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Bone in the throat, p.18
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       Bone in the Throat, p.18

           Anthony Bourdain
 
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  Tommy nodded.

  "What do the FBI want with you? What do they want, a fuckin' recipe?"

  "They want to know about something my uncle might have done."

  "You didn't do anything, right? Why are they bothering your

  "Cheryl, I don't know. I don't know. Because I'm there. Because they feel like it. Because they think I did something with him. They want me to rat on my uncle, alright?" Tommy ran his hands through his hair, put the ice pack back on his eye, and flopped back down on the bed.

  "So why don't you tell them?" asked Cheryl.

  "It's a fucked-up situation," said Tommy.

  "They're not going to put you in jail," said Cheryl.

  "They said they will," said Tommy.

  "Just 'cause you don't talk to them, they can't put you in jail . . . They can't do that. Can they?"

  "I think they can."

  "Why? What is your problem? Why don't they just arrest your uncle, he did something wrong?"

  "They think I saw something. They want me to be like a witness," said Tommy.

  "Witness to what?"

  "I really don't want to talk about this," said Tommy. "I shouldn't have really said anything at all."

  Cheryl moved closer to Tommy and lay down, resting on one elbow, beside him. "Listen, Tommy," she said, "You were doing real well there for a while. I was almost forgetting about what a sleaze-bag you've been. Almost, but not quite . . . Now what is it that's so bad that you have to get drunk and fuck the house slut for?" She took the ice pack off Tommy's eye and tossed it in the sink. She ran her fingers through Tommy's hair, through the wet strands near his eye, pushing them back off his forehead. "You're gonna have to tell me. If you don't tell me, I'm gonna go in there tomorrow and kick Stephanie's ass into outer fuckin' space."

  So he told her.

  Thirty-One

  Harvey arrived at the restaurant early. He had been jogging: three times around Washington Square Park and then down to the Dreadnaught. He wore a white terrycloth sweatband, a T-shirt with the name of a health club on it, faded blue shorts with HORACE MANN printed in small white letters on one leg, and a pair of running shoes, no socks. His face was shiny from exertion, and once inside the door, he wiped himself off with a clean dinner napkin and headed straight back to the bathroom. As he passed Cheryl and Hector setting up for brunch in the dining room, he nodded hello.

  Inside the bathroom, Harvey stood in front of the urinal and feigned taking a piss. He took a white paper bindle out of his shorts pocket, rolled up a bill, and packed both nostrils with generous snorts of cocaine. Now he felt healthy.

  When he got out of the bathroom, Harvey sat down at a stripped deuce at the front of the dining room. He asked Cheryl for a double cappuccino and watched her as she made it, tapping nervously on the table with a pen. He took a small notebook out of his pocket and wrote himself a little reminder—"Can we make our own muffins for brunch? Ask chef"—and waited for his coffee. Cheryl arrived with his cappuccino, and he grasped both sides of the small table with his hands and rocked it back and forth. It wobbled.

  "What? Am I on the fuckin' Titanic here? Tell Hector to chock this table, okay? Where is he? He was just here a minute ago."

  Cheryl gave Harvey an accommodating smile, "He's on the pay phone. You want me to get him?"

  "Yes, I want you to get him . . . He's always on the phone this kid. I don't want him using the phone during business hours. I don't want him using the phone period. It's ridiculous, the amount of time he spends on the phone. Enough. Tell him to get off that thing and set up for brunch. I've got the band coming in and I want everything to look right. And please, get him to chock these tables . . . I'm getting seasick just sitting here."

  "Karen called in, she's going to be a little late," said Cheryl.

  "Fabulous . . . just fabulous," said Harvey "When she comes in get her started on the specials board right away, then send her in to see me. I'll be in my office."

  IN HIS OFFICE, Harvey finished the last of his cocaine. He pushed some papers around on his desk, forsaking a tall stack of bills and past-due notices for a catalog advertising gelato machines. After a few minutes he left the office and walked down the steps to the kitchen.

  The chef was squeezing blood oranges into a mixing bowl full of hollandaise for sauce maltaise. Mel was toiling over the Hobart with his bare hands, shoving great chunks of corned beef into the grinder for hash. Harvey found Big Mohammed bent over a two-compartment sink washing salad greens.

  "The bathroom . . . the bathroom, Mo', please," said Harvey. "Clean for me please."

