BY ATTILA ZONN
This is the first of a two-part excerpt from a novel in progress. Read the second part here. Copyright is held by the author.
I CAME back to the shop and popped my head into the shipper’s office to wish Lorenzo a nice weekend.
“Hey Lorenzo,” I said.
I caught him staring into space but when he saw me he said, “David!” and hurried towards me from behind his desk. He grabbed my hand. “Are you busy tonight? I got a big problem. There is a truck coming and it won’t be here before we close. Will you stay for me and receive the order?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Bravo. Bravissimo.” He shook my hand. “You know I would stay but I am in communication with this woman and we meet for the first time tonight. I buy you lunch on Monday.”
“No problem,” I said. I’d do anything for Lorenzo.
Now it’s two hours later and I’m still waiting for this delivery. I had a chair set up at the loading dock and was reading a book when the back door opened and Freddie came in with his girlfriend Gin.
He said, “Just dropped by ‘cause I knew you were lonely.” He brought me a coffee.
Gin made a beeline for me saying, “Is this the famous David I’ve heard so much about?”
“The one and only,” Freddie said.
Her breath smelled of alcohol when she kissed me on the lips. The kiss surprised me. I had seen her before sitting in Freddie’s Beemer but I didn’t know her. I looked at Freddie. He said, “Don’t worry about it. She kisses everybody she meets.” She wasn’t stumbling but she wasn’t walking straight either. And along with the boozy breath she also smelled like she’d been dipped in vanilla.
“Wow,” she said looking around. “I’ve never been inside before. So this is all yours Freddie? It smells yummy in here.”
“Yeah, it smells yummy.” He laughed. “It’s taken 20 years to get it smelling so good.”
He put his arm around my shoulder and said, “I’ve missed you little buddy. I’ve missed our little intellectual discussions.”
“I’ve been busy,” I said.
“I know. I know. I’ve been looking over the orders. You’re the best. Keep it up and you’ll be driving a BMW in no time.” Then after a moment of thought he said, “Well, maybe a used one.” I smiled at that and sipped my coffee; it was lukewarm.
He said, “That thing we talked about a couple of days ago? Is that still happening?”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Good.” He gave me a pat on the back. “Let’s go sit down.” We went into Lorenzo’s office and sat on the couch. Gin stood in the middle of the room looking around. She had on a formfitting dress with black and white horizontal stripes that tapered tight just above her knees. She had a nice figure, but the plastic black jacket she was wearing looked way too cheap and unsuitable for this cold night. Her heels were so high that it boggled my mind how she could walk without falling over. She was pretty; probably in her late 20s or early 30s but there was a teenage aura about her.
“What’s this place?” she asked.
“The shipper’s office,” I said.
She was looking at a calendar on the wall with a picture of a topless woman with big tits. “Oh,” she said, and giggled. “He must like big boobies.” Then she looked at me and smiled.
She went to Lorenzo’s desk. “Oh, this is cute.” She picked up a cube paperweight off the desk and started turning it all around. It had the colors of the Italian flag. “It’s heavy. What’s this for?” Then she saw something on one of the shelves and started moving towards it. She bumped into Lorenzo’s chair and stumbled. The paper weight fell out of her hand and the chair rolled across the floor and hit the photo copier. Freddie stood up.
“OK, look,” he said, walking towards her. “I didn’t bring you here to bump into shit and break stuff.” He grabbed the chair and rolled it towards her and held it there. “Be a good girl. Sit down and calm down.” She slumped into it, put on a pout and sat staring at the floor. Freddie picked up the paperweight and examined it. “Jesus! It’s chipped!” He held it out towards her. She looked at it then looked back at the floor.
“You realize I’m gonna have to get him a new one.”
“I’ll pay for it,” she said.
“Yeah you will. . . . with my money.” He set the paperweight on the desk and walked back to the couch shaking his head. Gin looked over at me, then looked away. She was the latest and so far the longest lasting of Freddie’s girlfriends. He told me she was great in the sack, never said no, loved to experiment and had a manageable temperament. He said, “After a lifetime of bimbos you eventually come across a bimbo that takes. This is the one.” Freddie liked his women taller than him, leggy and they’ve all been red heads.
“Red hair’s always been a turn on for me,” he told me .“Especially if they’ve got freckles on their tits.” This puzzled me at the time because Freddie’s wife was a brunette. He looked as impeccable as ever; all suited up. For a guy pushing fifty he was in great shape. He’d say, “I eat what I want to eat, drink what I want to drink and if that means I gotta take some pain at the gym, so be it. I’m not going to become a fat old man.” He didn’t want to become a grey-haired old man either; every two weeks he had his hair dyed jet black because, as he’d say, “Appearance is everything.”
