“yeah, i found him.” maury plopped himself down in his favorite chair as the big guy glared at him.
“then were is he?” the big guy asked.
“he didn’t want to come. he wants you to come to him. he says he’ll talk to you, though.”
“well, isn’t that nice of him. you didn’t try to persuade him to come see me?”
maury shrugged. “i could have. i made a command decision, in the field. it just did not seem worth it. i think you should go see this guy. it won’t kill you. you should get out more, anyway.”
“you think?” the big guy glared at maury, then laughed. “all right, see him where? some bar? where did you find him?”
in a dunkin donuts. on third avenue. that’s where he hangs out.”
“this guy hangs out in a dunkin donuts? i would have expected someplace a little more … mysterious, you know? or out of the way.”
“it’s where a lot of people hang out these days. america runs on dunkin. by the way, there was one thing he wanted me to tell you.”
“and what was that?”
“he said there were plenty of guys who could do what you wanted. “
“yes, well he was the guy i was told about.”
“so, do you want to go see him?’
the big guy sighed. “sure, why not?” he got up and grabbed his hat and put it on. “let’s go see this magic man.”
the magician was still sitting where maury had left him, in a corner of the dunkin donuts, beside a window where he could watch the world go by. an ordinary looking little guy, not getting any younger. he wasn’t wearing a cape or a top hat or anything to show he was a magician. a small empty styrofoam cup sat on the table in front of him.
the big guy sat across from the magician at the little square table, and maury grabbed a chair and sat down between them, facing the window and the street.
“this is the gentleman i was telling you about, “ maury said. “the one interested in your services.”
the magician just nodded.
“you understand what i want?,” the big guy tried to look the magician in the eye.
“i think so. you want to make somebody disappear. “
“exactly. totally disappear. i don’t want any body, i don’t want any blood or guts or evidence, or screaming or shouting, i just want this guy to disappear into thin air. can you do that?”
“easily. and you could go over to joe’s joke shop on thirty-seventh street and find a dozen guys who could do it, too.”
“you don’t say so.”
“i do say so.” the magician looked down into his empty styrofoam cup.
“then if it is so easy who don’t you ever hear about it being done?” the big guy asked.
“because there is a problem - a possible complication.”
“ah. a possible complication. and what might that be?”
“there is no guarantee you won’t make the whole universe disappear. you might not, but you might - the whole universe and everything and everybody in it. me, you, the pope, the king of spain, everybody.”
the big guy nodded. “i can see where some people might not want to take that chance.”
“but what about you? “ the magician asked. “are you willing take the chance?’
“listen,” the big guy answered, “i have wanting to get this guy for forty years. he did me dirty, like no man was ever done dirty before. thinking about him has been eating away at me every day for forty years, like a cosmic green cancer, like a mountain of red ants whose ravenous hunger can never be appeased. yes, i’m willing to take the chance.”
the magician nodded. “does this person have a name, you got a picture or something…?”
“i got this.” the big guy handed the magician a small photo, a black and white polaroid at least thirty years old.
the picture had been taken at a beach, and showed an ordinary looking man in a bathing suit with a little smile, an ordinary looking woman in a bathing suit with a big smile, an ordinary looking little boy in a bathing suit with no smile, and a dog.
“you need anything more?” the big guy asked.
“no, this is all i need.” the magician put the photo down on the table.
“so, you’ll do it.”
“yeah, i’ll do it. i just want one thing.”
“and what is that?”
“a frozen strawberry banana smoothie.”
“coming right up!” the big guy nodded to maury. “get the man what he wanted.”
a frozen strawberry banana smoothie, ” the magician repeated.
maury got up and headed for the counter.
“so how soon can you do this?” the big guy asked the magician.
“as soon as i finish my smoothie. but i want to make sure i get every last drop.”
actually, i had no place to go, but i had to go somewhere, so i decided to look up my old friend harry in chicago. harry had let me sleep on his couch or on his floor on many occasions in the past.
i found harry’s apartment - number 68. the door to the apartment 68 was very narrow and heavy looking. the whole apartment building had a heavy, old-fashioned look about it.
i knocked on the door. nobody answered right away, and i knocked a little louder.
finally a man opened the door. i didn’t recognize him. for a second i thought it might be harry, so changed since i last saw him that i did not recognize him, but then i saw that it was not.
is harry jones here? i asked.
yes, come on in, the man said, he did not seem surprised by my appearance, or interested in me.
i followed him down a very narrow hallway. the hallway opened into a surprisingly wide room.
the room was cluttered with chairs and couches, mostly cheap looking old-fashioned leather couches, and the chairs and couches were about two thirds filled with people.
not people who looked like members of the ruling class. but not out-and-out bums either. and they weren’t talking much, just staring into space like they were waiting for somebody.
the man who had let me in disappeared into a little side room. i could hear voices. harry? what was harry up to here, i wondered.
i remembered that harry had passed the bar, but never actually practiced law. maybe he was practicing law now? the place did not look exactly like a law office.
i sat down in a little red leather armchair. before i put my bag down, i checked it to make sure everything i owned was still in it. everything was there - some socks and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste and such, and the two books i always carried with me - think and grow rich, by napoleon hill, and the collected poems of edgar guest.
i looked up and saw a very old woman seated across from me on one of the couches. she was leaning forward on a cane and seemed to be looking at me through impenetrably thick glasses.
do you know harry? i asked her.
of course, she answered, don’t you?
i’ve known him for a long time, i said.
harry is a wonderful person, the old woman said.
yes, he is, i agreed.
he does so much for the community.
i am sure he does, i said. it sounds like harry has a good thing going here, i thought. he must be practicing law, or maybe he is a - what do you call it - community organizer or something. surely he can put me up for a while, at least let me sleep on one of these couches.
an old black man sat down on the couch beside the old woman. i tried to think of something to say to him. the only thing i knew about chicago was that the cubs were on the north side and the white sox were on the south side. or was it the other way around?
and were the “north side” and the “south side” actually the two halves of the whole city or were they just the names of neighborhoods, like “south philly” or “south boston”?
how about those cubs?, i asked the old man.
how about them? he replied.
what does the ticket to a game cost these days? i asked him. the cheapest seat?
you can get in for thirty dollars.
wow, i said, that is cheap. i noticed that the room was filling up all around me - most of the chairs and couches now looked filled.
the man who had let me in came out of the little room. harry will see you now, he said to somebody.
and he will see me, too, i thought. it will be like old times. everything is going to be all right.
i woke up. i had fallen asleep on a bench in the park.
it took me a few seconds to remember who i was, and where i was.
harry had been dead for years.
and i had not spoken to him or looked him up for thirty years before that.