  Big Mohammed was up to his arms in the sink full of cold water and salad. He stood up, dried his hands on his apron, and looked at Harvey with an indulgent smile. "Is clean. I clean," he said.

  "Clean again," said Harvey. "No clean inside . . . Inside . . . " He struggled for a word to describe urinal. For the second time this morning, Harvey found himself mimicking the act of pissing. "Urinal, u-rin-al. . ."

  Big Mohammed giggled. "Okay, okay Mr. Harvey. I clean."

  Harvey turned and left the kitchen, casting an uncomfortable glance at Mel, who seemed to be flirting dangerously with dismemberment over the Hobart.

  WHEN TOMMY ARRIVED at two o'clock, there was a trio of musicians in the front cocktail area. Three white men—a pimpled young bass player with taped horn-rimmed glasses, a wrinkled piano player, and a clarinetist with visible dandruff—were playing Dixieland music to a nearly empty dining room.

  Two regulars in Yankee warm-up jackets sat at the far end of the bar, away from the musicians, drinking Bloody Marys and reading the sports pages. A stick-thin young man, sweating in his leather jacket, was engrossed in conversation with Karen. Hector was on the pay phone. Cheryl was standing at the service bar, talking to the bartender.

  "I don't believe it," said Tommy when Cheryl came over.

  "Thought he'd forget all about it?" said Cheryl, looking at the musicians.

  "I hoped he'd forget it," said Tommy. "And Dixieland . . . I hate Dixieland . . ."

  "Oh, they play other music too," said Cheryl. "Somebody requested 'Girl from Ipanema before. You missed it."

  "Oh, no . . . No, no, no . . ." groaned Tommy.

  "Yes, yes, yes . . . " said Cheryl.

  "All we need now is for somebody to request 'Happy Birthday,' " said Tommy.

  Cheryl indicated four adults sitting with two loud children in the rear of the dining room. One child was in a stroller; his mother, a large woman in a Busch Gardens T-shirt, pushed him back and forth with her one free hand while she shoveled eggs Benedict into her face with the other. The other child, a paunchy little boy of six or seven, ran in circles around the tables making engine noises.

  "Maybe it's one of those darling children's birthdays . . . Should I ask?"

  "I'll kill you." Tommy shook his head and walked over to the bar for a Bloody Mary. The bartender was cutting fruit for mimosas and other champagne cocktails with a boning knife.

  "Expecting business?" Tommy inquired.

  "Maybe tomorrow," said the bartender, putting down the knife to make Tommy's Bloody Mary. "How do you want it? You like 'em spicy?"

  "I want mine strong. Blow my fuckin' head off. I want my head to bounce off the bar when I finish it," said Tommy.

  Cheryl patted Tommy on the ass as she headed back to check on her table.

  "How many we do today so far?" asked Tommy.

  The bartender shrugged. "It's been dead." He pointed at the musicians, just beginning 'La Bamba.' "We've had three walkouts . . . Not music lovers . . ."

  Tommy took his drink off the bar, threw his celery garnish into the bartender's trash can, and walked through the dining room and down the steps to the kitchen.

  WHEN HARVEY CAME OUT to the bar, the waitress with the nose ring didn't even bother to get up. Hector was still on the phone. The musicians were halfway through a tortured rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In," and an older couple had joined the four adults with the chil
dren in the rear of the dining room. The couple were clearly arguing between bites of omelette, but the music drowned them out.

  "Isn't this great," said Harvey expansively. "Aren't they good?"

  Cheryl just nodded and grinned.

  "It takes time," said Harvey, looking around the restaurant. "Takes time for the word to get out. Once people hear about the music, about the food . . . they'll come in. They'll come in. It takes a little time. I'm putting an ad in the Voice: Jazz Brunch. Ten dollars with free choice of Bloody Mary, Mimosa, champagne cocktail. I'm thinking of like a New Orleans theme . . . " He took the little notebook out of his pocket again and wrote "New Orleans Brunch. Creole Food. Talk to chef."

  Cheryl took the opportunity to slip away to the waiter station. She had stashed a book behind the cappuccino machine. Through the curtain, she caught a glimpse of Harvey, standing in the front window, wringing his hands and watching the street traffic.

