Sammy “Nutso” Kaplan got his nickname after a couple of bigger kids tried to steal his lunch when he was about ten. Sammy’s mom was never much of a cook, so the idea of someone actually wanting his lunch seems a little strange.
The story is that little 4’ 2” Sammy is on his way to P.S. 114 on Delancey Street when he gets stopped by these two kids who ask him for his lunch. They’re a few years older, at least a foot taller and are even flashing a switchblade. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had a .45, Sammy’s response would have been the same. He refused to turn over his liverwurst sandwich. The funny part is that he hated liverwurst and normally tossed it away when he got far enough from his building so that his mom wouldn’t see.
When he told the much older boys to go fuck themselves, the kids grabbed him and held the blade to his throat. Ten-year-old Sammy kicked one of them in the nuts, snatched the knife and plunged it into the other boy’s chest. He then calmly pulled the knife out and went over to the kid that was lying on the ground holding his crotch. Due to all the squirming, Sammy missed the chest but did manage to nail the boy in the stomach. Sammy then picked up his lunch that had fallen during the fight and rushed off to school as he didn’t want to get into trouble for being late. Like always, a few blocks from his home he tossed the liverwurst sandwich down a sewer.
Later that day, the police showed up at the Kaplan residence to speak to Sammy. Mrs. Kaplan was busy making dinner for her husband who had not yet come home from his job at the neighborhood butcher shop. And Sammy was in his room reenacting the fight by repeatedly stabbing his pillow with a pretend switchblade. I know all this because Sammy told me the story over a few drinks one night when we started reminiscing about the good old days.
A shocked Mrs. Kaplan called Sammy to the kitchen where Officers Murphy and Kelly were drinking seltzer water having turned down Mrs. Kaplan’s offer of a nosh. Like everyone else in the neighborhood, they too were aware of Mrs. Kaplan’s culinary skills. Now the cops knew the punks that had held up Sammy for his liverwurst sandwich and did not give a crap that Sammy had nearly killed them. But they needed to do their job and that’s when Sammy walked out of his room with the sweetest smile that you ever saw.
It’s hard to know how it came about, but Sammy is incredibly handsome. I’m not a bad looking guy, but Sammy is from a different planet. Wherever you go with Sammy, women follow. Young, old, single, married, divorced, it doesn’t matter. They all chase after him.
Even Officers Murphy and Kelly were influenced by Sammy’s looks and when they asked him whether he had stabbed the kids, Sammy batted his long eyelashes and said, “Oh no Officers, I would never do anything like that.” Now I’m not giving this story justice, but when Sammy told it, he fluttered his eyes when he got to this part, and that’s when I started pissing in my pants. After meeting Sammy, Officers Murphy and Kelly left convinced that the kid had nothing to do with the stabbings.
From that day on, Sammy was known as “Nutso” by the rest of the neighborhood. But never to his face.