We were talking a couple of days ago and that’s when he told me he thought his wife was giving him the horns. He thought the guy she was screwing was Ludy. I didn’t believe it. Short, fat, big-eared Ludy? There’s no way. And overlooking the fact that Ludy was an ugly motherfucker, why would any woman want to suck on those big fish lips that if they weren’t telling people what they were doing wrong, had a cigarette dangling from them? And Ludy was rough as rough could be, smelled of cologne and smoke and when he tried to look sharp and put on a suit, I felt sorry for the suit. To this day whenever I see Ludy in a suit it brings to mind that saying about putting lipstick on a pig.
“I’m telling you,” Freddie insisted, “I feel it, and I’m asking you to do me a favor. You gotta find out for me for sure.” So starting next week I was going to take some time off and follow Freddie’s wife around. “Yeah,” Freddie said, “And take some pictures.”
“And what if I find out it’s true?” I said. Freddie thought about it.
“Then I’ll have to kill them both.” He said it with a serious face then laughed as I stood there staring at him. He grabbed me around the shoulders, gave me a shake and said, “Just see what’s going on.”
So I’m sitting here thinking of Freddie’s problem tonight. Gin got up from the chair and said, “Freddie love? Can I go look over at the photocopier? I’ve never seen one close up.”
He nodded, saying, “But be careful. Don’t break it.”
I looked at Gin then I looked at Freddie then I looked at Gin again and I couldn’t understand why, if Ludy was supposedly fucking Freddie’s wife, why Freddie had a problem with that since he was cheating on her.
Maybe it was the way I was looking at the both of them that made Freddie say, “I know what you’re thinking, and I never explain myself to anybody, but I’ve really come to like you David, like you could be my little brother. As far as I’m concerned you’re family now, so I’m gonna tell you a story.” He sat back, cleared his throat and said, “It was my seven-year wedding anniversary. That’s a big deal right?”
“Seven years? With the same broad? I think that’s a major accomplishment. I wanted to do something spectacular, unforgettable so that she’d remember it the rest of her life. I used to love the bitch that much. So I went all out. I told my ma to keep the kids for the night. I talked to her boss to let her out early. I rented a limo. Got tickets to one of those stage shows downtown. Got us a suite at the Four Seasons and I made reservations at a French restaurant ‘cause that’s class right? French is class, right? I wanted everything to be classy for my girl. So, I show up at her work with a big bunch of flowers. The limo’s parked outside. The girls in the salon are all falling over themselves at my thoughtfulness. You know what she did?”
“She fell over too?”
“No. She rolled her eyes at me. Can you believe it? You want a beer? I gotta have a beer.” He stood and went to the bar fridge under the calendar and came back with two beers, cracked one open, handed it to me then sat holding his unopened bottle. “We go to the limo. I open the door for her, like a gentleman would open the door for his lady, but before she steps in she says, ‘How much did this cost?’ Now, I’m trying to keep my cool. This isn’t the reaction I was expecting, obviously, but hey, the night is still young, and lots more fun to come right? She said she wasn’t dressed to go out. She had to go home and change. You’ve seen her. When is she ever not dressed to go out?”
I had seen Freddie’s wife a few times but I’ve never spoken to her. I didn’t think she was such a prize. She gave me the impression that she thought everyone around her was invisible until she needed something.
Freddie said, “I told her she looked fine. She said, a little too loud, ‘I’ve been wearing these clothes since eight o’clock this morning. I have to change.’ The driver looked at us in the rear view mirror. So we go to the house. She wastes a half hour getting dressed, but it wasn’t from not knowing what to wear. She was deliberately dragging her feet. I saw it. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, she was knocking around in her closet, pulling clothes off the rack, looking over at me, rolling her eyes and sighing. Then she stomped a foot and said, “Why are you doing this to me Federico? I really don’t need this tonight!” My heart deflated right there. My whole evening almost deflated, but I was an optimist back then. I was thinking, oh, she’s just put off because she doesn’t like surprises. I forgot.You couldn’t spring shit on her at the last minute. It would get her all flustered. But once she starts thinking about it, she warms up pretty quick. So I kept the faith that at some point that warmth was going to materialize.
“We get in the limo and I got to tell the driver to hurry up or we’re gonna be late for the restaurant. She just sat there, arms folded, looking pissed off. And I’m sitting there thinking of all those times she wanted to do things, always telling me that if she didn’t think of it herself we’d always be sitting at home. She told me for once, for once I’d like you to think of something. So here we are, doing something, and she’s pissed off about it? Does that make any sense?