‘You want some dessert?’
‘Waffles? Ice-cream? Before they take it all away.’
‘Thanks, Mom, but I think I’ll pass.’
The lunch buffet is winding down. A short woman in a neat white uniform wheels a trolley around, clearing the large, half-empty platters of food.
‘Honestly, David, you never want anything. And I suppose you don’t want to come on the museum tour with us this afternoon either?’
‘Really? Cause tonight you’re on your own. Your dad and I have the gala dinner, and cocktail party afterwards.’
‘I know, Mom. You guys have a good time.’
‘Well, at least go and out and have some fun tonight too. You could see the night show at the zoo, or go to Aquaworld. It’s open till ten.’
There is a loud clatter, and his mother turns to see what has fallen, and who has dropped it before continuing: ‘You might still get tickets for that circus down the street, or see that motorbike movie on the iMac screen.’
‘IMAX, Ma.’ David laughs.
‘You could see if that girl across the hall is in, and take her. She’s a little chubby, but she seems nice.’
‘I think I’ll just stay in tonight, Mom, thanks. Maybe watch a movie or read my book.’
‘You want me to talk to Jerry? His kids are a little younger, but I’m sure they’ll play—they’ll hang out with you if I ask.’
A man walks briskly by with a mop and bucket.
‘Really, Mom, that won’t be necessary. I think I’ll just go to the gym, or have a swim, watch a movie in my room and go sleep. Maybe I’ll order in.’
‘For goodness sake, David. You’re sixteen. It’s not natural to sit in your room all night. You’re on holiday. You should be out meeting people, meeting girls. You’re so tall and slim and handsome; you should take advantage. I saw a flyer for a young person’s social in one of the auditorium’s downstairs with a Hawaiian band and punch. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?’
‘I appreciate it, but I’m exhausted from cramming for exams last week.’
‘OK. Up to you. You want some money, in case you change your mind?’ She digs in her handbag.
‘I have money, Ma.’
‘Here’s 40 anyway.’ She puts two crumpled bills on the cream tablecloth.
‘Thanks.’ He straightens the messy bills, neatly folds them, and gives them back, ‘but I have enough money to do whatever I like with, you know.’
‘I imagine you do.’ She puts the cash back in her purse. ‘Both your aunts have been spoiling you rotten for years. Those birthday cards get thicker and thicker every time and I can’t remember you ever using any of the money, not even from your Bar Mitzvah, years ago. It must be adding up.’
‘So why are you trying to give me forty dollars.’ David smiled affectionately.
‘Cause I’m your mother, and you’re my Bunny Bear.’
‘Can’t argue with that,’ David says, putting his hand on hers.
‘So why don’t you spend some of it, or are you going to be like that Warren Buffet, and just keep hoarding it?’
‘I’ll spend it, Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll do something special with it.’
‘I do worry, David. You never want to do anything. You’re not interested in anything. Make some plans. Do something. Take a risk. Take charge. You won’t be young forever.’
‘I’ll keep that in mind.’ He squeezes her hand. It feels boney.
‘Eh,’ she says, ‘you just don’t know what you like yet.’
‘You’re probably right.’
‘It will come.’
David’s mother drinks a coffee and steals two profiteroles off the clearing trolley as it heads past them for the kitchen. With a full mouth, she tells her son that the event that will go on till after midnight, and he’ll probably be sleeping when she and his father get back, so it’s best if they catch up in the morning. He has his own room, which is convenient, even though his mother doesn’t understand why they put him on a separate floor entirely when she’d specifically asked for adjoining rooms. David assures her he’ll be fine, but that he won’t wait up, and suggests they meet at the pool for a late breakfast, say at 10.30 the next morning.
‘Perfect,’ she says, getting up.
‘But I’ll check in before you guys leave for the dinner anyway. What time are will that be, exactly, by the way?’
‘Good. I’ll make sure to be around.’
‘You’re a sweet boy. Now, I have to hurry. Your father is probably waiting.’
David walks her to her room. She kisses him on the forehead and he leaves. He makes a quick stop at his to put on some slacks, a clean T, some proper shoes, and fetch his sunglasses. He takes the lift to the lobby, walks left out the main door, and carries on for ten blocks till he sees the Royal Blue. The bar on the second floor is deserted.
‘You Fred?’ he asks the barkeep, a short man with ginger hair gone gray, and a mouth that slants downwards.
