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Bish That Laid Egg
I first met Joe in the office of my Richland Real Estate. A dozen employees worked under me, selling houses, making contracts, signing deals, negotiating a fair trade between a buyer and seller for the right amount. I knew each and every one of them on a personal level. The young brunette who poked her head in after knocking was Mina Castillo, an El Salvadorian born migrant who came looking for work when her parents crossed the border. She studied hard at school and rose up the ranks, eventually interning at a law firm where one of my specialist also worked. Long story short: I hired her and, now, she’s officially a Richland b.i.t.c.h..
“Sonya,” she said. “There’s a man here to see you.”
I peered over my bifocals and pursed my lips. For the past two hours, the files I had been analyzing didn’t seem to resonate, nothing clicked. Other things were crowding in my mind for their attention. Like for one: my son, Henry Go, wasn’t doing so well in high school; his grades were down in the gutter. Two: His adopted sister, Janice, was doing horribly, as well, in her culinary arts crafts and maintaining the business her father left her—a small tea & bread shop in the corner of Olympic and Wilton, a commercial district. Ultimately, I was waiting for Joe and his answers for my second venture going under.
“Let him in,” I said.
“Who is he?” Mina asked.
“That’s none of your business.”
“Sorry. Okay.” She departed and, three minutes later, came back with a tall, rugged man in an onyx black suit. He had graying hair at the temple and locks of curly hair that swept over his bald spot. For a man his age, he exuded a sense of boorish charisma. I couldn’t deny his magnetic charm even if he was (old as my dad) in his late fifties. A slightly curved nose revealed his was not a part of this country. Later, I’d find out he was of Iranian descent and his father made a living selling Persian rugs.
“Joe!” I exclaimed as I stood up and walked around the mahogany desk. He wrapped his arms around my waist. I hugged him and pecked his cheeks, the left, and then, the right. We pulled apart. I saw Joe M----, holding a teddy bear in his right hand and asked him: “Is that what I think it is?”
“Oh Sonya!” He said in his thick Persian accent and bellowed laughter. “You know what it’s for. We’re going to do a dirty deed.”
“Did you lock the door?” I asked, motioning at the doorway. “I don’t want anyone coming in here, especially Mina, and stumbling on us.”
“It’s locked—it’s locked. Don’t worry.” He said, waving a hand.
I didn’t know why I was so uptight. The office room I owned was separate from my fellow co-workers. Two floors above my employees, on the fifth landing, my space consisted of appraisal documents, phone calls, file cabinets, and a list of prospective buyers and sellers all cluttered on my desk. The second room to my left was where I held meetings. Mina worked in the receptionist up front. The cellulite on my ass stretched taut whenever I rolled across the floor in my leather bound chair. I typed something in the database.
“Sit,” I advised, but he didn’t heed my direction. Joe crossed to the side of the wall and opened the door t of the conference. He walked inside, leaving the door open. I got back up again and followed. A sofa I had furnished several months ago slumbered at the edge of one wall. A long oak table graced the middle of the room, and Joe circumnavigated past the carved trims and placed the stuffed toy on the love cushions.
Soft and fluffy, the bear looked ready to be cuddled, right this moment. I couldn’t contain my delight. My rear joggled to and fro as I moved closer. I watched Joe reach into his pocket and pull out a box-cutter, the retractable ones. With one hand clutching the teddy bear, he clicked the razor out. The sharp blade winked under the fluorescent lights, its sharp edges embosses in a silvery streak. It disappeared as quickly in the animal’s midsection and sliced through and down. I heard the tearing of fabric and white cotton spill out like facial foam.
“So any word on what Oland wants?” I asked.
Oland was our bank manager. He served ten years with S--- Bank, and was a good friend of Joe’s. He not only helped with loans and selling of businesses, but was his co-partner in many of the lucrative trading. We had sent him a fifty hundred dollar bills rolled and stuffed inside the inner belly few weeks ago, and, now, we were doing the same thing, for the second time, mailing and shipping it to Florida where he worked as a mortgage lender. I hoped what we were doing wasn’t illegal. I heard no mention of bugged telephone lines or the feds chasing our tail. So it was all right.
Joe pulled out a bulky envelope from his inner coat pocket and counted the money, rifling through the bills like a black-jack dealer.
“Can you count the stacks, Sonya?” Joe asked.
I counted them and it was another fifty a hundred dollar bills to be exact.
“Yep, it looks about right.”
