Return to Koidanyev II

Monty Silverstein arrived at Pokorny’s and ordered a preliminary round of Italian sparkling water (which at Pokorny’s costs as much as the citizens of Maine spend on heating oil for a month). He looked about, executing the ritual status check to see who was sufficiently prominent to have been permitted entry into the current political holy of holies. He saw one of the young up-and-coming editors of the city’s largest newspaper, Josh Berenberg. He nodded and the man smiled back gratefully. Berenberg’s editorial praising the nation’s brightest and youngest Presidential candidate in decades had started a media tidal wave that overwashed the entire nation, launching the Great Man’s campaign and, incidentally, vaulting the paper to prominence among the Party faithful. Monty assumed (correctly) that this was why the editor now found himself dining in the upper reaches of power. As his eyes moved around the room, he saw one of the city’s most prestigious litigants in a corner with two partners from the firm. They were embroiled in a case that would, if successful, crush the pro-life lobby in the state for the next twenty years. He nodded again, checking in. They acknowledged with deferential smiles behind their oversized menus.

Pokorny’s was New York’s most exclusive eating establishment, unobtrusively but ineluctably reserved for the city’s ruling political elites. The dark wood panels, lustrous balustrades, shining brass fixtures, hushed tones, and high ceilings all spoke of wealth, prestige, and exclusivity—of having arrived. One had to be a major player in the world of New York politics, the media, the law, or entertainment in order for the reservations people to just keep you on the line, and even then, it could take a month to actually get a reservation.

Julius Mokotoff came through the entrance to Pokorny’s barely two minutes short of the time appointed and saw Monty immediately. He moved through the crowd with a fluid grace, dignified and comfortable. His clothes, shoes, watch, and demeanor all exuded old-money wealth. Monty envied the man his settled position in society—and the fact that he had a few billion in the bank…what Monty could do with a billion or two. Monty stood, folded the heavy linen napkin, set it on the table with dexterity, and extended a hand.

“Julius, nice to see you, thanks for coming.”

“The Senator’s staff calls, Monty, and the minions leap.” The men smiled. “What’s cooking?”

“We want to talk strategy, Julius. I’ve got Mark in as well, Mark Weitzel. He should be here any minute, and Alexis Furman.”

“Furman…she clerked for Ginsberg?”

“That Furman…yes.”

“She just won a judgment for the state of New Hampshire, didn’t she?”

“She did; the parental rights issue. She established rock-solid precedent for the ability of the State to direct how children are to be schooled. If we can apply the judgment to other states, we can effectively eliminate the home school movement throughout the country.”

“God, that would be an accomplishment. Those yokels have been causing more of a problem than we need at the moment.” Julius took a sip of his sparkling water.

“She’s been remarkably effective. Her ability to marshal facts, her believability, her commitment—”

“And her looks have nothing to do with it, right?” Mokotoff interjected, smiling.

“Couldn’t forget that, could we?” Monty said, smiling the conspiratorial male smile. Alexis was truly ravishing. Monty had a reminder on his personal Outlook calendar at home to plan a deviously-structured seduction sometime in the next month, as long as the Senator’s campaign went as planned and barring any extraordinary deviations from the schedule.

“She’s been incredibly useful,” Monty allowed. “Hope you don’t mind, but she’s bringing a cousin in to lunch; apparently Seligman himself approved.”

Mokotoff simply nodded gracefully—like everything else he did—and smiled. “Seligman is backing us enormously. And what, we should turn away a friend of his?”

Monty’s head wagged back and forth slightly. “Glad you understand.”

Mark Weitzel appeared, escorted to their table by a fawning waiter, hands wringing in anxiety to be so near the great man, the paragon of democratic virtue, the maker of kings, the deposer of fulminating traditions, the owner of so many media corporations that it could truly be said by the faithful that anything worth listening to, watching, reading, imbibing, or worshiping came from the fountain of this man’s empire. Monty and Julius both stood with respectful, dignified, composed expressions of pleasure. It was rumored that Weitzel was in close partnership with some of the key—the very key—people working the higher agendas in Davos, Brussels, Moscow, Beijing, and Spain. Two very large men with oversized jackets detached themselves from Weitzel’s wake and took places at the exits as the man himself came to the table.

