent some time recuperating6 from the terrible head wound he had suffered.
  We were closed Sundays, so every Saturday evening Mort urged me to take home the leftover7 soup in a huge jar. It was a meal in itself, a treat for my struggling family.
  My father usually picked me up after work those days because the soup was too hard to bring home on my bike. Then one Saturday he let me take the family car.
  After work I drove home and parked. With the warm jar in my arms, I crossed the lawn and passed the living-room window. As I glanced inside, I almost dropped the jar. In my father’s chair was a large bald man. He was cursing my father. My brothers and sisters sat like statues, Dad’s face was stone, Mom wept.
I crept into the kitchen, set the soup on a counter and listened through the door. The man wanted to take our car. Dad offered to make the three payments that were in arrears8, but the man demanded the entire sum—$325—or the car. I had been in Los Angeles just long enough to understand how essential a car is. I slipped out the door, pushed the car down to the corner, started the engine and circled the neighborhood, thinking furiously. Who might have $325? Who would even consider lending me such a large sum?
  The only person I could think of was Mort. I drove back to his deli, rapped9 on the rear door, then waited until the window shade went up. I found myself staring down the barrel of an army 0.45.“What do you want?” Mort growled10, lowering the gun.
  I stammered out my tale. “So, could you possibly loan my father $325?” I finished, realizing how absurd11 it sounded.
  Mort’s eyes bored holes in my face. His cheeks began purpling12, and his lips quivered13. Realizing he was still clutching the gun, I took a step backward. At that, he smiled. “I’m not going to shoot you,” he said, placing the pistol on his tiny desk. Then he knelt, pried14 a worn red tile from the floor to reveal a safe, and began to twist the dial.
  He counted the money twice and placed it in an old envelope. “This is $325,” he said. “When school is not, you’ll work full time. I’ll take back half your wages until it’s repaid.”
“Thank you,” I said, trembling. “Do you want my father to sign something?”
  He shook his head. “No, son. I’m betting on you.”
  I went in the back door like the lord of the manor15, and Dad came rushing into the kitchen, the bald man on his heels. “Quick!” my father cried, “Drive the car away!”
  I calmly handed the man the envelope. “Count it, give my father a receipt and get out of our house,” I said, a speech I’d rehearsed16 all the way home.
  That night I was a hero to my family. But the real hero was Mort Robin, who not only saved us from certain penury17, but also quietly raised my salary every month, by summer, I was earning $2.50 an hour, double the original wage. I worked for Mort until I graduated two years later and joined the Army. We stayed in touch for many decades, but I lost track of him several years ago and don’t even know if he’s still alive.
  But this I do know: Mort Robin made the world a better place.



1. salvation  n. 救助,拯救
2. deli  n. 熟食店
3. frown [fraun] v. 皱眉
4. meager  adj. 不足的
5. agony  n. 剧痛
6. recuperate  v. 恢复,复原
7. leftover  adj. 残留的,残余的
8. in arrears  拖欠,拖延  arrear  n. 欠款
9. rap  v. 敲击,急拍
10. growl [graul] v. 咆哮
11. absurd  adj. 荒谬的,可笑的
12. purple  v. (使)成紫色
13. quiver  v. 颤动,抖动
14. pry [prai] v. 撬起,撬动
15. manor  n. 庄园
16. rehearse v. 排演,练习
17. penury  n. 赤贫