“Good, good,” he said with jubilation. He bent them tightly, snapped a rubber band around the bundle, and shoved it inside the surgically opened teddy bear. “Make it last.”
I pulled out a thread and sewing needle out of a small compartment box, tucked inside my desk, and began to sew the mammal shut. The color of the tread matched the warm brown furry hairs and once I finished Joe and I marveled at my handiwork. The knitting was perfect. We couldn’t tell where the incision began and the slit ended.
“How does that look?”
“Are you fucking around, Sonya?!” Joe cried bombastically. “It’s perfect! No one will know a thing!”
“So you think this will work?” I asked.
“It’s the last ten thousand dollars, Sonya, of course it’ll work!” Joe uttered, with the largest cannibalistic grin on his face. His teeth shone white. “You’ll get your contract signed soon, I can guarantee that.”
As a private lender, Joe burrowed money from his father’s business and lent out that money to slowly accrue interest and make double the amount of the original value. He also negotiated deals just as I did, perpetrating short sales and flipping houses for increased revenues. The funny thing was no one expected him to be a cheapskate. I knew Joe—and he was a cheapskate. He ate at fast food restaurants such as Yoshinoya, ordering chicken teriyaki bowls, and since he didn’t have to pay tip, he’d save up even more. But whatever got the job done, I supported him. In a bizarre way, I looked up to him.
He did favors for me. In my opinion, saving money was better than sex. He hit homeruns time and time again, blasting fireworks off into space, as the investment capital gained traction and burgeoned into a life of its own. Richland Real Estate Co. took off. Just like Mina, he was my bitch now.
The principal of Chapman High called me on my work line. The secretary transferred him over and when I picked up the receiver, I knew it would be about my son. Sure enough, the vice-principal discussed how better to properly take care of Henry and his winning streak of detentions. This time, he had not only called a fellow classmate a nigger, but swung his fists. Mandatory suspension.
I spoke to my ex-boyfriend’s daughter about this unusual circumstance surrounding Henry’s slow demise. “Why is he acting that way?” I asked my twenty eight years old close friend, who had graduated college and was surviving on the family business.
“He’s just lashing out.”
“I don’t understand why,” I said. We were at a bar. I drank my ice-tea. Janice had her usual lambic raspberry margarita sipping on the poison. I didn’t approve but what could I tell her if she wasn’t my flesh and blood? “You know him better than I do.”
“Maybe that’s the problem. You don’t give him enough attention.”
“I give him attention all the time, nonstop.”
“Yes, I do. I tell him all the time he’s special—that he can do great things if he puts his mind and heart to it.” I said, eyeing the waiter. He walked toward us, bringing our food on a tray. He set the plates down on our table, a salad for me and fries and chili burger for my daughter-in-law. Janice started to chow down, getting her hands greasy. She spoke in muffled tone as she patted the corner of her lips with a napkin.
“I dunno. Maybe you should have a talk with him.”
I raised a fork. “Last time I did he locked me out of his room.” I stabbed into the sliced tomatoes.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Mom. I can lie and say he’s going through a teenage phase, but don’t you think he had been showing signs of trouble even before he met Dad?” Janice assessed, taking another big gulp of the margarita. “He might still resent the fact you wanted to move on.”
“Don’t talk about that, please, Janice. Not here.” I said, staring off at the hardboiled egg cut down the middle. In the centerpiece, the yellow looked strikingly incongruous with the blankness of the white lumen. My husband had passed away from an inoperable pancreatic tumor which ravaged his body, spreading to different areas. Maybe, Henry had taken it hard. They were especially close, bonding like a good reaction. Were there signs then?—almost five years ago?
In the Korean culture, being single and with a child was deemed inappropriate, because that was a sign of being loose. The prospect of finding another man in the same race pool was far-fetched. Instead of waiting for love to come, I tried something new—something my own mother would disapprove of—a Caucasian man. Five years down the road, after accepting his daughter as my own, I would fall in the same pit as Gale’s ex-wife who was Japanese. I never asked him why they split. Maybe she was too controlling. Or maybe he was the lazy son of a bitch. Yes, that’s right. After discovering my second husband had been secretly seeing another woman—this time, black—I kicked him out. I handed the small tea business to Janice because I had already grown fond of her and she seemed fit to handle management work. Besides, she kept begging me for a job to pay for her graduate studies, and I was more than willing to oblige. Studying is essential in rising up the ladder.