‘You can call me Mr. Leon–you him or not?
‘Yeah, I’m Fred.’
‘Heard you can set things up.’
David gently places a crisp 50 on the bar.
‘What you looking for?’
‘You can start me with a Saphire Martini, twist. You do know how to make a decent one, I’m sure.’
‘How old are you, kid?’
‘Old enough.’ David floats another fifty onto the copper bar top.
‘Whatever you say, Mr. Leon.’ Fred starts making the drink. ‘I guess the drink won’t be all, though’ he smirks.
‘You’re a good guesser, Fred, but I need precision from you, you hear? Not speculations, but results.’
David waits till he’s tasted the drink before carrying on. ‘I want three girls, for four hours. One blonde, but pale Swedish blonde, not tanned California blonde. None of those wide toothy smiles please. The second must be black with short hair, or an Afro. No braids; no extensions. The third, a natural red-head with freckles, and I mean they must be everywhere, not just on her face. The girls should all be thin, with real breasts, and bald below. Nothing older than 26 or younger than 20, please. Seriously, I’ll be able to tell.’
David takes a gulp of his Martini. ‘Good; he says, ‘that takes care of the talent.’
‘Not cheap, what you’re asking for, Mr. Leon.’
‘The better things in life seldom are, my good man. Take this twenty-dollar drink, for instance. Not cheap, but worth it. Moving on. I’ll need champagne. I don’t want to get it where I’m staying. Four bottles will do. It doesn’t have to be high end—I can’t tell the difference between the 200 and 40 dollar stuff–but it has to be champagne. No cava. No prosecco, and for God’s sake, none of that Australian sparkling bullshit. Everything well chilled, of course.’
‘Please. Temperature is key. Then I’ll need two grams of good coke, and another of MDMA. Both pure. I mean, like a Swiss mountain stream. Here, I can tell the difference. Go the extra mile and do me good.’
‘Expensive menu. Not to be a drag, Mr. Leon, but do you have the cash for all this?’
‘It would be preposterous,’ David pulls a tight roll from his pocket and stands it on the bar, ‘if I didn’t.’ He wriggles off the elastic, removes the outer C-note, and gives it to Fred. Below is another. ‘It’s no false roll, Fred.’
‘Oh, I can tell, Mr. Leon. I can tell. So, what else can I do you for? Another drink, on me, while we chat?’
‘No, thanks. But I will need some threads. I had to pack light, and I’ll need to rent a suit. No time to buy anything for the permanent collection, I’m afraid.. These are my sizes.’ David hands Fred a small white card. ‘I’ll need a slate gray suit, two button, center vent, peaked lapel, tapered leg. Clean. No stripes or patterns. I’ll need two shirts, one gray, one blood red, and I could do with a better pair of shoes. Something Italian, leather, black, sleek. Everything immaculately pressed and shined. I don’t want to see a spot or a wrinkle.’
‘How about a tie, Mr. Leon?’
‘I brought my own. I have my own socks and underwear too, in case you were wondering.’ David looks at his watch. ‘I’d love to stay and chat all day, Fred, but I think we need to wrap this up. Anyway, that’s the lot as far as items go. You got it all?’
‘I got it.’
‘No need to recap?’
‘Good.’ David finishes his Martini. ‘This is the thing, Fred; I want this done right. I want it like I want it, if you understand.’
‘Of course, Mr. Leon.’
‘This is how it’s going to happen: on this paper are my hotel details.’ He hands it to Fred. ‘I want the clothes at my door at 8pm, no later but certainly no sooner. I want the drugs in the jacket’s inside pocket. I want the champagne at 9 and the girls at 9.30. I’ll pay them directly, and leave you to handle the rest. I will leave you with this.’ David peels several notes off the roll. ‘I know how much this is, and how much recreational items cost. I know I can trust you.’
‘Oh, you can., Mr. Leon.’
David peels a couple more notes off the top and puts them in Fred’s shirt pocket. ‘This is for you. There will be a greater reward for you tomorrow, if it all comes off.’ He stands up.
‘Oh, it will.’ Fred extends a hand. ‘Pleasure doing business, Mr. Leon.’
‘You know what, Fred? So far, I can honestly say the same.’
‘You have great night, Mr. Leon.’
‘Oh, I intend to.’
By E.M. Vireo