There were neither doors nor windows in the room. How I’d entered, I could not recall. In fact, I could recall nothing. Not even my own name. I knew only what I could see before me. That I was seated on a cushion in front of a table full of raw fish. That I was unarmed. That someone had stolen my shoes. Keep your cool, I thought. Don’t say anything, and you won’t say anything stupid.
There were two Japanese across from me – one fat, one skinny. They appeared to be ventriloquists. Whenever one spoke, the other would move his lips. I suspected they had poisoned my sake.
Sitting next to me and controlling the conversation was my old friend, Arty from Philly. He appeared to be representing my interests. I gathered this from the fact that he was wearing a red track suit and a fake mustache. Better warn him about the sake, I thought. But how? Fat Man and Little Boy are watching my every move.
“Where is the restroom?” I asked. Unfortunately, my words didn’t come out the way I’d intended. They sounded more like, “Camus was a French existentialist.” The Japanese nodded and went back to listening to Arty. It seemed some sort of negotiation was taking place. They could have been discussing who would get the contract to build a two-billion-dollar 450-megawatt hydro-electric dam in Sumatra. Or a price for my kidneys.
Quietly, without attracting anyone’s attention, I took the empty sake box near my plate and lowered it beneath the table. With my free hand, I undid my trousers and surreptitiously urinated into the box. Or onto Arty’s leg. I couldn’t really tell.
A screen wall slid open to reveal a beautiful Japanese woman in a kimono. I became aroused at the sight of her. Even though I was peeing.
“Freud would say,” responded Arty to a question I didn’t think I’d asked, “that there are similarities in culture between the Asian and the Jewish female. Both place a strong emphasis on education, achievement and expensive shoes. But unlike her Semitic counterpart, the Lady from Shanghai is recognized by her straight hair, slanted eye and slender buttock. Thus the Jewish male can accept in her the familiar comforts of a shared culture without the paranoid fear that he is fucking his mother.”
The poison was allowing him to read my mind. It was also making the sushi swim around the table and argue amongst themselves in a language that can only be described as angry Yiddish.
Who are these Japanese, I wondered. Clearly, they want something from me, but what could I possibly have that is of any value? My mother always told me I had potential. Is that what they’ve come for? I better warn Arty.
‘”They’re after my potential,” I whispered.
“Scoundrels!” Arty screamed, thrusting a chopstick in their direction. “You’ll never get his potential without paying for it!”
There was pornographic anime playing on the TV in the limousine. The Japanese enjoyed it immensely.
“We have to be careful,” I told Arty. “They’ve already got our shoes.”
“You know what it is about anime porn?” he asked. “It’s the only way the Celestials can get big tits to look natural on a skinny Asian broad!”
Arty laughed at his own joke then mocked committing hare kare with a cocktail straw. He spent the rest of the ride on his back twitching as if he were bleeding to death. I began to suspect I needed better representation in the future.
The Book tells us that one should never get obliterated at a business meeting. Drinking too much gives the other side an advantage in negotiations. The Book does not mention, however, that without heavy drinking it becomes difficult to later give the excuse, “Hey, I was drunk. I didn’t know what I was doing.” This excuse can be considered charming and enormously preferable to the less forgivable, “Hey, I’m an incompetent idiot. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Little Boy sang “Born to Run” at the karaoke bar. It was a massacre. You’d have been better off watching the inmates at San Quentin in a production of Little Orphan Annie. Fat Man sat close to me. Too close in fact. He smoked a cigarette, turning periodically to blow smoke in my face.
“I understand you like dragon,” he said, a perverse curl twisting on the side of his lip. “I can get you good dragon. All the good dragon you need.”
These bastards had done their homework.
“I don’t do that anymore,” I replied. “But for argument’s sake, what kind of prices are we talking?”
Fat Man assured me that when I was with him I didn’t need to spend any money on dragon. And I assured him that I wasn’t so desperate as to give up what he wanted, whatever it was, just for some free drugs. Unfortunately, my words didn’t come out the way I’d intended. They sounded more like, “I suck dick for good dragon.”
Arty from Philly threw a Kirin Ichiban at the stage.
“I won’t have it,” he screamed. “I won’t stand for it any longer!” A silence descended on the room as he addressed Little Boy, standing dumbstruck before the microphone stand. “You cannot sing Born to Run. Your accent does not permit it. There is no Japanese equivalent to New Jersey.” He was at the end of his rope. Arty never did take matters relating to Bruce Springsteen lightly. “Isn’t it enough what you’ve done to Elvis? What you’ve done to Frank, Dean and Sammy?” He began to sit down then sprang to his feet once more. “You don’t see me running around imitating Bruce fuckin’ Lee!”