“He’ll come around.” Janice said, and I came back to the present moment. “He’s just in that stage where he feels pampered, suffocated, like a child. He wants to be free.”
“He’s fifteen years old. He is a child.”
“He claims if he old enough to drive a car, than he can make decisions on his own.”
I threw back my head and laughed. The restaurant patrons glanced in my direction, thinking they had a madwoman in their vicinity. “He’s fifteen years old!” I repeated, nearly chocking on a broccoli, “He’s a long way from old.”
“In three years he’ll be an adult.”
“Age has nothing to do with maturity levels.”
“Oh, I know that.” Janice said. “By the way, speaking of mature, I love the way you’re did your hair. Fits you just nice. Perfect highlights. Are they medium brown?”
“No, they’re natural, but thank you, girl.”
“Oh my God, for the longest time I thought you dyed your hair.” Janice said, squinting her eyes, inspecting my wavy locks. Was it the alcohol talking or was she just ignorant? I observed her sip the glass and withdraw another fry, dipping it in the chili, and chew.
“You are looking amazing, Sonya. How much have you lost?”
I blushed. Rarely, have I ever had anyone compliment on my looks, especially my overall weight. “Just three pounds,” I said. “I’m working the grind.”
“That’s great, I’m seeing results.”
“What do you want?” I said, cutting to the chase.
“Just wanted to ask you a favor. Can you lend Henry your hospitality? I know he’s grounded and all but he keeps coming to me and begging for things I don’t have.”
“What’s he been asking for?”
“Sounds reasonable.” I had stopped giving him weekly allowance and had taken his phone for a week now. He must be going crazy, as we speak.
Janice resumed munching on the burger. “Do you think you can do that? Loan him five hundred dollars? I’ll pay you back once I get my tax refund money.”
“What does he want five hundred for?”I asked, a knot forming on my forehead. “Why don’t you just loan yours?”
“Just five hundred to help him get through the day.” My daughter-in-law pleaded, firing an apprehensive look, perhaps imagining I’d blow up into a smoldering toasted pie—which I was.
“Are you crazy?”
“The business is going under, you know that.”
“Wait,” I placed my fork down. “The business went where now? No, don’t even go there.”
“Well, with the economy the way it is, business is tough. I’ve haven’t been having much customers these days.”
“You’re still above the net gross, correct?”
I whooped a sigh of relief. I had to make sure my daughter-in-law was conducting management operation with relative success; otherwise, I’d be spending the money I had saved up for my son’s college to bail her out. The prospect didn’t bode well. University tuitions had tripled in the past few years. In some cases, they couldn’t even afford to open their school because their budget was slashed in red.
“You know I have a story to tell you.”
“Not another one of your stories. Do we have to now?” Janice asked, nearing her last bite. She downed the last drops of her margarita, tilting her head back. She swirled her tongue in the glass cup and belched a throaty burp. “We even have time? Your stories are novels, Sonya. They never end.”
“How about a summary?”
“Is it cliff-notes style?”
“When I purchased the winter home out in Apple Valley, the owner asked for 240,000 thousand dollars. I knew if he placed it in the market with this kind of economy, no one would buy it. So I negotiated half the asking price. It took me seven months for him to finally agree selling off a ten acre land for $100,000 U.S. dollars with a mobile home including a carry down of twenty thousand. Back and forth we waged a jihad until I squeezed him of his earnings. Of course, I brought him meals and caskets of fruits before I went to his meetings. The property had no value—he knew that. Eventually, I managed to procure that land where we stay during vacation.”
Janice listened with rapt attention. “And the apple trees were still there when you bought them?”
“Yes,” I said. “They were all there.”
“The plum, apricot, and peach trees?”
“Wow,” she said, her speech beginning to slur. “How do you do it?”
“I had met Mr. McCabe years ago. He’s the owner, and I’d escrowed a property for him at a lower price.”
“He must’ve been grateful.”
“Very. My commission on that was close to a hundred thousand U.S. dollars.” Janice gazed at me with her gaping mouth. I smiled and continued. “So we knew each other fairly well. The deal went through after seven years of negotiating. What I’m trying to tell you is this,”—I motioned the waiter for the bill. “If you put your heart and mind to it—if you work hard—nothing’s impossible. You just need to know how to pull the strings.”
“Or the purse pocket.”
“Yes, that too.”
