“He had been startled when he arrived home from the shop to find the soldier sitting at his dinner table. Surprised because the boy, whom he had not seen for ten or twelve years, had grown up with the Epstein face, as his own son would have, the small bump in the nose, the strong chin, dark skin, and shock of shiny black hair that, one day, would turn gray as clouds.
“‘Look who’s here,’ his wife shouted at him the moment he entered the door, the day’s dirt still under his fingernails. ‘Sol’s boy.’
“The soldier popped up from his chair and extended his hand, ‘How do you do, Uncle Louis?’
“‘A Gregory Peck,’ Epstein’s wife said, ‘a Monty Clift your brother has. He’s been here only three hours already he has a date. And a regular gentleman…’
“Epstein did not answer.
“The soldier stood at attention, square, as though he’d learned courtesy long before the Army. ‘I hope you don’t mind my barging in, Uncle Louis. I was shipped to Monmouth last week and Dad said I should stop off to see you people. I’ve got the weekend off and Aunt Goldie said I should stay …’ he waited.
“‘Look at him,’ Goldie was saying, ‘a Prince!’
“‘Of course,’ Epstein said at last. ‘Stay. How is your father?’ Epstein had not spoken to his brother Sol since 1945 when he had bought Sol’s share of the business and his brother had moved to Detroit, with words.
“‘Dad’s fine,’ Michael said. ‘He sends his regards.’
“‘Sure, I send mine too. You’ll tell him.’
“Michael sat down, and Epstein knew that the boy must think just as his father did: that Lou Epstein was a coarse man whose heart beat faster only when he was thinking of Epstein Paper Bag.”
—Philip Roth, “Epstein”
Art Credit Byron McClintock