I found a piece of paper in my pocket and tried to read it: DISTRIBUTORS. ASIAN MARKET. DON’T GO OVER [smudge]%. NO SAKE.
“Tell me, Mr. Fischman,” said Fat Man. “Do you like guns?”
Twenty minutes later, we were signing waivers at the LA Gun Club in Koreatown. Arty requested a .45, a .357, a .44 magnum and a shotgun.
I hoped that the shooting gallery would provide me with an opportunity to speak to Arty away from the Japanese. Perhaps he knew what we were selling. Or buying. Or where we could get more sake.
We took two stalls next to a couple of Yakuza types while the Japanese paid the bill at the counter. We put on goggles and ear muffs then rolled our targets a good 4 feet away. Arty aimed the shotgun and fired.
“That one’s for Pearl Harbor,” he said.
I reminded Arty that we were in Koreatown in a shooting gallery with a bunch of well-armed Asians who might not appreciate his racist humor.
“I don’t see what they’re doing here in the first place,” he replied. “I thought they only use nun-chucks and throwing-stars.”
I told Arty to cool it. He responded by aiming his shotgun at one of the Yakuza’s targets and blowing it to smithereens.
“That’s for killing my old man in Da Nang!”
They came at us from all sides. The Yakuza pointed their pistols at me, Arty pointed his shotgun at the Yakuza and I put the .357 in my mouth. The irony of it all was that Arty had been lying about his father’s war record. The only fighting Mr. Greenglass had seen in the sixties was between him and his mother over what ailment they were going to claim at the draft board.
The Japanese arrived and took it upon themselves to make peace. They talked to the Yakuza in a language I couldn’t understand, though, in retrospect, it might have been Japanese. Before long, guns were lowered, money changed hands and everyone started to laugh. The Yakuza even walked Arty and me outside with their arms around our shoulders. They walked us into an alley behind the shooting gallery where they proceeded to beat the living shit out of us.
I awoke on a table in a dark room surrounded by the low light of burning votives. There was blood in my mouth and a broken rib protruding from my sternum. If not for the immense quantity of dragon they must have pumped into my arm, I probably would have been in a great deal of pain. Before long, a young Chinese girl in a silk robe entered the room and began rubbing my feet. She was small and cute with the blank look of a drugged-out slave. I could tell she was new. No more than three weeks out of the shipping container and four months from being permanently retired to an unmarked grave somewhere in the Los Angeles National Forrest. I wanted to save her. But I wanted a blowjob first.
“You have girlfriend?” she asked.
I asked her where Arty was and whether his whore was cuter than mine.
Fat Man entered the room holding a clipboard with a sheaf of papers. He looked angry.
“You sign here,” he said, handing me a pen.
“Don’t sign anything!” yelled Arty from another room. Then I heard screaming and what sounded like electricity moving through flesh.
“You make me very angry,” said Fat Man. “You sign here!”
The madam appeared and took pictures with a Polaroid camera as the masseuse fellated me. I smiled and gave her a thumbs up.
“Sign the papers,” screamed Arty. “Sign the papers!”
I signed them, but since I couldn’t remember my name, I signed them with the moniker, “General Tzo.” This infuriated Fat Man. Perhaps he knew the general and recognized I wasn’t he.
“I no fool around with you!” he shouted.
I thought of the scene in The Deer Hunter where Robert DeNiro plays Russian Roulette with Christopher Walken in the POW camp. I called out to Arty in a language I knew he’d understand. “Michael Cimino,” I said, and Arty replied with a grunt that let me know he was in. Taking Fat Man’s pen in my hand, I made like I was ready to sign, then thrust the point right into his gut.
Blood spurted across the table as I bolted through the door and barged into the next room, where Arty was in the process of beating Little Boy to within an inch of his life.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said, “before the ninjas show.”
Naked and bruised, we sprinted out the back door, fled down an alley and ran wild into the streets of Koreatown.
“They’ll never get your potential,” Arty screamed. “They’ll never get your potential!”
I stopped at a corner, grabbed Arty by the shoulders and shook him like a crying baby. “We have to go back,” I said.
“For the whores. It’s what Chuck Norris would do.”
Arty agreed. “That and they supposedly have horizontal yin-yang’s.”
“I’ve been hearing that rumor since elementary school, and it can’t possibly be true.”
“There’s only one way to find out!”
If there’s one thing I love about the pysch ward at Cedars Sinai, it’s the ping pong. Regulation tables. Brand new paddles. I was up twelve-to-eight and serving when the orderlies broke up the match. Arty’s wife had arrived. God knows why, but she wanted to take him home.
“I can’t keep Lauren waiting.”
“Take your loss like a man.”
“Them’s fighting words.” He turned to the orderlies. “Tell her I’ll be out in a minute.”
He beat me 21-to-18.