“Mark, it was kind of you to come,” Monty said, the rehearsed line snapped off with just the right mixture of professionalism and warmth, not giving away precedence but not assertive, either.

“Monty, how are you? How’s the Senator?” Weitzel turned to Mokotoff. “Julius, a pleasant surprise; Davos, wasn’t it, when we saw each other last?”

“It was, Mark. Pleasure to see you again…hope things are going well in your world?”

“Passably…passably,” he replied, taking his seat. The others sat as well. Waiters breathed again.

Weitzel was a man of average height, with a most uncommon, hawk-like intensity complimented by dark eyes that constantly roamed the room, taking in everything, missing nothing—eyes that could piercingly observe and ravenously devour. The man was raw power. Monty and Julius were in awe. All heads in the restaurant were fixed on their table. For Monty, the knowledge that his stock was rising by the minute would lend enormous savor to the food. Diverting for an intellectual moment, he ruminated that perhaps this is why men craved power—it so lent savor to the senses in life. My God, how good it tasted, he exulted to himself, overwhelmed with the association of pure moving energy, a flow that could be controlled to direct great events, to shift the minds of men, to compel, to command. It made his blood race. At that moment he understood viscerally why men would fight wars and devastate entire nations for such a feeling.

Alexis entered the restaurant. Monty knew this because he was watching the effect Weitzel was having on the law firm partners at the far table when he saw their heads yank as if pulled by some vertiginous little boy playing with a string. He followed their gaze and there she was: tall, dark-eyed, silken-haired, buxom, moving through the restaurant like silk flows through your hand, in a beige suit from Bloomingdales that must have cost slightly more than the national budget for Rwanda. He stood. Mokotoff and Weitzel stood as well. Mokotoff’s eyes were veiled, polite, but disinterested. Weitzel, who had perhaps indulged himself with more of the world’s beautiful women than even he could count, did her the honor of extending a compliment.

“Sadly in our world it is not often beauty is married with intelligence, Ms. Furman, but you grace our table with both.” Alexis beamed; this was a verbal scalp she could parley into enormous street cred.

The eyes of most diners were suddenly yanked away from their table by a most unusual distraction occurring at the door. A large and hulking human specimen stood, blotting out much of the light coming through the window, dressed like some orthodox Jewish refugee and looking at the tank of lobsters with a stark expression of horror. A waiter approached and cringingly requested the honor of escorting the…the gentleman…to his table. The gentleman did have a table, did he not? Surely at the lunch hour, here at Pokorny’s, he would have…he certainly must have a table?

Jacob looked down at the waiter wringing his hands in great anxiety (a common trait among those who serve in close proximity to the powerful, sadly) and said, “I am here with my cousin. Are these…shellfish? This is not kosher. This is a kosher restaurant, nu?” The questions came with increasing intensity. The waiter, quailing (also a common trait), ran for the maître d’, who, slightly less cringingly and with just a shade of a tyrant’s reflected arrogance in his own demeanor, slightly more insistently begged the young man for the pleasure of knowing to which table he might have the honor of escorting him.

Jacob looked around wildly—this was not a good sign, the maître d’ thought, a man this size looking around wildly—and fortunately for Pokorny’s and the luminaries of the Party eating there that day, Jacob caught a glimpse of Alexis as she was being feted or stalked or patronized by three of the most powerful and important men in the twenty-first century.

He moved toward the table like Moses walking on dry land through the Red Sea, like Godzilla moving through Tokyo, like a monster truck crunching a line of environmentally-friendly cars. Diners gaped in shock and awe at the very size of the man. He exuded a slightly Eastern European, Hasidic air; to every deeply assimilated Jew in the restaurant, the sight of him was intensely offensive. When Jacob arrived at their table, the instinctual recoil was covered nicely by the overpowering social requirement for tolerance—although tolerance of anything smacking of the roots of Judaism was, to these utterly assimilated Jews, stretching the boundaries of tolerance to the breaking point. Alexis had a dark moment, watching her career flash before her eyes, imagining Weitzel or Mokotoff phoning each other, or worse, her firm, wondering what among all that was holy in the Party were they doing, letting a loose cannon like that Furman woman bring a refugee from Fiddler on the Roof into their restaurant. Didn’t she have the least degree of appreciation for the dignity, the authority, the gravitas of those who required a quiet place of solitude in the midst of the hurly-burly? Didn’t she have the faintest idea of the kinds of things that went on in such places?

