It occurred to Lenny that he’d been in the Yorkville Cat Clinic for forty minutes and no customers had come in.
“You’re not very busy,” he said.
“It’s not like I do a lot of cats,” Nick replied. He slid the razor blade across the smooth glass surface of the framed open sign and collected the scattered powder into a final parallel line. He tapped the blade three times and took up a loosely rolled hundred-dollar bill. Rolling it between his thumbs and forefingers, Nick tightened the roll and thrust it toward Lenny. “You have the honours.”
“Thanks,” Lenny replied as he leaned into the glass. He held the bill up to one nostril and pushed his other nostril closed with his forefinger. With a quick snort and a pivot of his neck he inhaled one line. Sitting back up, he pinched and wiped his nose as he sniffed and reattached his gaze.
“Good huh?” Nick asked.
Lenny nodded. “If I were to bounce something off of you, do you think you could keep it quiet? It’s not a national secret or anything. Just sort of private.”
“Hey man, it’s me, you’re talking to. What do you think?”
“You’re not really the most discrete—
“Fuck you. I’m discrete when you need me to be. You want to talk? Talk. I won’t say anything to anybody. I’m here for you.
“It is good stuff,” Lenny said.
“Got it from the Russians.”
“I tested for that Freedman kid,” Lenny said tentatively.
“What are you talking about?” Nick paused. “That Jewish kid with cancer?”
“What do you mean you tested? Like you gave blood?”
“Yeah. They took a blood sample to test to see if I could be a match for a transplant?”
“A transplant? What are you nuts? Transplant what? When did you do this? What do they transplant? Are you related to the kid? Freeman?”
“Freedman. No. They take bone marrow. It’s not a big deal really.”
“Not a big deal? You are nuts. What about infection? The anesthetic? You could get AIDS or something.”
“Come on,” Lenny got up. “You didn’t learn anything in vet school?”
“I didn’t really have time to study, if you know what I mean,” Nick took the coke straw and did a line. “The dean didn’t seem to mind my pre-occupation. Hey, pre-occupation, get it? That guy had a bigger habit than Scarface. Anyway, sit down. I want to hear more.”
“I went in last week and gave a blood sample. They called me this morning. I’m a preliminary match. They want me to come back in and give them another sample.” Lenny sat back down and put out his hand for the straw.
“You were a match? That’s like one in a million, isn’t it?”
“Not really. About a half million if you’re a match. Not just for the prelim. I don’t know how many people pass that.”
An electronic door chime rang. “We’re closed,” Nick yelled. “I forgot to lock the door,” he whispered to Lenny.
A voice called back. “Closed? But the sign says—
“Sorry, family emergency. Please come back tomorrow,” Nick yelled. He turned to Lenny and pointed to the open sign. “Sign’s down. Business hours are over.” Then he leaned in and sucked up the last line.
“So I tested positive and I’m going in tomorrow to do it again.”
“Don’t tell Arthur, that’s for sure. He’ll fucking freak.”
“It’s not about Arthur, it’s about me.”
“You mean the kid, right? The Freedman kid. What is that, some sort of tribe thing? He’s one of yours so you have to step in and risk your life for him. Even if he’s a complete stranger?” Nick sniffed loudly and wiped his nose. “Fuckin’ eh! That Vlad should get an award for this shit.”
“What? A guy can’t do something for someone else? For a sick kid? It’s a blessing to do this.”
“Yeah, I know. You guys have the market cornered in the blessing department. Our goyishe god doesn’t give a shit if we save a kid, right? Fuck you. You’re an elitist prick, Lenny. You know that?”
“This was a bad idea. Never mind. Why I thought I’d get support from my friends is beyond me. I probably won’t pass the next screening anyway.”
“You’ve always looked down on me,” Nick said. “You guys are so fucking superior with your Jew club and your Jew secret handshake and your Jew morality. Every day at lunch it’s Hello, it’s good to see you Mr. Goldstein, good to see you Mr. Glass, good to see you Mr. Levinsky, oh hi Nick you goy. I’m fucking tired of everyone treating me like I’m less moral or socially responsible than you. Should I lay out some more coke? I got new stuff coming in on Thursday. It’s the sweetest blow you’ve ever tasted.
“Nick, you know we all love you. So you think I’m crazy?”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Why would you take the chance?”
“I don’t know Nick. I don’t know. I didn’t even realize that I heard the ad. I just found myself driving to the synagogue where they had the blood testing clinic and signed up.”
“You didn’t park in front, did you?”
“What the hell, Nick. In case I’d be embarrassed to do the right thing? I parked about three blocks away. Nobody saw me.
“The guys would freak.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You’d get Arthur’s high and mighty we’re the privileged few, the enlightened ones, separate from the masses speech.
Yeah, I know.
“What are you going to do if you match?”
“I don’t know. Do the transplant, I guess.”
“Will you be in, you know, the hospital?”
“So you’ll miss lunch.”
“Then you’ll have to make up a story.”
“I don’t know. We’re getting way ahead of the game here. I’m not even a match yet. The odds are—
“Yeah, we covered that. But you’re not exactly normal in that respect, are you?
“Seven out of ten, right?”
“Eight? When did that happen?”
“I don’t know. About a month ago.”
“Jesus. I mean Moses, or whomever. And Vegas?”
“Jesus, Lenny. I’m sticking with Jesus. We could make out like bandits.” Nick dropped to his knees. “Please let’s do Vegas. You and me. I’ll pay for everything.”
“Get up, you dick. We’re not going to Vegas. Jesus was a Jew. And they don’t have coin-toss tables anyway.”
“Of course he was. Took over the family business, so to speak.”
Lenny ran his finger around the open sign and mopped up the last of the cocaine and rubbed his finger on his gums. He checked his Rolex and plucked his mohair jacket from the back of his chair and threw it over his shoulder. “It’s time. Lets go.”
Nick scanned the back room and then put the sign on top of a tightly wrapped package in a medicine cabinet above one of the two examination tables. He closed the mirrored door and tapped it twice.
“Nobody would look for this in here,” he said.
“That’s funny,” Lenny replied. “I guess it’s a better hiding place than in the drug locker.”
“Oh, I keep shit in there too,” Nick said. He also checked his Rolex. “We’d better get going or the guys will be pissed.”
“And get the best parking spots.”