“Chicken noodle!” called out the counter man in a loud deep voice.
The father went to the counter, took the bowl of soup, and carried it to the plastic orange booth where his five year old daughter was waiting. He slid the soup in front of her, and her eyes showed surprise at the size of the bowl; it was bigger than her head! She zipped up her winter jacket. A cold blast would shoot in from the street each time a new customer entered and exited the deli, and she was cold.
Inside, the speakers played Christmas music. “Winter Wonderland.” Outside, two teenage boys were fighting in the alleyway between Crazy Chicken and Rite-Aid. They were so heavily layered with clothes that they seem like chunky members of the Pillsbury Doughboys Fight Club.
The father and daughter were ignoring the real world outside. It was time for soup. He was from India and wore a Yankee cap. She had bright, jewel-like eyes.
“Let me get you another napkin,” said the father, and went to the counter, leaving his daughter alone with the soup.
She was happy to be left alone, to explore this new delicacy. Slowly she leaned forward, to peer into the bowl, as gently and respectfully as someone looking down for the first time from the top of the Empire State Building, conscious of the danger. Her father had promised to take her there soon. She would enjoy traveling with him on the noisy subway from Queens.
As the deli door opened and the cold jolted in again, the girl became as fearless as a soldier; she peered into the soup without hesitation or further reflection. The hot rising steam from the soup created a foggy mask around her face and she disappeared from my sight.