Her downward-spiraling reverie was interrupted before she self-destructed upon the cliffs of her own imaginings.

“How is Seligman, Alexis? Doing well, we hope?” This conversational sortie came from Weitzel—the wise, the gracious—reminding her that he knew, as did everyone else, why this hulking excuse for a human being was taking up their time and a chair at Pokorny’s. Seligman’s prestige was such that any disapprobation would be dismissed immediately—or, at least, it wouldn’t fall on her slender shoulders.

“In excellent health, thank you, Mark, for asking,” she replied hurriedly, and too relieved to worry about how it sounded. A waiter appeared magically behind her, hands wringing on the back of her chair, indicating that the deepest purpose of his life would be fulfilled if she were to be seated comfortably. She sat, smoothing her skirt. The men sat, and Jacob, hesitatingly, sat, wondering if the floor would open up and swallow him. He glanced around quickly to see if there was a golden calf being fashioned. The assembled crowd, eyes agog, held their breath—there was an audible intake as Jacob descended upon the chair—and just as audibly the crowd exhaled as the pride of Pokorny’s was upheld. Apparently the chairs were stouter than the waiters’ hearts.

Weitzel, after lifting his water glass, gave a discreet nod to Monty, who took the cue.

“Gentlemen, Alexis, permit me to get right down to things. You know that the Party’s candidate for President will be elected. This is a given,” Monty began, launching upon the conversational mission of the luncheon. “Another four years of the opposition’s hooliganism, with political strategies worked out at…at barbecues, for God’s sake…will simply not be permitted. And we simply will no longer tolerate any interference in the political arena from those ‘of faith’”.

“Unless it’s ours, of course,” Julius inserted dryly. They all smiled.

But having the great man elected was not enough, Monty went on to say. “We need to put certain programs in place—programs that will convince the people that the hope of the Party, the hope of the nation, the hope of mankind, will truly be the answer to everyone’s problem.” Weitzel smiled at this bit of political foolishness, recognizing, like one shark circling another around blood in the water, the real objective—power, pure power. Monty continued. “These programs need to ensure that the state controls everything there is to control for the good of the people—their money, their children, their property, their employment, even the exercise of what faith we consider appropriate.” Everyone there at the table recognized how damaging and divisive misguided fundamentalists had been to the philosophical tapestry their Party had attempted to weave into the social conscience in decades past. They were also aware how successful their efforts and the efforts of their predecessors had been to almost completely eliminate any influence from such inappropriate sources—sources which might stand in the way of the golden highway to Utopia they were going to build.

“The tapestry of hope needs to be strengthened,” Monty emphasized. “The threads that will build a new, incredibly ordered society, structured on the basis of intelligent, far-seeing men and women need to be crafted now, before the Senator takes office, so that in the first hundred days these new policies would rock the world. The Senator is completely confident that the policies your people can devise will be more than satisfactory, and he is demonstrating that confidence by providing unlimited access.”

“And he calls upon us to demonstrate our willingness to exercise these policies by providing unlimited funds,” Weitzel stated astutely.

“Yes sir,” Monty answered, meeting the bald statement head-on. “Your people,” and here he nodded his head toward Julius as well, while in reality embracing the truly global elite in whose circles Weitzel moved, “have more than enough…assets…to implement the strategies you have in mind. You just need access. The Senator is providing that.”

“We are not sure access to America is as critical as it once was,” Julius intoned slowly.

Weitzel, not wanting the truth of the statement to unnecessarily pinion the brash and aggressive Senator’s aide to the conversational mat, intervened.

“It may be, Julius, but nonetheless access at this time would enable things to proceed in a more…well, in perhaps a more seemly fashion.”

Weitzel looked slowly at Alexis; Julius did as well. Monty took these gestures as a question: What, then, is she doing here? He took this unspoken question head-on as well. He would enjoy the reaction.

“Alexis is going to be leaving her law firm shortly,” he said. Alexis, despite her attempt at composure, looked sharply at Silverstein.

“Like bloody hell I am,” she exploded. The men laughed at her discomfiture.

“Senator”—and here he used the Great Name itself, suitably impressing everyone, stifling even Alexis’ outburst—“will call for Alexis to fill the post of Special Counsel to the President. She’ll be working on these policy issues directly with the future President.” He smiled, looking at Alexis to test her reaction.

