Only Seat in the
Christopher Dean Heine
make U happy.
Derby tix. Need man to help daughter get here
from Russia. 5-foot 4 inches. Slender, but curvy.
More pix available. She make U happy. Dinner at top
of World Trade Center, Kentucky Derby tickets guaranteed.1-917-555-7772."
read the ad he had circled the night before, and began
eating his dinner. He cut the pork chop into little
slices. He stared at the pretty redhead pictured next
to the ad as he chewed on the meat. The ad appeared
in a personals weekly newspaper serving the greater
New York City area.
He finished his pork
chop and a potato. He made himself coffee, and then
sat down to again examine the woman in the ad. A commuter
train made rail clamor as it moved by outside his
third-floor window. He got up from his chair and went
to the window, and as he shut the curtain, he saw
an Asian man spank his child in the train.
Manny sat back
down and began rubbing his eyes. He thought, I better
not drink again tonight. I need to have a good day
at work tomorrow -- I didn't get shit done today,
he thought. Manny was hungover from the night before,
when he was at a fish and steak off-track joint.
He started washing
his dinner dishes. He turned on the radio that sat
on his window sill above the kitchen sink. He dialed
up a jazz station and continued doing dishes.
huh?," he said to himself as he squirted dish washing
soap into the sink. "I wonder if she's gotta body
like that chick on 'Spies Like Us.' Oh baby. Ha!"
the dishes and sat back down at the kitchen table
and read the ad again. He had circled it on his subway
trip home from the OTB the night before. He made out
ahead that night, so he was feeling a little lucky
at the time. He thought of his buddy Kip, who had
some success with this personals thing but was married.
Kip'd just scan the listings for the slutty sure things
and roll the dice. Of course, a man without a care
jackpotted a few of these babies. But Manny wasn't
married, and a little lost in the ways of women for
being 36. He was balding, 30 pounds overweight and
had a fat neck. Women treated
him the way church girls treat pool halls. They don't
treat them at all.
Manny, aren't you about dying for some," Kip said
a couple nights later, picking his elbow off the bar
and nudging him. "Do it. What the hell. You'll get
laid a couple of times, and if you don't like her,
well she should be able to understand that." Kip winked
at him and said teasingly, "You' ll git ta go to da
Manny shook his
head sort of amused, and looked into the peanut bowl
on the bar. He thought, I can't tell Kip that I actually
may want to marry this girl if she was nice and hot
too. Kip'll laugh, Manny thought. I mean, he thought,
God, maybe I will fall in love with some kind of Siberian
beauty. Sometimes crazy shit happens, he thought.
Manny picked his head up and looked at the jukebox.
He and Kip were having beers at a little Brooklyn
dive. "Paradise" by the Bee Gees was playing. A burnt-out
exit sign hung above a door near the bathrooms. Three
statuettes about eight inches tall stood on a counter
running behind the bar. They were caricatures set
up to suggest a frozen stage scene. One figure depicted
Jackie Gleason decked out in his bus driver suit from
the Honeymooners. He looked down the countertop at
old-time song-and-dance man Jimmy Durante. Someone
had put a real live human hat on Durante's head and
it fit perfectly. He was holding a cigar and smiling
down the counter top at Gleason. The two appeared
to be sharing a good joke, momentarily ignoring Mae
West who stood between them in a pink evening gown.
the phone number from the personals ad the following
night after getting off his job as a clerk for a fruit
distribution warehouse. He reached a man who said
his name was Gene. Gene had a hint of an eastern European
accent, and said he was the facilities manager for
the Windows of the World restaurant on the top of
the World Trade Center. He said he was happy to hear
from Manny. Manny told him his daughter looked beautiful
in the personals photo and he was excited to meet
her. Gene said his daughter's name was Nadia. He said
Manny should come up to the restaurant in the World
Trade Center to see more pictures of her. Gene said
he would explain the legal aspects of applying for
a 3-month courtship of an US non-resident. He detailed
some of the almost insurmountable difficulties a Russian
experiences when trying to get a US visa.
before 9 is good for me," Manny said. "I have to work
at 9 though."
that works for me. Very great. Very good." he said.
swapped e-mail addresses and that was it for then.
playing cards and drinking with Kip the night before,
Manny got up that Friday morning and loaded the subway
for the World Trade Center at about seven-thirty.
Manny read the sports pages of The Post as he rode.
Chuck Knoblauch was being put in left field after
throwing a couple more away at 2nd base for the Yankees
in a spring training game. The Nets finally won, and
the Knicks lost for once. The New Jersey Devils were
still winning hockey matches. While reading this he
noticed leg hair poking through his poly-cotton black
dress pants. They stuck through his old pants like
breast-strokers frozen after coming up for air.
got off the train at the World Trade Center, took
the escalator to the ground floor and weaved with
the direction signs to the Windows of the World restaurant
elevator. The elevator had a security officer who
was black and wore a navy blue oufit with purple trim.
He was very official. He took Manny's information,
then called up to the restaurant on a cellular phone.
Manny waited awhile and then the security officer
waved him to board the elevator. God damn this elevator
moves fast, he thought, as his ears popped a couple
of times on the way up to the 107th floor. The elevator
didn't stop once all the way to the top, and just
like that, the doors slid open and two men were in
the lobby. One was wearing a business suit, the other
a black polo with blue Dockers.