“Open sesameee.” Janice drawled, giggling. She opened her hand and closed it shut, open and shut as if milking a cow’s teat. “Squeeze. Squeeze.”
“The moral of the story is, get your shit together and bring the customers inside, in however way. This day and age, it’s sacrilegious not to with all the social media that’s buzzing, chirping, tweeting around.” I said as the waiter brought the check. I glanced down at the total cost and flicked him a credit card. “If you get a single customer to convince two of their friends to come to your restaurant, you’ll establish a fan base of over a million in two month’s time.”
“I’ll give it a shot.”
“You can pay off your student loan debt and do whatever you’d like with the rest of the money,” I said. “Hell, you can make your own business restaurant again.”
“Will you try to sell of the business for some amount of cash?”
“Soon as we turn it into a profit and I can find a buyer for us.”
“Okay, that’s good.” Janice said and leaned back in her chair. “Thanks, Mom. I knew I could count on you.”
“You’re lucky to have a step-mother like me.”
“Oh believe me, I know. What about Henry?”
“What about him?” I said, slipping two dollars worth of tip underneath a water glass.
“His weekly allowance? He won’t shut up about that.”
“Tell your brother if he wants to get a loan, to talk with me privately on my terms.”
“Alright,” she said. “Will do.” We got up out of our chairs and walked to the exit out into the bustling city night life. I dropped my daughter off at her apartment and waited for my son to come home, staying up. At nine he slithered in, obeying curfew laws, and slipped upstairs without saying a word. I felt like chasing him but I knew I’d be trailing after shadows so I thought about how I would make the next thousand dollar contract as I always do.
If there’s one thing I don’t affiliate myself with, they’re restaurant buyers. People trying to set up a new shop in culinary business are usually cheap and resort to roundabout gimmicks to depreciate the value of their purchase. Finding ways to cut the original offer for a discount seems to be their mode of expertise. Not to say it’s a bad thing. I just don’t want my salaries decreasing. If I was the buyer, it’d be nice. As a realtor broker, it’s just bad on my part. That’s why I stick with properties such as shopping complexes, warehouse, apartments, condos, even houses—the big enchiladas.
The buyers for these buildings are people who have cash, whole wads of them. They’re a lot more laid back and don’t haggle. At a good days work, I can haul in hundred thousand dollars more in commission. The building I resided in now, slaving eight hours a day, is a fifty four story high-rise. I leased the room on the fifth floor at a crucial half price. As I leafed through Joe’s portfolio, I discovered something about him that amazed me. I was floored to see that he worked as a city official who approved many of the building construction in and around Beverly Hills. I wondered if Joe had something to do with the Richland building, and, as I inspected the papers, I realized he had credentials with a partner named Frank Azera who co-signed the agreement of purchasing this high-rise, and he assisted Joe to maneuver the murky way into millions of dollars.
All things considered, Joe eventually wound up purchasing a mansion and moved his two children and wife into a spacious block in Beverly Hills. Later, he’d own a shopping complex and two Laundromats. I had been to their house occasionally to handle signed trustees and appraisals. The lawns were green, cut fresh, mowed, palm trees lining the sidewalks, as dog owners trotted their dogs and picked up their dog poo. Tonight I was invited for a celebratory dinner since I told Joe about the completed transaction of Nutty Sweet, the tea/bread business my ex boyfriend’s forfeited and foreclosed in bankruptcy, until I stepped in.
In my office, I’d dialed Oland’s number, the bank manager who resided in Florida. He picked up on the first ring.
“Hell, this is S—Bank, how may I help you?”
“May I speak with Oland?”
“This is he.”
“I’m Sonya.” I said, covering the mouthpiece so Mina couldn’t hear.
“Hi Sonya. You’re Joe’s partner.”
“Yes, I just wanted to know—did you get the teddy?”
Two days had passed since I mailed the stuffed animal out on first class shipping. I lost sleep, tousling in bed for the consecutive nights, and wanted to allay the discomfort that the package had gone missing, adrift to sea.
“Yes, I did.” Oland said, a cheery note in his voice. I could picture him doing the Macarena and lighting a Cuban cigar. “Your new note is signed and I’ll fax you a copy.”
“Thank you,” I said, ecstatic, jumpy with gratification. “I really appreciate it.”
I had lowered the purchase amount of Nutty Sweet from a million dollars down to two hundred thousand. With that, Joe stepped in the door a couple of hours later with his partner Frank, and asked if I was ready to boogie. After a brief introductory note involved me shaking hands with Frank and hugging Joe with unadulterated embrace, Joe pulled something out that made my eyes grow wide. It was a rolled up joint.