  Thirty-Two

  It was an unusually cool, gray late-summer afternoon. Harvey emerged, flushed and glowing from a half-hour sun-treatment at the Rising Sun Tanning Salon on Greenwich Street. He walked slowly downtown, stopping in front of each restaurant to read the menu in the window. He wore a white dress shirt that made him look even tanner than he was, a blue blazer with gold buttons with little anchors on them, new blue jeans with the crease still in them, dark socks, and brown loafers. He looked at his watch, saw it was four-thirty, and picked up his step toward the Dreadnaught.

  There was a basketball game on the courts on Sixth Avenue. A large crowd was gathered around the high Cyclone fence, watching a group of big black men in sweats and T-shirts running up and down the court. When somebody made a basket, the crowd erupted with cheers of approval and cries of exasperation. Harvey stopped to look, but his view was blocked by taller, wider people in front of him. He checked his watch again and continued walking down Sixth, eventually turning east on Spring Street. He rounded the corner and crossed over to the downtown side of the street. A block away from the Dreadnaught, a voice called out to him from a dark green Buick parked in front of a hydrant at the curb.

  "Harvey!" said the voice. He stopped, took a few steps back, and approached the car. He leaned over to look inside. Sally Pitera's oversize hand darted out the passenger window and fastened itself to Harvey's collar. He was yanked off his feet, losing a loafer in the process, and pulled, headfirst, into the car. "OW!" he exclaimed.

  His face came to rest awkwardly on the floor of the Buick, pressed up against the mat. His feet still stuck out the window at an angle. Sally pulled him up off the floor and into a disheveled but upright position in the seat. Sally slapped him hard across the face. Then he slapped him again, twice. Then again and again as he snarled, "Motherfucker. Motherfucker. Dirty little kike. I'm gonna kill you. I'm gonna cut out your fuckin' heart. You know what you done? You know what you done, you dirty little prick? You know what you done to me?"

  "What? What? What?" Harvey whined. "I didn't do anything!" He put his hands up in front of his face, but Sally pushed them away and continued to hit him.

  "I didn't do anything!" protested Harvey.

  "The fuck you didn't," said Sally. He grabbed Harvey's upper lip between thumb and forefinger and twisted it around in a tight corkscrew. Harvey squealed. Still holding him by the lip, Sally swatted him across the ears.

  "What did I do? What did I do?" implored Harvey.

  Sally let go of the lip and began to run his hands around inside Harvey's blue blazer. He moved his fingers up Harvey's back, around the sides, down his front, over his stomach. He felt inside Harvey's thighs, he patted his crotch. He felt inside his pockets, turned them inside out, pulled his shirttails out of his pants.

  "Wha', wha', wha'd I do?" asked Harvey, again.

  "Are you wearing a wire?" demanded Sally. "Are you wearing a fuckin' wire, Harvey?"

  "No!" protested Harvey, in an indignant tone. "What are you talking about?"

  "I'll tell you what I'm fuckin' talkin' about," said Sally. "I'll tell you what I'm talkin' about. I'm talkin' about money. Money is what I'm talkin' about. You piece of shit. Cocksucker. Brooklyn money. That's what I'm talking about, you piece of crap. You little ball a dried-up shit!"

  Sally hooked his beefy fingers around Harvey's throat and forced his head back, over the seat. Harvey's face, already red, became even redder, turning bright crimson, his eyes bulging out of his head and sweat breaking out over his forehead. "Sop it! Stop it . . ." he gurgled.

  "How much?" asked Sally, squeezing harder and pushing Harvey's head further back over the seat. "How much a their money you take?"

  "Twenny . . . " gasped Harvey. "Twenny, I took twenny."

  Sally released his grip. Harvey coughed into his hands, struggling to breathe.

  "Twenty thousand dollars . . . " said Sally. "You go to them for twenty thousand dollars when you owe me. When I told you . . . when I told you to stay away from those guys. Didn't I tell you that before? Didn't I tell you to stay away from those people? Didn't I fuckin' tell you that?" Sally slapped him again. Harvey cringed against the door.

  "I needed it," Harvey said. "I needed it to pay you."

  "What else you done, Harvey?" demanded Sally, fixing him in a terrible stare. "What else you done I don't know about? You talkin to any cops lately, Harvey? You talkin' to some FBI maybe? 'Cause, so help me . . . Are you a fuckin' rat?" Sally feigned a couple of blows at Harvey's face, stopping short each time. Harvey winced and pulled away as much as he could with each near blow.

