Blastitude Number Seven
issue seven april 3001
page six



Only Seat in the House
by Christopher Dean Heine

She make U happy.

      "Kentucky 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."
Manny 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.
      "Fucking Russia, 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!"
      Manny finished 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.
       "Jesus, 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 Duh-bee."
      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.
        Manny called 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.
         "Friday before 9 is good for me," Manny said. "I have to work at 9 though."
         "Monny, that works for me. Very great. Very good." he said.
         They swapped e-mail addresses and that was it for then.
         After 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.
         Manny 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.
         "Gene?" Manny said to the Dockers guy.
         Gene 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 moving.
         Gene 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 island.
         "Damn, this is really, really nice," Manny said and looked at Gene standing next to him.
         "I 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.
         "She 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."
         God 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.
         Gene 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.  
         "I'm 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.
         "No!" 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.
         Gene 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 more."
         Gene 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."
       Manny looked at him blankly, feeling cornered. "O.K.," Manny said.
       Manny walked 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. "Fucking Russia."




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