“What is that?” I demanded, pointing at the illegal condiment.
“Why Sonya, it’s something that will make you relax and feel happy. Do you wanna try? Let’s try? Where’s the private area?”
They moved to the meeting room. And him and Frank started to light up.
“You shouldn’t be doing that here, Joe!”
“Where am I supposed to do it?”
“Outside? Anywhere but here!” I hissed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. These two were about to smoke not cigarette, but an illegal earthy substance called marijuana, the gateway drug—in my office space. They began puffing, sending columns of smoke up to the lighted ceiling. The whiff of burned grass stabbed my nostrils and gathered in my lungs like an assembly. So this was what it smelled like, I thought, like a blend of rabbit shit and incense. I had smelled that odor before, but where?
“Jensesh khoobe,” Frank said.
“What? What are you guys saying?”
“Chera enghadr jazabe,” Joe responded. “It’s in Persian, Sonya. Our mother tongue.”
“Oh, I know it’s Persian—are you saying something bad about me?”
Frank and Joe laughed, passing the blunt between themselves, dragging another hit. They were both settled in the sofa as the wisps of smoke curled past their ears. I wanted to conk these stooges on the head with my frying pan.
“Okay, Sonya, don’t worry. Relax. We’ve handle everything,” Joe said and coughed. “You come join us if you want.”
“I said no.”
“Party-pooper,” Frank said and inhaled. “Man hanooz ham bsahash sex daram.”
“No, I’m not having sex with you, Frank,” I said, getting the gist of his insinuation. “I’d like to conserve my brain cells as a side bonus.”
“Screw brain-cells.” Frank blasted.
“Are you sure?” Joe asked.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
The scent overpowered everything in the room. My secretary walked in, sniffing the air like a bloodhound, and froze in her tracks as she watched the morons enjoying hasheesh.
“What’s going on here?” Mina asked.
They didn’t even notice someone had intruded on their paradise. Puff puff, they went. I guided Mina back outside and shut the door with the flick of my heel.
“You did not see that.”
“But, I saw that, Sonya.”
“No, you did not see that. You can’t tell anyone what you saw, not a soul.”
“Are they doing what I think they’re doin?” she asked, as I directed her to her secretary chair.
“What do you think?” I said. “Sit.” I sat her down, pushing her down by the shoulders. She complied and stared up at me, gawking. “I’ll get them to stop, somehow, so don’t worry.”
“Shouldn’t we call the cops?”
If there was one time I wanted to bitch slap a person, it was now.
“No,” I said. “That would implicate us, wouldn’t it?”
“We’ll just say, they started smoking without our permission?”
“And if that happened, I’d have to fire you, wouldn’t I?”
Mina fell silent and gulped. “I’m sorry.”
There was a knock at the front of the door.
“Who’s there?” We both called out in chorus.
We glanced at each other with wide eyes. This time, we both gulped. It was security. I told Mina to inform Joe and his smoking pal, Frank, that their asinine decision was going to get us all in trouble. She left quickly. I opened the door, just a crack. Two men in black uniforms greeted me and flashed me their badge.
“Yes, what’s the problem?” I asked.
“We have a report that marijuana smell is coming from this room. Is anyone in here smoking an illegal substance?”
“No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You sure about that?”
“Nobody is smoking anything.”
“May we come in and take a look around?"
My heart stopped. “Yes, hold on a moment.” I said and ran back into the meeting room and blew my head off.
“You dumbasses! They’re here!” I shouted at the two stooges.
“Who’s here?” Frank said.
Joe threw the joint out the window of the space and began fanning the air for better circulation. He cursed in Farsi, avaziya avaziya! I fetched a canister of air freshener and sprayed lilac and lemon drops in the room, in every nook and cranny.
“Not a word from anyone! Mina get back to your desk!”
“They wouldn’t listen to me,” she blubbered. “Just kept telling me to join them.”
As we dashed out to the main foyer, I sprayed the freshener even in the lobby in order to not arouse suspicion. I strode to the front entrance, smoothened out my suit, and opened the door. I invited them in with a big, innocent smile on my face.
“Come in, come in.”