  "Are you a fuckin' rat?" Sally continued. " 'Cause I know you're a treacherous, lying little cocksucker. I know that about you already. How 'bout it? You a rat, too? You been tellin' somebody some things?"

  "No, no, no," insisted Harvey, gingerly feeling his upper lip. "I didn't say anything to anybody."

  "You been talkin' to somebody about our business?"

  "No, I swear," said Harvey.

  "Them guys from Brooklyn . . . What's their names?"

  "Dominic . . . Dom and Frank," said Harvey. "I don't know their last names."

  "And you told them . . . you told them you owe me, right?" said Sally. "You told them that? They have to know that, don't they . . . And don't fuckin' lie to me, Harvey, 'cause I can make a fuckin' phone call and find out, I have to. Don't make me do that. You told them you owe me, right?"

  "I didn't," Harvey said. "They knew already. They knew."

  "Those miserable . . . " Sally muttered. He leaned out his window and signaled a young man standing across the street. He was of medium height with black hair combed straight back. He wore a loud checked jacket; a pink dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar; and beige, pleated slacks. He had a thin gold chain around his neck with a tiny gold cornucopia hanging down in his chest hairs. His shoes were white patent leather with decorative perforations on top. He crossed the street and came around the car, crouching down by Harvey's window.

  "This is Victor," said Sally. Victor smiled, showing a silver-capped tooth. He didn't extend his hand. "Hi," he said.

  "Victor's gonna be your new manager," said Sally. "Starting Monday, he's gonna be lookin' after my interest. He's gonna work with you, help you out, get the situation over there straightened out.

  "But, but. . . but, Barry," stuttered Harvey.

  "I don't care who you got over there, now. Give 'em their fuckin' walkin' papers. By Monday," growled Sally.

  "I gotta give him some notice, I can't just cut him loose," said Harvey.

  "Listen, asshole," said Sally. "I'm not gonna give you any notice when I shoot you inna fuckin' head."

  Harvey looked silently down at his hands.

  "Victor, here, is gonna be with you in there. He's gonna be right there lookin' after things. And me, I'll be comin' aroun'. We are gonna be sittin' on your fuckin' head every fuckin' minute and take every fuckin' dollar every fuckin' way we know how, until you straighten out what you owe. You don't make no more payments to them . . . When is your next time you gotta
see them? When's the next payment?"

  "Tuesday," said Harvey, weakly.

  "Tuesdays . . ." mused Sally, "Tuesdays. I let you pay Fridays . . . You don't pay them no more. You don't have to see them. Fuck them . . . Got that?"

  Harvey nodded.

  "I told you before. I told you and you didn't fuckin' listen," said Sally. "Now you gotta listen to Victor. You do what Victor says. He tells you to sign somethin', you better fuckin' sign it. He tells you the place needs a fuckin' cargo container of fuckin' asswipes, you better order 'em. He says you need a thing for the restaurant, you better believe you fuckin' need it. Understand? You understand, Harvey? 'Cause I'm gonna tell you somethin' right now for free—the only thing that's keepin' you alive right now is I want my fuckin' money. That's the only thing keepin' you outta the fuckin' meat-grinder."

  "I been paying . . . I been paying on time," Harvey said hopefully.

  "You been fuckin' around with me is what you been doin'. I told you not to do something and you went out and did it anyway. I let you pay on Fridays, not Tuesdays like everybody else. I covered you outta my own fuckin' pocket. Things are gonna be different now."

  Sally leaned in close to Harvey, shifting his bulk in the seat. "Lemme tell you somethin' else . . . I don't trust you. I don't believe a fuckin' thing comes outta your mouth. You're a thief. You took money outta my pocket. You borrow money from some other guys—that's stealing from me. That makes you a thief. You can be a thief, you can be a rat. That's the way I see it. You better hope I'm wrong about that."

  Sally put his fingers around Harvey's skull like he was holding a basketball and banged it against the door frame. He leaned across Harvey and opened the door. Victor stepped back a few feet. "Have a nice day," said Sally. He pushed Harvey out of the car onto the sidewalk. Victor helped him to his feet, holding him at the elbow. Harvey found his errant loafer and put it back on. Sally roared away from the curb, the power steering shrieking as he turned the wheel.

  Harvey did his best to rearrange himself. He tucked his shirt into his pants and patted down his mangled lapels.

 
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