Robert J. BAUMANN
Fax is our store cat. She used to belong to Jesse's daughter. Jesse,
by the way, is the dish washer/deliveryman/errand runner
of Flip's Hole. When his daughter died in a car accident
a few years back Fax wound up in our store, sharing Jesse's
small space while at the same time taking charge of the
entire store territory. Fax went almost everywhere one
might imagine possible, climbing into the most unique
of places. Nothing was too high or too low for Fax's investigational
Lori had disrupted things a bit. The dining area, cleared of boxes,
was now an internet cafe in the making. With Flip down
in Brooklyn the tables had been cleared and washed. Tablecloths
hid whatever soap could not remove. Fax was in a state
of confusion. The normal dirt and disarray were gone.
It did not seem to please her. Her first sign of displeasure
was the clawing off of one of the table cloths. Lori yelled
at Fax and Fax ran off into the kitchen for safety. In
a battle of wills, I'd put my money on Loretta DeGaetano.
Between Fax and Lori, Lori had the advantage of size.
Both of these alley cats knew how to fight.
At the same time Lori was yelling at Fax, Flip was staring at the
barrel of a gun. Next to Flip was his good friend, Rabbi
Dombitz. Both men were in the hospital, as has been endlessly
described to you already. The other companion, Morris
Trabsend [the World's Foremost Impressionist], was doing
a fairly good imitation of an unconscious heart attack
victim. Add to this mix one more fellow of African American
persuasion who had barged into the room, gun in hand.
There had been gun play going on in the hospital when Flip first
arrived. It was an extension of a battle between the Crips
and the Bloods over some meaningless thing or another.
From the color of the clothes this gang banger was wearing,
you could determine he was a full fledged Blood. He was
wearing red. It was a good color choice. Red hides a lot
of blood. Good color if you get shot. This particular
"Blood" was bleeding true enough.
He pointed the gun at Flip and bleated out "Where y'all got
a place to hide?"
"Hide?", said Dombitz. "You want a place to hide?
A man who wants to hide shouldn't wear red."
"Uh, Rabbi. Let me handle this", said Flip. "How
many are after you?"
"A whole posse of Crips, man. I gots to find a place in here
to chill. They be comin' through this hall any moment.
They see me an' I sees them, we be shootin'. Somebody
gonna die, man."
"Nobody's gonna die today. The room has a clothes closet.
Get in it."
The young man acted fast and within seconds not a trace of him
existed. Flip grabbed a rag and wiped up the blood the
young man had dripped on the floor. He went out into the
hall and mopped up the blood drops away from the hallway,
too. The rag went into the garbage and was shoved to the
bottom. Flip went back into the room to confront an astonished
"Rabbi, get on your knees near the bed and start saying a
"Jews don't kneel down to pray. I am not a Catholic, Flip.
We daven and we bow our heads, but we do not kneel."
"There's gonna be a bunch of bad boys through that door in
a few seconds. I want them to see you in prayer, praying
for the life of this poor dying man. If they see this,
they may just leave the room and look elsewhere. Whatever
they do, don't open your mouth. These may look like kids,
but they kill. OK?"
"You think I am a moron? I know when to keep my mouth shut!"
"Pray!", Flip ordered. The good Rabbi began a prayer.
He prayed for Trabsend, to be sure. When that was done,
he added a prayer for Israel. No one had entered the room,
so he said another prayer for God to move things along
as his feet hurt. Flip, who had seen Jews in prayer at
the Wailing Wall had taken a curtain and draped it over
his shoulders as if it were a prayer shawl. He did a terrible
impression of a Jew in prayer. He was kneeling and rocking
back and forth at the same time. This despite an occasional
whispered aside from Dombitz that he stand up.
In an instant the room was filled with blue clad Crips of all shapes
and sizes. They looked up. They looked down. They looked
at Dombitz and and Flip. The man in the bed was clearly
not a Blood, but I can assure you that if Trabsend was
in good health, he'd have improvised. The Crips, not finding
their intended victim, left the room in pursuit of their
phantom prey. It was only a few seconds of time. When
they were gone, Flip breathed a sigh of relief. He went
to the cabinet door and quietly said:
"Hang in there. They just split but they might be back. Don't
Dombitz and Flip exchanged glances. They both ran for the door
so fast that they wedged themselves through it almost
at the same time. What was needed was a cop, but where
in the hospital would the cops be? Flip knew the answer
"We find out where the food is and we'll find the police."
A genuinely inspired idea thought Flip. Where was the
cafeteria in this place? Everyone Flip tried to ask gave
him the brush off as they bustled from one place to another.
"You know a person could die in here and not get noticed",
said Dombitz. "You want I should stop somebody?"
"How are you going to do that?", asked Flip.
Two seconds and one orderly later, Dombitz walked up and spit into
the man's face. It had the desired effect of getting his
attention. Had it not been for Flip, Dombitz would have
needed his own hospital bed.
"My father is off his medicine. Forgive him. If we could find
the cafeteria I promise to give him his medication."
"Third floor, rear. Follow the signs. Tell him he's lucky
you spoke fast. I don't let anyone spit on me in this
Dombitz could not resist. "So, may I ask where you do let
them spit on you?" Flip hustled him to the elevators.
Dombitz shouted to the orderly "Nice to have met
you, sir. Save my spit. It may be worth millions some
day or my name is not Dombitz!" To Flip he gave an
"Your father? I look older than you? Such a lie. You have
- . -
To be continued.