Mina said, hi and welcomed their presence. I showed them my office (clean as a whistle), and then moved to the meeting room. I held my breath and pushed the door inward. Inside, Joe was talking on the phone, speaking in Farsi. Frank was reclined on the big sofa, thumbing through a cabins and wood magazine. They appeared busy for a day’s worth of work. The security guards inhaled deeply and the only aroma they smelled was the air freshener. My job was done here.
“Sorry for bothering you ma’am.”
“It’s fine,” I said, breathing in the lemony fragrance. “Don’t understand how you guys would think we would be smoking pot here out of all places.”
“We had a call come through from one of the tenants above.”
“Well, it’s not us.”
“We’ll be on our way now.” The guards said and left without any suspicions. I couldn’t believe it. I had gotten away abetting and harboring these terrorists, and not a word from the law enforcements! They didn’t suspect a thing!
I rebuked and yelled at Joe, told him if he wanted to get high on drug, do it at home. When it was all said and done, I called off the dinner the late night dinner because no solid food would go down, knowing there was weed on my hands and his wife didn’t even know.
It wasn’t before long, she did know. She find out Joe had migrated from marijuana to opium and he was now lighting up every Saturday night. Then Sunday. Then Monday and so on. She told me about how whenever he placed a call on his cell, a white van would pull up in five minutes flat and deliver baggies of these round, pea-sized ball the color of burnt sienna. She caught him cooking up a batch over the stove top and using an opium pipe to suck the vapor in.
Joe was falling deeper and deeper in the intoxicating world of drugs, getting involved with the wrong people. He was in deep shit. I didn’t know why after becoming a successful millionaire, he’d just throw money away like that, especially when he was so frugal before, saving the last dime to accumulate his wealth. I like to think he was bored. He had made the American dream and now there was nothing to do, in his mind, except become a half-baked, blazing opium. Perhaps, he wanted a sense of exhilaration.
His daughter, Dassel, taught my son Spanish. I didn’t think she was doing a particularly good job because all he knew were bad words, puto, bendeho, cabron, chingala tu madre. One day, she mentioned how she was sexually assaulted by Henry. I asked her what he had done. She said he was snapping photos of her under the table with his new smart phone. I fired her, asking why she’d allow as someone as young as he to have a phone lying around the table when it was tutoring sessions. They were both bad news. Dassel only cared about receiving a nose job. I made sure my money didn’t go into that wretched robbery.
“You know your son is hiding something from you?”
“Oh really, what’s he hiding?” I asked Dassel.
She refused to answer. When I refused to give her the last check, she conceded: “Go ask him yourself.”
That was the last time I heard from her.
The following night, I decided to search my son’s room. Of course, privacy is something one should respect, but when your own child is living under the same roof you’re paying for, a little chivalry goes a long way in helping build trust. I unlocked the door with a secret master key. I slipped inside the darkness and turned on the lights. I saw the usual teenage angst memorabilia hanging on the walls and littered on his desk. Scouring through the closet and looking under the bed, I found nothing. I raised the bed covers and the actual mattress if he left something in between there. Nothing. I looked inside every drawers, cabinets, and counters. Still nothing. At last, I tried one last place where my hands just flew toward on auto-pilot: a nutritional textbook Henry burrowed for his high school studies which was left out on his computer tower. Inside, there was an opened envelope. In this envelope, there was a letter and it read:
Concerning IP Address: 2184.108.40.206 user
You have illegally downloaded porn on the fifth of May, and by class section 1405 lawsuit, you are hereby requested to pay the total sum of 5,000 dollars for the punitive damages purveyed through the 3Ecstatic channel site.
What? Porn? My son was downloading porn?
If you do not pay the above amount within a week’s time after receiving this notice, you will be forced to take legal actions against you and charges will be resolved in court and your name released in the public domain. If you have any further question please call our lawyer’s office at…
I checked the date of the postmarked envelope. It was five days ago, just shy of the week notice given by the statement in the letter. Was this why Henry was asking for five hundred dollars? Did he need to money so he could prevent a lawsuit from happening? Maybe he needed it because he was addicted and couldn’t stop himself. I read the rest of the letter, skimming the trivial parts.
When Henry arrived in his bedroom, I was waiting for him. I tapped the edge of the envelope in my left palm, tsked tsked.
“Do you have anything to say?”
Henry looked like a hare caught in a snare.
“So there’s nothing you want to say.”
“No,” he said, taking off his backpack and putting it down in the corner of his room. “It’s not what you think, Mom.”