She was stunned. Her bright brown eyes were wide open, flashing, the fires of ambition stoked to white heat. Weitzel saw it and duly congratulated himself on his foresight to extend a little grace about the hulking oaf sitting next to her. Amidst the general distraction, Julius let his eyes stray over Monty’s shoulders.

“My God, Monty, you know how to surprise a girl!”

The men laughed. It was not often one could catch a hard-boiled, razor-sharp New York lady lawyer by surprise. The shell of cynicism and disdain was a requirement for entry to law school, one supposed, or maybe something that happened to New York lawyers while in the womb, when their mothers perhaps smoked some particularly bitter herb.

“And by God, you’ll pay for it!” she said, quick as a whip. Her eyes, however, as everyone could see, indicated that she had other plans.

The laughter was louder this time. Julius began to consider alternatives. Apparently Monty’s calendar would be occupied shortly. He lifted his glass of Chablis, subtly toasting Monty’s future success in a gesture that only the two men caught.

“I…do…not…like…that…man.”

The words, rolled out slowly and unobtrusively just below the noisy garble of conversation at Pokorny’s like a bowling ball under the tables, seemed to come from the tree that sat quietly at the table with them. Diners near the windows looked to see if perhaps a thunderstorm was approaching. No one at first knew that Jacob had spoken. If it had not been for the way the water rippled in the glasses, or the vibration they felt in their shoes or in their elbows as they leaned on the heavy tablecloth, they would not have known anything out of the ordinary had occurred.

The laughter at the table began to dwindle slightly, the altered atmosphere absorbing it like a sponge absorbs liquid. The palpitation of the waiters—who had indeed caught the fact that Jacob had spoken and did in fact hear very clearly what he’d said—was like watching a class of suicide bombers on a practice range.

“I…do…not…like…that…man.”

This time the words shook the table like a small earthquake; they struck a harmonious resonance and forks sang as though being tuned. Alexis started, irritated, yanked rudely away from considering the bright new direction her life had taken.

She could tell it was Jacob speaking because her heels were vibrating again. She shook her head slightly. “Jacob…Jacob, it’s fine,” she hissed. “Don’t worry about a thing, now, eat, please, and don’t interrupt. We’re speaking about important things here. Don’t cause any trouble.” She smiled to cover her embarrassment.

“That…man,” Jacob proclaimed, and pointed with a large hand that stretched like the hand of doom across the table, level with her eyes, pointing over Julius’ right shoulder. She turned and saw a very large, strange-looking man sitting in a chair over which hung a faded green overcoat—like a trench-coat, she thought, discordantly. The man was sitting by himself at a table across the room, plainly staring at them, mechanically lifting a spoon back and forth to his mouth. She could tell from here that he was slurping. What struck Alexis immediately was the size of the man’s hands—thick, beefy fingers like sausages, fists the size of small hams—resting on the table in front of him. He was consuming a plate of soup. The spoon was like a toothpick in his fist. Arms the size of a sewer culvert stretched the seams of his jacket.

The man saw Alexis looking at him and the fleshy mass of his face rearranged itself into a smile. Alexis could not believe it. She was she seeing a man in Pokorny’s—yes, Pokorny’s—actually drool. It had to be something else. She looked away, disgusted.

“Just ignore him,” Alexis hissed at Jacob. “He’s disgusting, yes, but ignore him.” Jacob did not reply, but continued to stare sullenly at the man. Weitzel caught the exchange.

“Strange fellow,” he remarked, his head inclining toward the large man still staring at their table.

Julius turned in his chair, looking in the man’s direction. The man lifted a great ham-like fist in which was, barely noticeable, the spoon, and waved it at them, smiling moronically. He could see soup dripping on the man’s chin.

“Yes, he does seem a bit…odd,” he remarked.

Alexis began to form the idea that this is just what he was—a moron, perhaps some lunatic escaped from Bellevue—but my God, how could the establishment let someone like that in here? Someone’s head was going to roll, she thought. There would be lists made even as they sat there being offended—lists of waiters, reservation agents, and suppliers to be fired. What is it, she thought to herself, about monstrous men today? God, I can’t get away from them, they’re everywhere.

