A s many of you know, Thanksgiving was last week. These are the things I”m thankful for:
1) I”m thankful that I was born a male.
2) I”m thankful that I live in the United States of America, the greatest nation in world, where women aren”t required to completely cover their bodies in public, and men aren”t required to have a beard long enough to be grabbed in a fist. It”s not that I don”t dig facial hair, it”s just that I can”t grow any. I”m not a hairy person.
3) I”m thankful that I”m not allergic to any specific foods.
4) I”m thankful that my girlfriend, D-Town Dana, is of the physical type that other men find attractive. Personally, looks don”t matter to me in a life partner I”ve been with women of all shapes, sizes, colors and levels of society-defined “attractiveness,” and the only things that matter to me at this stage in my life are kindness and the ability to hold a conversation. But it does make me feel like a big man to walk into a public place and have all the guys jerk their heads around as if to say “Who”s the big dirty pimp with the hot blonde?” It”s me, fellas. I”m that big dirty pimp.
5) I”m thankful that I”m a student at the University of Michigan. No matter what the newspapers, college guides, travel books and residents say, this is a great place. And as if Ann Arbor didn”t have enough going for it, Ypsilanti or as I like to call it, “Paradise City” is only a short bus ride away. On a related note, I”m thankful that I”m graduating on time.
6) I”m thankful for my wonderful family. True, my mother starts drinking the moment she gets out of bed (or more often, pulls herself off the bathroom floor), I can”t talk to my father without it resulting in an argument which escalates into a physical fight and I haven”t seen my sister in six years, but compared to my friends” families we”re the goddamned Cleavers.
7) I”m thankful for vinyl windows. They help reduce energy costs, they”re durable as hell, they maintain their beauty for many years with only a minimum of cleaning and care and they operate smoothly in any weather. They”re God”s windows.
8) I”m thankful that I have mob ties and can have people killed.
So that”s it, eight things. Now, onto the column.
Thanksgiving day, I”m at my cousin Susie”s house in lovely Romeoville, Ill., cold kickin” it with the extended family, when one of my pagers goes off. It was a number I had never seen before. I dial it up on the cell, and it turns out to be D-Town Dana, calling from a pay phone. From the moment I heard her nervous, heavy breathing, I knew what had happened. Other than being a tiger in the sack, D-Town is also a degenerate gambler. She bets more than she can afford to lose it”s a problem.
“I”m in trouble again,” she says, “big trouble. Benny, you gotta help me.”
“How much?” I”m trying to be patient and understanding, but I get a call like this from her about every other week, and there I was just a moment ago, completely at peace, eating some great food, surrounded by my loving family, with my girlfriend”s gambling addiction as the thing furthest from my mind. “Is it more than last time?” I took her silence to mean that it was. “Well? How much?”
“God damn it, who woulda thought the Lions would lose ten straight? It was their last Thanksgiving at the Silverdome, for crying out loud. They were due for a win!”
“Dana, tell me how much.”
“Fifty thousand. The gangsters want it in small bills. I told them you”d be here in six hours.”
“Well, I don”t know if I can help you this time. I”m a little low right now.”
“Benny, you have to! They said they”d kill Tahoe and, and they said they”d break my legs!” Tahoe is her golden retriever. Nice dog.
“They were probably just bluffing.”
“OK, OK, fine, jeez. I”ll be there as soon as I can.”
As you probably could have guessed, I folded yet again, made some excuse as to why I had to leave everyone so early, made the trip from Romeoville, Ill., to Royal Oak, Mich., in just under five and a half hours, and found Dana at the pay phone booth she had called me from, which was lit up by the headlights of the Escalade that was idling in front of it.
I jumped out of my Bentley, briefcase in hand. Coming out of the Escalade to meet me was one of the gangsters, who, as it happened, kind of looked like Aaron Lewis of the band Staind, but edgier. He had a tattoo of a naked woman on his forearm. She danced when he flexed.
“It”s always so nice to do business with you, Ben,” he said, taking the briefcase from me. “But here”s a bit of advice. If you don”t want to be broke for the rest of your life, ditch D-Town. She can”t be worth it.”
I looked over at her she was timidly peeking out of the phone booth and knew that she was. “It”s all there,” I said. “I counted it three times.”
“Well don”t worry,” the Aaron Lewis-looking gangster said. “If it”s not, we”ll find you.” After a sequence of threatening hand-and-arm gestures, ranging from the old-standby finger-across-throat and equally reliable fist-punching-into-hand, to a more obscure (yet just as menacing) elephant trunk impression, he walked back to his ride. But before opening the door and getting in, he turned around and said, “And another thing, Ben. Your column two weeks ago sucked.” He laughed a villainous laugh and jumped inside the Escalade, which screeched back into the black November oilslick night from which it came. Dana ran out of the phone booth, noticeably embarrassed, talking all kinds of shit about “this is the last time” and “never again” and “let me make it up to you,” but I wasn”t in the mood to hear it.
I waited until the brake lights of the Escalade snapped on in the distance, which I knew they would when the gangsters discovered that the briefcase was not full of cash. I squeezed the remote detonator that was in my pocket. Boom. Bang. Kablooey. Have you ever seen an Escalade explode at night? It kind of reminds you of the awesome power of God.
So, the gangsters were toast, D-Town Dana was safe and debt-free and once again I had saved Thanksgiving. We rode home in my Bentley, Dana and I, not saying a word to each other.
Private to the gangsters: You want a war? Come and get it.
Ben Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Very little of the above story is true. But yes, if you were wondering, there was a bomb in the briefcase.