Manny said to the Dockers guy.
took him to a break room for the kitchen staff and
told him to grab some pastry and coffee. Manny told
him that he only wanted coffee, but Gene wouldn't
have anything of it. So Manny grabbed a couple of
the creme-filled pieces just to get the whole thing
took Manny to a hallway where you could see out over
an immense view of New York City. It was a clear day,
and they could see everything. The skinny East River
and the fat Hudson. The Empire State Building up the
this is really, really nice," Manny said and looked
at Gene standing next to him.
want Nadia . . . my daughter, to see this," Gene said.
Manny looked him in the eye and nodded. They looked
at the view awhile and made small talk. Then they
went to Gene's office around the corner. It was a
little thing, like the janitor's office in a high
school. Gene pulled his chair out from underneath
his desk and told Manny to get comfortable. Manny
sat down in the chair, which leaned right next to
a water heater. Manny nibbled at the pastry and they
talked. Gene stood over Manny and told him he hadn't
seen his daughter for 10 years.
is beautiful, inside and out. She really understands
things," he said. "I love her so much. She is my only
child. Even if you do not want to marry her after
meeting her, at least she will get to see this place.
At least she will get to come up here and look out
those windows and see how big this world is."
damn, I am feeling wrong, Manny thought. He thought,
here I am eating pastry and looking into a woman's
future through her father's wetting eyes. I know how
this shit goes, he thought. I am not going
to date this Siberian farm girl for three months and
then marry her, Manny thought. It seems more realistic
for me to go into this thinking that will I fuck her
for awhile, tell her no thanks, and then send her
back to Russia, he thought. Hell, he thought, I may
hate her. More than likely, he thought, I am just
scoring free sex and Kentucky Derby tickets. "That's
terrible!" he thought, feeling his head throb a little
as the caffeine from the coffee hit his bloodstream.
said, "Her are some pictures of her mother at age
45." He pointed to her breasts and said, "See, nice
breasts and she is not fat after having three children.
She still is beautiful woman." The two looked up from
the photos and at one another.
sorry Gene. I can't do this. It's all too . . . heavy,"
Manny said softly. He put his coffee and pastry down
on the desk, then got up out of the chair and started
going for the door.
Gene said. He shoved shut his office door. He went
to his desk and scrambled though some papers. He handed
Manny some documents paper-clipped together. He went
back to his desk and bent for something else with
his back to Manny.
said, "Those are the courtship application papers.
Take those home with you and read them and look at
the pictures of my daughter, and you think about it
swung back around to Manny quickly, then suddenly
held up something in front of Manny's eyes as if it
were a police badge and Manny was under arrest. It
read: "Ticketmaster & MasterCard present The
Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs. Louisville, Kentucky.
May 5th. Admit One." Images of racing horses
were on both sides of the words.
He then showed Manny a second ticket, in the melodramatic
police-badge way again.
"And I want you
to have these because I know you are the one who is
going to bring my little girl to America.," he said.
"You take these tickets."
"No Gene. I am
very, very sorry, but I just can't commit to this."
Gene then slipped
the tickets into Manny's front pant pocket. He did
this quickly and swiftly, like a reverse-pick-pocket.
Manny didn't feel a thing. He said, "Manny, you just
take them and think about it. Please. Puh-lease."
at him blankly, feeling cornered. "O.K.," Manny said.
out the door with the paperwork and tickets. Gene
patted him on the back twice and told him he'd call
him in a week to see how Manny was feeling about things.
Manny took the documents, the pictures and the tickets
with him to work and then home that day.
Gene called like he
said he would a week later. Manny told him that he
was feeling no different about the situation, and
that he was sorry. Gene rambled something in what
sounded Russian, muttered "Kentucky Derby" in English
and hung up. After that, Manny began screening his
phone calls because he sensed that he was stuck with
this thing for awhile. Gene left messages almost every
day for the next month, but never mentioned the Derby
tickets again. About a week into it, Manny also starting
getting e-mails. Gene started sending photo attachments.
The first one featured an alley located in the poor
Siberian town where Nadia lived. There were chickens
in the photo. Another e-mail included an image of
Nadia's birth certificate. A few more came, and then
finally one pictured a hand gun catalog. Manny had
a couple blank messages in his voice mail that day
too. He changed his phone number the next day.
Two months later,
on the Friday afternoon prior to the Derby, Manny
and Kip got a weekend rental for an old minivan at
100 bucks and headed to Louisville. They stopped in
at an Ohio roadhouse for drinks that night. Kip almost
got in a fist fight with a heavy-set woman over a
pool game of cut-throat the three were playing. Manny
had to smooth things over. The two men drank 'til
the joint closed at two, slept in the car and began
heading into Kentucky at sunrise. They arrived at
Churchill Downs in time to bet on the second race.
Later on, they made several long-shot bets on the
big race, the actual Derby. They didn't win a one.
Kip hit it big though at the off-track parlor after
the live races finished. A superfecta came in for
him on a $20 bet. His payoff was more than 600 bucks.
Kip bought a couple top-dollar southern girls and
they all got a hotel room. Kip and Manny then went
out and partied into the wee hours about Louisville.
They ended up sleeping in the minivan in front of
a bar, rather than drive back to their hotel. Manny
thought about the whores and the horses and Gene and
Nadia just before he fell asleep. "Russia," he whispered.