“I do not like him,” Jacob reiterated, encouraged by Julius’ expressed opinion.

“Don’t blame you a bit, dear boy,” Julius replied, looking up at Jacob, hoping to take Jacob’s mind of the offending man. “Tell me young man, are you looking forward to practicing law?”

Jacob’s eyes snapped down and away from the large man eating soup and took in Julius.

“I am not going to practice law,” he replied in the same measured tone. “I am going to be a Rabbi.” The voice penetrated deeply into Julius’ chest; he could feel his ribs vibrate.

“A Rabbi! Seligman will be so pleased!” Julius exclaimed, almost laughing. He wondered if Seligman realized that his protégé was planning such a career. He wondered if there were any gay Rabbis. And then he realized that of course Seligman would know his protégé’s plans, and this was the reason the young man was at the table; so that they could begin to shape him. No doubt he would become a very influential Rabbi in the City—shaped and molded along the lines of their policies and philosophies, as they had done so many times to so many, many other influential (and subtly influenced) rabbis. Those who birthed the philosophies so much embraced by everyone there at Pokorny’s never tempted so successfully as when they were closest to the altar. Mokotoff realized again, with deep appreciation, the depth and power of Seligman’s genius.

“Have you picked out a congregation in the city yet?” he asked.

Jacob looked at him as though he was seeing him for the first time, his mouth slightly open, a look of incomprehension plastered on his face. “New York? No, not New York…Russia…I am going to be a Rabbi in Russia…like my Grandfather.”

“Your Grandfather?” Julius said, trying to conceal his amusement—Russia! What was Seligman thinking? “Was he a Rabbi in Russia?”

“No,” Jacob replied, “he just visited there. I am going back to where he visited.”

“To where, Jacob?” asked Weitzel, trying to diminish the embarrassment that might get back to Seligman if the incident was not handled correctly, “I know Russia well. Where did your Grandfather visit?”

“Koidanyev,” he said. “Much needs doing there. Perhaps it is too late, but nonetheless…” and Jacob’s words trailed off, fortunately, before the drinking glasses shattered.

Weitzel had never heard of Koidanyev—men like him wouldn’t have—and was about to ask Jacob where this strange place was when the conversation was interrupted by several things happening at once.

Jacob became agitated; diners’ heads were turning like puppets on strings. Weitzel sat back, set down his glass of wine, and exhibited the strangest sense of disquiet. Alexis looked up to see that the hulking moron, like a walking side of beef, was moving toward their table. The two large men in unobtrusive jackets bulging obtrusively began to move to intercept the man, but they didn’t have the angles to intercept him before he got to the table.

Monty watched in horror as the strange man with arms like great steel beams stumbled to their table. The man appeared to be chuckling, if the rumbling they heard could be interpreted correctly by matching the moronic smile that accompanied it. Monty felt only a slight degree of danger. The man himself didn’t appear to be dangerous but the situation—not planned, not scripted, not controlled by him—therefore warranted an elevated sense of awareness. And, it must be admitted, Monty was a coward.

The waiters, cringing, did not know what to do. Imagine their perplexity—here was a diner at Pokorny’s interrupting other diners at Pokorny’s. Unfortunately the waiters did not have immediate access to the protocol list, and so did not know whether to interdict this boorish gentleman or thank their lucky stars that they had the opportunity to clean the dust from the floor whereupon he had walked after he finished gracing this other table with his wisdom. This was a process problem that the managers would later fix by implanting tiny audio chips in the ear canals of every waiter.

The large beefy man stumbled and wound his way through the maze of some of the most important personages in the Party of the Future until he came to the table around which sat four of the most influential Jews in the country. He smacked his forearms down like a butcher bringing home the bacon and knelt, shoving himself in a friendly sort of way between Alexis and Monty. He smelled of something; Alexis couldn’t place it, but the fact that he smelled was enough to wrinkle her nose. The man’s jacket brushed against her Bloomingdale creation. She felt soiled. Jacob was standing now, alarmed, which alarmed the rest of the diners. Policemen in the precincts felt a fluttering in their guts for some unexplained reason. Clouds began to form outside, above the restaurant. Waiters fainted.

