Sunday, February 1, 2015

RED HOT RED / Bet On Crazy by Peter Nolan Smith


Several years ago I was sitting with a mystical friend at Frank's Lounge, watching the end of the Jets-Colts playoff game. Rooting for the New York team surprised Wilson. He knew my life-long ties to Boston and I told him. "If the Jets win, we get to beat them again and other than winning the SuperBowl nothing is better than beating the Jets."

I hate Jets fans, except for Bob Wolfkowitz. This family friend is a season ticket-holder in the Meadowlands. Their last championship was in SuperBowl III. I hope that another hundred years go by before the Jets win the championship.

"Never the gold for the Jets." I said this loud enough for the benefit of Tyrone. He too is a die-hard fan. I wish that I could wish him good-luck, but when the Jets upset my team, the Patriots, in the first match-up between the AFC East rivals, Tyrone was crowing about how the Jets were going all the way.

My phone was ringing. I looked at the number and put it back in my jacket. It was Richie Boy, my boss.

It was Richie Boy, my boss. We were old friends, but this was a business call and he wasn’t paying me enough to answer the phone this time of night.

"We'll see next week." Wilson was a Giants fanatic. He was praying for both our teams to crash head-on in their buses, so the Jints could sneak into the playoffs. Football fans are devoted fools. "Two strong teams. Evenly matched."

"Dirty Sanchez is no Tom Brady." I imagined the Jets' QB to be a modern-day Paris of Troy looking to steal Helen from New England. There was only one Giselle and she had a big nose. My phone started ringing again. Richie Boy must have finished skiing in Vermont.

"Who's calling you?" Wilson was curious since the only person that ever called me this time of night was Fenway's mom from Thailand and I always answered her. Mam was 26 and as beautiful as the first day I met her four years ago.

"My boss from the diamond exchange."

"Doesn't he know that it's a Saturday?" Wilson worked as a building inspector for the city. 38 years on the job. "Ain't no one working at my job on Saturday unless it's double overtime."

"My bosses don't understand the concept of overtime." I was 58. Finding a new job was impossible for men my age. I was the only one on the subway in the morning. The phone started ringing again.

"Your boss?"

"No, a friend."

Isaac had a store in the Plaza Hotel. We had met two years earlier when Richie Boy opened a shop in the new Retail Collection. The experiment in the basement had been a disaster. One partner was a thief and Richie Boy's Persian backer was broke. I saved the sinking ship by selling a million-dollar ruby. Isaac admired my effort and my cool demeanor after our Persian backer stiffed half my commission.

I answered the phone.

"Man, you've got to tell Richie Boy to chill." Isaac and I were trying to sell a 2-carat red diamond to a sheik. So was everyone else in town, but Isaac had sold the client before, giving him the inside track. "He's calling me every 30 minutes."

"Me too."

Richie Boy had a bad habit of thinking that every sale was a done deal as long as you showed the stone.

I walked out of the bar onto the sidewalk. The night air was cold. Across the street General Fowler's statue was covered in blinking lights. Some sport had draped him in a cape. The wind gave the Civil War hero life.

"Isaac, did you speak with the Arab today?"

"No, I told you and told Richie Boy that I wouldn't be speaking to him until Wednesday. He has to relax."

"Did you call anyone else for a stone?" I hoped that he hadn't.

"Someone showed me a pinkish red." I knew that Isaac couldn't stay off the phone. Richie Boy wasn't the only crazy person.

"Pinkish red is a garbage stone. You show that to someone looking for a red diamond and they'll think you're an idiot. How much they asking for the pinkish red?"

"A bargain. $1 million a carat."

"A piece of shit more like it."

The colored diamond and gem trade are controlled by Afghani Jews. I know most of them. They are good people, but no one has an idea how much they pay for their stones. I figured that they doubled up on the purchase price. It could have been three times that.

"If someone says 'red', show them red." My phone buzzed with another call. I knew who it was. "Do yourself a favor. Stop calling around. Every time you call for a stone, the price will jump. Tell the Arab that too. It's the truth."

"How much can we make on this stone?"

"Enough for me to stop working for two years." I could live on 50K a year. "Let me answer this call."

"Okay, but tell Richie Boy to leave me alone."

"I wish I could tell him the same for me." I switched calls.

"Why didn't you answer my call?" Richie Boy was rightfully agitated by my ignoring him.

"I was on the line with Isaac." I explained how Isaac needed space.

"Space? This isn't a marriage. This is a diamond deal. I have people holding a red diamond for him."

Richie Boy ranted for several more seconds about how he didn't need people to be a prima donna. I didn't need to hear this on the weekend, since nothing and nothing was supposed to happen on the weekend.

"It's shabbath. The broker is at temple. Where are you?"

"Just getting home." Richie Boy and his wife had driven north to spend the weekend at their trailer on a river in Vermont. I had seen the photos. If he threw in a fire and glass of wine with a view of a snowy river, some called it paradise.

"Then have a good night. I'm watching the end of the football game." I hung up and shut off my phone. I returned inside the bar and sat next to Wilson. The Jets had scored a TD.

"What your boss want?"

Wilson was unimpressed about the red diamond sale. He was looking at a good pension in two years.

"What makes a red diamond red?" It was a good question.

I had a good answer. The truth.

"No one knows." It could have been elemental. Maybe a weird radiation from the earth's core or the the vastness of the cosmos. All I knew was that I wasn't selling it this weekend and I bought Wilson a beer, happy to be where I was, for Frank's was good for drinking beer and not worrying about work. It was paradise for some and almost home for me.

And General Fowler too.

This statue wasn't going anywhere soon.

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