“Have you been blowing money on filthy images, young man?”
“That’s the thing.” He said, anger rising in his voice. “I haven’t. I didn’t illegally download porn like the letter says. I don’t know where they came up with that or how they even targeted me when I didn’t do anything wrong!”
“So you never watched porn.”
“No, I streamed it. It was free.”
You sick bastard, I thought. “Are you out of your mind? You get extorted by a group of sleazy thugs in suits and ties behind ice cream industry? Did you leave your head at the door? You’re better than this!”
“It’s not my fault.”
“Is that why you needed to money—to support your habit?”
“Well you’re going to have to resolve this on your own. We’re not paying for something we have no responsibility over. If they sue, we countersue.”
“Okay.” Henry turned on his computer. “You can check my files if you want. I don’t download porn, Mom.”
I didn’t know whether to believe him. “That’s fine. I don’t need to see it.”
“Mom, I was gonna tell you, but didn’t know how.”
“From now on all bank statements and balances go through me, you understand that, young man?”
“If you say so…”
“Don’t give me that attitude. What’s wrong with you?”
“You’ve been making a mess at school. You know I got another call from your vice principal.”
Henry said nothing as he slipped behind the computer.
“What is it? Why you acting up so much?”
“It’s nothing, Mom.”
“What are you hiding?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me. You’re the one with the problem.”
“Oh so it’s my fault now for your screw-ups. When will you ever grow up, Henry?”
“I am grown. Just get out.”
“Try a little harder next time, and don’t wind up like your father, for Pete’s sake.”
“Get outta my room!”
I left him in his room to let him to do god knows what.
On a Friday afternoon, I picked up Henry from school. I expected him to not show up as I waited in the SUV, but he popped up beside the window with a huge grin.
My heart swelled with pride and appreciation. Such handsome boy, I created that. On time too.
“Hey kiddo. You ready to eat some delicious ka-bab?”
“That’s why I’m here.”
Henry settled in the ride. It was quite a long time since we drove together. He’d usually ride the bus to school and walk home, but I had invited him to dinner at Joe’s place. He agreed which surprised me because I thought he only cared about himself. Janice couldn’t come since she was busy. When we arrived, there was nobody in the mansion. I walked around the terrace and cupped my hands over my eyes to peer in the gloomy windows. The lights were off, the furniture drabbed in shadows. Not a single soul.
I returned to the car.
“You got a miss call, Mom.”
I checked the log history. Joe. I connected in three seconds.
“Joe, what’s going on? I thought we were having dinner.”
“We are, Mary!” Joe said, sounding bright and cheery, normal. “At my parent’s house.”
“At your parent’s house? Why there?”
“Do you know where it is?
“I think so. I’ve been there once before.”
After telling me the cross street, I made it to the address without a hitch. It was a second level apartment condominium. We took the elevator and made a right turn. I rang the door and it buzzed inside. We were greeted with open arms and flowing guts. Joe’s mother and father were in their upper eighties with white tuft of hair and a slow gait. Joe fit right in. I introduced my son to the family.
They shook hands.
Joe and Henry did not.
While cooking in the kitchen, I asked Joe why the sudden change of location from his house to his retired parents?
“My wife kicked me out.”
“Your wife kicked you out? Why?” I asked, already sensing the answering. It was his addiction. It was fucking up his personal life. I pitied him.
“The tariyak, Sonya. She doesn’t want me smoking in the house.”
“Just who operates this business? Who delivers the rabbit dung so quick?”
“It’s a network of people in the Beverly Hills area.”
“You need to stop, Joe. It’s not right. It’s bad for you health too.” I said, setting the plates on the table.
“Oh I know. But don’t worry about it. I am just enjoying life, Sonya.”
“When will you stop?”
“When the time comes,” he answered.
“When is that? Where exactly do you get these drugs from?”
“Can’t tell you. But I know he’s a very good supplier.”
“Who is he?” I asked.
My son, Henry, looked in my direction, taking a seat.
“He’s young and smart.”
“So Joe,” Henry said. “Did you like the quality of my service?”
“I always love the quality of your service.”
“Good. Now, go, fetch me some green rice.”
We ate cheese and bread and while they clapped in sang in their Jewish-Farsi tongue and broke bread. We ate dinner, Henry and I. Meat on a stick and green rice. We concluded with a sample of wine-tasting. They sang song and thanked Yahweh. Joe was half baked.
My son and I are going to have a very long talk.