“Jews,” said the large, ham-like man, rumbling deeply, chuckling, pleased with himself, speaking with what was obviously some type of Eastern European accent. He pronounced it Juice. “Juice…I like Juice.” He opened his hands wide, obviously meaning to include the entire table with his complimentary epithet, and then slapped his hands down on the table between the wine bottle and the four kinds of water glasses. The bottles and glasses (and Monty) jumped like dilatory soldiers caught standing around by a furious adjutant.

“By Got,” he said, now apparently speaking to the entire restaurant, judging by the adjustment in volume, “by Got, I love dease Juice!” He spread his arms to embrace both Monty and Alexis. He was no longer smiling, but serious, his face contorted in moronic passion. There was a bit of drool, or soup, staining his jacket. Alexis began to be afraid.

The two men detailed to protect Weitzel arrived at the table and quickly assessed the situation. They looked at their principal, who appeared to be upset, unsure of the situation, and backing away slightly without trying to appear frightened (the security people see this thing in their principals all the time, and are taught what to look for). They moved quickly behind the strange man. One grabbed a wrist, the other grabbed the other, and with a quick motion twisted each behind the man’s back and away from the threat of touching the diners at the Table of the August. Alexis felt a flash of appreciation (and some attraction) for the bold move by the security man protecting her.

But the large moronic man, finding himself with both arms now behind his back, became inordinately frightened. Something flashed across his face and in a paroxysm of fear, he twisted his hands somehow, grabbed the security men’s wrists, one in each of his ham-like fists, squeezed, and snapped bones like twigs. The men went to their knees, trying to grimace unobtrusively. Weitzel began to seriously think about running, and Monty struggled manfully to keep from crying. Diners gasped, several lifted from their chairs with eyes searching for the closest exit. It was becoming an extremely distasteful incident. Pokorny’s would never live this down.

The man dropped the arms of the security guards like discarded bones. They’d been apparently forgotten in a moment, and then looked back at the people at table—his friends, the ‘Juice’—and smiled again. “You are goot Juice,” he said.

One of the security guards, the one with the functional gun-hand wrist, was pulling his gun from the unobtrusive bulge under the unobtrusive jacket. He could not ratchet the slide back, however. He looked to his compatriot, who understood immediately, and grabbed the slide with his teeth and held on. The first guard shoved it forward, the slide slammed a round into the chamber with a resounding click that sounded like…well, it was a sound no one in that restaurant had ever heard, for no one in the Party of the Faithful would ever have anything to do with guns (it was against everyone’s religion). The security guard struggled to stand. As he did so, he pointed the weapon at the large beefy man who had easily snapped the bones in his left forearm.

“Now…back away from the table, sir,” he said, firmly but (as always) politely.

Silence reigned in the restaurant like an unbroken plate of glass. It was shattered suddenly by a woman’s strident, commanding voice with just a touch of upper-class English accent. “Stop! My God, please, stop!

Upon hearing this voice, the strange man suddenly straightened and looked around, eyes rolling somewhat, as though caught with his hand in a cookie jar.

“Uncle! Uncle, do come along now! Omigod, I’m so sorry…he never does this…never! What are you thinking, Uncle! I mean, honestly!” The woman’s strident tones and high-flying, clearly British accent were unmistakably familiar to the large beefy intruder. He began to chuckle again, a laugh that implied close camaraderie with his new special friends. The security man lowered the gun.

“My leetle niece,” he explained gently, looking over at the diminutive woman, waving a hand with the palm down, up and down, so as to put any fears she might have at rest. “My dear, relax, relax, I vas just tellink my frentz—dease nice Juice—how much I like dem. I luf to see all de nice Juice here in dis place.”

“Uncle, please, please, come along now, don’t bother the nice Juice.” The woman unthinkingly mimicked the old hulk’s ancient Eastern European accent. She was tugging at the man’s sleeve. It was like watching a mouse try to pull a Mack truck. The man leaned down again on the table and whispered conspiratorially to the strategic planners of the coming Utopia.

“I vill tell you,” he said with a wink, “vy I like Juice.” The niece was still pulling at his arm; she wasn’t even affecting his gravitational field.

Alexis recoiled from such a blatant, distasteful reminder of things foreign, of Eastern Europe and all the backward, primitive…religious things such a place represented. The thought of listening to a biography of the man’s entire life repulsed her. By God, she had things to do, programs to plan, strategies to formulate, policies to implant in the mind of the Great Man himself. She was going to be the Special Counsel to the President. By God, who was this idiot to be taking up her time?

“Ven I vas foorteen,” he began, “I lived in leetle village in Pohlunt… Przebrno, near Krynica Morska. Och, it vas such a nice place, near de Vistula Bay, you know? I vas poor. Ve didn’t haf much to eat, and den vun day I got job. It voot saife my family, I am tellink you. Dey make me hangman, you see. No vun else in de village voot do it, you know? Dey gaife me hood. Ven you hang somevun, you know, dey gif you hood because dey don’t vant any vun to know it’s you, but efry vun knowse.” The man began to choke up, and lines of tears dripped down into blubbery crevasses. “But I vas no goot, you see…I vas no goot, it vas difficult, because I coot never tie de noose. I voot alvays make a mistake. De hands,” and here he held his massive fists before his face and looked at them like traitors, “dey voot not go vere dey shoot go to make de knot in de right vay.”

Jacob was trembling now, but standing stock still, rooted to the ground. A great black swirling mass of cloud rose above the restaurant, threatening to become a tornado. It would be the first in history to occur within the city limits of New York. Police everywhere in the city were calling emergency numbers, wondering about their ulcer medications. Fireman awoke and dressed, wondering if there was a massive unreported conflagration they hadn’t heard about.

“Ah, but de Juice,” the man said, now smiling again, “de Juice safed me.” The mousy niece was making some progress; the man’s arm had moved about a centimeter. The man leaned forward and shook one large sausage-like forefinger at each of them. “Efry time de Chormans brought a Jew to be hanged, de Jew himself voot tie de noose for me. Andt efery time it voot vork. Dis is vy I love dease Juice!” He was crying, barely able to get the last words out.

The man sniffed in remembrance, wiped one arm across his eyes, and stood, finally allowing his niece to lead him away.

Suddenly there was a flood of waiters (miraculously revived), swirling about, clearing glasses and upset bottles. They removed the silk tablecloth stained by the beefy man’s unsavory interruption and reset a fresh table, complete with eighteen forks at each setting. The two security men were trundled off to hospital; two more magically appeared, taking their place, looking just like those they replaced (they are stamped out of a mold at a secret base in North Carolina). Alexis, Monty, Weitzel, and Julius were speechless. Jacob returned again to his chair and the tornado dissipated (amazing meteorologists for the next decade, some would write doctoral theses on the phenomena that would come to be known as ‘Pokorny’s Tornado’). Diners resumed their sedate luncheon in a tense atmosphere of thankfully-recovered dignity.

The maître d’ arrived with his dignity slightly burnished, all profuse apologies, all fluttering fuss, as though someone had offended the natural laws of the universe. The luncheon would be on the house, the guests were assured—it was nothing, nothing to the horrendous inconvenience they had experienced. No one answered him.

“My God, who was that man?” Alexis asked of no one in particular. No one answered her, either. The maître d’ bustled and hovered and snapped his fingers, waiters trembling to respond. She got the impression, if it was possible in a place like Pokorny’s, that the waiters and the maître d’ were actually trying to ignore her…or ignore the question, perhaps. And then Alexis saw a strange thing.

Her widening eyes caught the attention of the others in her Party, and they all stared, shocked to see the young niece lead the strange moronic slab of a man back to his seat at the table from whence he’d come, and sit him down, where he resumed eating his soup. He even looked back at them and lifted his spoon gently in acknowledgement of the brief moment they had all shared together.

“By God, this is too much,” Weitzel exploded, losing his dignity. “You there, man,” he snapped his fingers at a waiter, who collapsed on the spot. The maître d’ appeared in his place, instantly responsive.

“By God, I’ll see that man tossed out of this establishment or I’ll make sure that you, your family, your relatives, any children you’ll ever have, and anyone who’s ever met you in your miserable existence spends the rest of their lives scraping out a living on a dirt farm in Missouri!”

This fact seemed to cause the maître d’ to quail; apparently farming was only slightly less abominable than hell to the denizens of New York City restaurants. His knees shook, he trembled like he had the palsy, but he alone knew what every other waiter did not. He put his hands together in supplication. “P-p-p-please, Mr. Wi-Wi-Wi-Weitzel, p-please, I can’t throw him out, sir. That’s Mr. Pokorny, sir. He owns the restaurant.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *