The Hazards of Good Fortune, Part V

Ezra was #14, and Ari was #22. Jay and Franklin bonded as kids, more siblings than cousins, with Jay in the dominant role. From this aerie, he could make out the family holdings not just in the tonier uptown precincts, but also downtown and in Brooklyn. Reports of his cousin reached him: Jay made dean’s list, spent his junior year at Oxford, got accepted to the MBA program at Wharton—but the two rarely saw one another and when they did the easy rapport of their boyhood was gone. The family always celebrated Passover at Bingo’s house, and that tradition had passed to Jay. They had no real idea how much cash their father was able to access. You are my favorite player.”
Dag beamed and thanked the club manager. “Cross-training’s not even a sport,” Franklin said, shaking his head. He had been the superior athlete, had performed better in school, had a college girlfriend who looked like a movie star, and Franklin—who eventually escaped to Arizona State University—grew tired of dwelling in the shadow of his more athletic, taller, and better-looking cousin. “Knick fans are crazy,” Dag said. Dag accepted the invitation to the Obama dinner as a show of good faith. No max deal.”
Jay measured his words. He hoped it hadn’t veered into condescension. The fathers had been famously close, celebrating Thanksgiving every year at Jerry’s house, and Passover at Bingo’s; even vacationing together, sailing off the Maine coast, Colorado for skiing, grand tours of Europe, all with their families in tow. “I have a contract with Mr. “What, am I interrupting something?”
“No, no,” Ezra said. Ezra never did. Like this week, when a police officer in White Plains had killed someone at one of their apartment houses. After graduating from college, he moved to Los Angeles for a year to pursue a career as an impressionist. The guy runs his basketball team, does he discuss it with us? A waiter was pressed into service as a photographer and as Dag posed he watched Jay engage in tableside banter with the other members and marveled at how at home he seemed. Dag seemed gratified by the owner’s declaration, knew it would give him leverage. His body, imposing in so many ways, had a lot of mileage on it. But Jay was genuinely fond of Dag and wanted to keep him on the roster with no hard feelings. Together these holdings were as impressive a portfolio of real estate as any currently held in private hands. Did the player have an injury he had not disclosed? “Are you guys with me?”
Oh, they were. A film and TV writer, playwright, and author of four previous novels, Greenland was the original host of The LARB Radio Hour and serves on LARB’s board of directors. The Hazards of Good Fortune will be published in book form by Europa Editions on August 21, 2018. “Yes?”
“I’ve been studying with the rabbi at our shul. There were Gladstone apartment houses on the west side and the east side, both luxury buildings and structures that, in Manhattan, passed for affordable, and office buildings all over town with Fortune 500 companies as tenants. JUNE 5, 2018

THIS IS PART V of LARB’s serialization of Seth Greenland’s forthcoming novel The Hazards of Good Fortune. “I’m negotiating.”
The rashness this decision indicated caused Jay to pause. Don’t mention it to anyone.”
“We won’t,” Ari assured him. “Are you accusing me of being racist?”
“I didn’t accuse you,” Dag said. But if you want to flip Passover and Thanksgiving next year, we can discuss it.”
Franklin nodded, concealing his resentment as efficiently as Jay had hidden his pique. Was this going to be their project? It’s hella Latinos. A tic of Franklin’s that got on Jay’s nerves was his tendency to slip into dated celebrity impressions. It was Ezra who had spoken. No family member was allowed to use any of the businesses as a personal piggy bank. The casino in Las Vegas and the expansion of the family footprint to Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macao, these were his alone. “My agent told me he had a conversation with Church about a new deal.”
“I heard something about that.”
Dag outlined the parameters of the offer Jamal had relayed. He had an agent, so these kinds of conversations should be unnecessary. That he had seen his last gargantuan payday was, to him, beyond comprehension. Franklin Gladstone was not one of them. He dismissed the idea. I don’t like his politics around Israel, they’re a little too liberal, but he’s the genuine article. Was that a wry glimmer in Dag’s eye? Maxwell?”
Mr. To start with installment one, click here. “Be like Grandpa and Uncle Bingo.”
“Ch-ching!” Ari said. And then there were the less prestigious properties in Queens and Westchester, which he only thought about when there were problems. All of it was sheathed in a conservative gray suit custom-tailored for Franklin in London from enough material to craft a pup tent. “Take it easy.”
One way he was able to tell his boys apart was that Ari got lippy. Unlike many extremely wealthy individuals, Jay had a well-developed sense of how others viewed him, and he was intent on not being perceived as someone who was only in the room because he had the most money. “How is that racist?” his less sensitive sibling asked. They certainly were. They were playing on Jay’s home court, the owner had all the advantages. And by the way, I wouldn’t exclude you from this. Never mind that it was not the liberal speaker’s intention. Something forbidden was happening, and they were thrilled at what appeared to be their inclusion. That’s the kind of stock I come from. “I didn’t pay you to say that, did I?” Jay asked. Jay rode gold like a dazzling rocket, and when he liquidated his position, he poured eye-popping eight-figure profits into NBA ownership. The checks they wrote for the rights to broadcast the games had ballooned to the billions since the time he had entered the league. Dag probed: “Would you pay me if I was white?”
It was as if he had tossed a grenade. All thoughts of properties in Jersey City were instantly forgotten. “What are we doing on the roof?” Ezra asked. When the wheeling and dealing slowed down, the businesses they found most conducive to continued growth and minimal headaches, after real estate: hotels and gaming. Schumer gave Jay’s shoulder a friendly pat before strolling back to his table. Designer sunglasses raked their full faces. If someone in the organization did not show him the respect he believed was his due, Franklin would try to have that person reassigned or fired. “How’s your fish?”
“Tasty.”
Jay noticed Dag was massaging his neck, which seemed to be causing him discomfort. “What do you get out of it?”
“Financially? Give me a break, all right? Anyway, I wanted to ask you if it was all right if I lead the service this year. Ezra chimed in with the information that they had been on the Internet checking out potential development opportunities in Jersey City. “I’m not sure to tell you the truth. “Does Jay know?” Ezra asked. “Now that we’ve got that cleared up, I’ll tell you two things. Dag liked that. “We try to keep all of our assets in the best shape possible,” he was saying. “Hey, I grew up in Brooklyn,” Schumer answered. “I ask you to come up, you come up,” Franklin said. Jay? “I was on New York time the whole two days I was there. (Translation: We don’t want someone like you in our club.) When his attempt to become an NFL owner did not succeed, he divested himself of partners—Franklin Gladstone could not comprehend that he was the problem—and tried to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers. “What kind?” Jay asked, to keep the conversational ball in the air. “So, when we want to sell, should we ever want to sell, we’re not scrambling. He had texted her and had not heard back. It wouldn’t hurt to know a guy like Steve.”
They passed the remainder of the meal in an exchange of irrelevancies marked by the low-grade dyspepsia Jay suffered from having been put in such a discomfiting position and Dag’s veiled pleasure at having effectively toyed with what he perceived to be the owner’s self-regard. The vista took in Park Avenue up to Harlem and beyond—its median bursting with the yellows and reds of spring annuals—the greensward of Central Park to the west, and to the north the steel necklace of the George Washington Bridge. “But we’re on the same team and our team is winning.”
“Did you not hear what I said?”
“I’m flying down to Austin this afternoon. To preserve his current waistline, Jay had ordered a Kobe beef hamburger without a bun. His father had been a member and had brought him to family events here, and now he was an officer. “I appreciate that.”
“Never forget how lucky we are.”
From his great height, Dag gazed directly into Jay’s eyes. Jay sipped ice water from the glass in front of him, felt the coolness on his fingers, in his throat. Sorry to put it quite so bluntly, but you brought it up.”
This lightning bolt of a reality check hurled from the summit of Mount Gladstone stunned Dag. And then there was the matter of the social realm where Jay was a sought-after member of boards and private clubs, and now had a stunningly sexy, much younger wife. “He runs a little company called Microsoft, and he loves basketball.”
“I know them,” Dag said. “You’re a great player, Dag, certainly one of the best in the league.” Dag agreed. Gladstone, I think the Knicks would pay me.”
“Lots of teams would pay you, Dag. “He’ll be there, too. Jay had overshadowed Franklin in youth, been a better athlete, gone to a more prestigious college, and grabbed the glittering prize—presidency of the Gladstone real estate division. The way the politician beamed in Dag’s direction made him uneasy. But he was not, the boys rarely granted access to the big-time dealing in which their father and Jay engaged. It was also, in Dag’s estimation, rude, insolent, and, on the most basic level, emasculating (its undeniable accuracy immaterial). And Jay Gladstone probably was a little bit racist. “I’m sure the president would enjoy meeting him. Maybe Dag would ask Jay about becoming a member. “Can we get off the roof now?” Ari asked, shivering. “You gonna fire him if they miss the playoffs?”
“I’ll owe him eight million to not coach if I do.”
Like many American men, Jay and Franklin were most comfortable together when talking about sports. Maxwell, I hope to see you again. “They need a shake-up.”
“I’m meeting the coach to talk about the draft this afternoon,” Jay said. When the car emerged from the darkness of the tunnel, Dag squinted in the light and reached into the glove compartment for his sunglasses. But wait. Accompa­nying the baseball troika was a Giants jersey worn by Y.A. This one? Wasn’t everyone? Jay had said so himself. When Dag’s phone began to vibrate in his pocket his mood was so foul he nearly chose not to see who it was, but curiosity got the better of him.  
The April afternoon had warmed, and the sun hit Franklin’s ruddy face. You’re better than that.”
Jay was surprised to find his own emotions riled after the implied accusation of racism, and briefly considered sharing with the player his lifelong fascination, appreciation, nothing short of love for black culture, blackness, as if that somehow inoculated him against Dag’s egregious suggestion. He held the notion up to the light, scrutinized it from every conceivable angle. Placing his hands on his lap, he twisted his thick gold wedding band. “Are you joking?”
“What do you think?” If this question was meant tongue in cheek, Jay couldn’t tell. It’s the same with horses. The twins loved Miami. What made Jay a virtuoso was his awareness of when to dominate overtly and when to cloak his intentions in bluff geniality. Gladstone, it is such a pleasure to see Mr. “But in my behavior, both in business and in my private life,” Jay continued, “I scrupulously, and I mean scrupulously, avoid the slightest hint of ever basing any of my thinking on someone else’s race.”
“I’m no racist,” Dag said. When the boys’ families socialized, the two threw a baseball around, or played penny-ante poker, or shared purloined copies of Playboy. He did, however, have a vague perception that invoking an ethnic group in a general way had become unacceptable—even though he had done exactly that a moment earlier when commenting on the demographics of Miami. “We count on you to play your best every night,” Jay said. He needed to think about how he was going to hoist his team on his back and haul them into the playoffs and didn’t have time to worry about his brother’s poor judgment. For all of Franklin’s wealth, he was still capable of feeling diminished, and that was the role Jay had assumed in Franklin’s life: Diminisher-in-Chief. In their case, a violation would result in removal from the board of directors and cessation of day-to-day involvement in the business. That was his north star. There he imagined himself as an heir to Howard Roark, the main character of his favorite novel, The Fountainhead (he had listened to the audiobook five times), only with higher status because he owned considerably more property than Howard Roark, a lowly architect when you got down to it. Now Dag shifted his shoulder, so a joint in his back audibly cracked. I hope you re-sign with us.”
“Yeah, well. When Bingo and Jerry divided the business and Franklin ascended to the leadership of the half bequeathed him, he had ordered the construction of an observation deck. “And he’s all ours,” Jay said. Could these two not just follow orders? “There’s hella Mexicans in Arizona. Makes all kinds of decisions, doesn’t come into my office and ask my opinion. Since the family’s New York real estate portfolio was Jay’s responsibility, none of these impressive edifices could provide him with the electric charge he got from his successes in the glittery world of hotels and gaming. Franklin, thinking Jay had bailed too soon, held his gold position, suffered through the precipitous crash of the gold market in 2011 that knocked his holdings down forty percent in value, and was still waiting for the recovery. He had expressed his appreciation of everything Dag contributed to whatever success the team had known. “I’m not going to negotiate. They had attended the University of Miami together and exuded the country club casualness of men who had accomplished a great deal and were now savoring life, despite having accomplished nothing other than being born Gladstones. He took another sip, straining the ice with his teeth. The first is that I’ll talk to Church and, while I can’t promise he’ll change his mind, I’ll get him to give the situation another look.”
“I appreciate that.”
“The second thing is that I’d like you to come as my guest to the Obama dinner.”
This was the sign that Jay viewed Dag as a social equal to the extent that he was welcome at his table for the presidential event. A cumulonimbus cloud scudded overhead propelled by the gusty spring wind. “But I appreciated the respect,” Dag said. As the boisterous 1980s shifted into overdrive, the elder Gladstones bought and sold companies in oil, shipping, and fast food. Instead, he drilled down:
“To your point, we committed the maximum salary allowed to you. His play Jungle Rot won the Kennedy Center/American Express Fund For New American Plays Award and the American Theater Critics Association Award. He was a writer-producer on the Emmy-nominated HBO series Big Love. “You should think about it, Mr. He wasn’t sure if Senator Schumer was serious or not but wanted to know why Jay didn’t just shut down the whole line of questioning. Gladstone, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”
At last, Jay thought, they were going to get down to business. Once more, he reached for his water glass. I want to.”
This news delighted Jay. “But here’s the truth,” Dag continued, “Race always has something to do with it.”
“Come on, Dag. But when Jay went off to the University of Pennsylvania, the relationship shifted. These disappointments only heightened his need to own a pro team. “They never lose hope,” Jay said. I know you don’t take it that seriously.”
Jay was not a godly man. Was it possible he harbored attitudes that were on some level racist? Gladstone,” Jean-Pierre said with a laugh. He placed a large hand on the smaller man’s shoulder. “You got a permit for this?” Trey laughed, which Dag did not appreciate. Could have said Let me think about it. The Gladstones owned the Omniverse Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, but the majority of their gaming interests were in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macao. When he said, “What’s up?” and heard the voice of his oldest child, six-year-old D’Angelo Jr., Dag’s attitude immediately improved. “What’s your favorite sport?”
Together, they said, “Football.”
“After football.”
Together again: “Cross-training.”
“Cross-training?” their father said. To relieve the tension, he asked, “How was Macao?” Franklin had overseen construction on a state-of-the-art casino, cantilevered over the South China Sea. White sand beaches, sweet cigarette boats, tight bikinis stretched over the comeliest of female bodies! “Mr. “One other thing.”
Jay tried to hide his impatience. He was the only black man there who was not pushing a cart or carrying a tray. Hockey not so much.”
“Cause they don’t know it yet!” Ezra said. But when Franklin really wanted to feel like a god, he would stand on the roof of the building and take in the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view. These hopes had not borne fruit. Sure, everyone in the NBA was a world-class player, but it was the superstars who drove the money wagon, and Dag was still undeniably a superstar. He wondered if Dag had exposed something that festered within him. “You can’t expect me to accept these.”
Franklin tapped the end of his cigar on the rim of an ashtray commemorating one of George Foreman’s heavyweight title bouts. “My agent said that’s your opinion, too. Jay stood in front of Franklin’s desk, a folder in his hand, watching as Franklin shifted in his chair. “We want to develop,” Ezra said. Its implication—if you were as good as you claim, no one would be wondering if the team was going to qualify for the playoffs—was, at the very least, insulting. Had he completely misread Dag’s intent? “So, what’s with Jersey City?” Franklin was already off message. Not satisfied with having built one of the most prominent real estate organizations in New York, the founders had diversified. They could barely tolerate the awesomeness this heralded. He was bewildered that Dag would invoke race as a factor when owners paid nearly all of the top-tier salaries to black players. He needed to knock Jay off his game, gain some kind of competitive advantage. Franklin Gladstone’s parents named him for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who deftly exercised authority with a patrician ease the namesake’s mother and father hoped their son might learn to emulate. Franklin wasn’t going to worry about that unless it became a Gladstone issue and he couldn’t imagine how that could ever come to pass. He resented the whole dance and was trying to tamp down these restive feelings. “I’m freezing my cojones off.”
“Cojones, bro!” Ezra shouted. Gladstone’s team,” Dag said, pulling his hand away as Senator Schumer reluctantly released his grip. They could do that. “Licensed robbery,” Franklin said. “You’re gonna kill it in Miami.”
The twins slapped palms as their father cradled a make-believe machine gun and in the Cuban-accented voice of Al Pacino as Scarface hollered, “Jay, say hello to my little friend.” Then Franklin sprayed Manhattan with bullets from his imaginary Uzi before realizing that if he wanted his sons to respect him the way he respected his father, perhaps waving an imaginary machine gun around the rooftop was not the best way to do it. He knew certain owners demanded that everyone address them as “Mr.” and others were all “Call-me-Bill-or-Bob-or-Stan.” He always felt strange calling Jay “Mr. The new jet makes it a breeze.” The family had recently upgraded to the latest model Gulfstream 6, which Jay refused to fly on for ecological reasons. He blew the Dodger deal when his nerve failed him once the price climbed to two billion. You’re our guy, and if the season were to end today, we wouldn’t be in the playoffs. It was with this in mind that Jay and Bebe were tasked with managing the real estate empire—the family developed and owned projects in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle—and Franklin was to supervise the hotels and gaming. But he wasn’t sure if Dag meant it. At open mic nights, he would enthusiastically perform his act, but interest in his repertoire of characters—which by then had grown to include Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Bette Davis, among other equally anachronistic points of reference (one historically-inclined heckler had shouted a request for Fiorello La Guardia)—was as limited as his skill set, so he returned to New York and his sinecure in the family business. Franklin recognized that Jay would shine in any circumstance, but it was his unspoken fear that in the eyes of the world he was not his cousin’s equal. “Don’t get up,” the visitor said, a trace of Canarsie in his accent. “Dang, Trey, some cop stops you cause you’re a black man driving a McLaren, they gonna find this motherfucker, haul your ass to jail, and then it’s my name in the papers.”
“How am I supposed to protect you?”
“I didn’t say don’t have a piece, just get a damn license.”
Frustrated with the way his day was going, Dag slipped the sunglasses on. “You asked to see the reports,” Franklin said. He did not want to reveal the depths of his suspicions. “You can recite all the theories about how everyone is at least a little bit racist, and I won’t argue that it isn’t on some level true. “My father used to bring me up here when he wanted to talk privately.”
“You told us that, like, a million times,” Ari said. Since you’ve been on the team, we’ve gotten to know each other a little bit, and at this point, well, I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to say that I consider you a friend.”
“We’re buddies,” Dag said, in a faintly derisive tone that Jay chose to ignore. “Hey, tough loss against the Celtics.”
“Heartbreaking,” Jay agreed. “Yes, I follow the team,” Jay said, an attempt at humor. Because of this geography, it was a challenge for Jay to stay abreast of what Franklin was doing. “Dude, they got a hockey team in Phoenix, and that place is all cactus and Mexicans.”
“That’s racist,” Ari said, not that he cared. They had already settled all the larger ones. Whenever Franklin felt diminished, mishandled, or not accorded the respect he believed he deserved, he liked to lean back in his ergonomic desk chair and spot the individual buildings that comprised the nucleus of the family portfolio and think yes, yes, yes, I am a Gladstone. Now he gazed past the twins to the city, spread out before them like a glorious banquet. He knew enough to never negotiate against himself. “I wanted to come over and see if I could get Mr. As often happens with the passing of the older generation, family traditions that had been in place for decades started to fray, and the gatherings had begun to feel increasingly obligatory. “I know I’m a little formal around the team, but you’ve been playing with us for four seasons, you’re the main guy, I think you and I have a terrific relationship.”
“I think we do, too.”
“Well, I want you to call me Jay.”
“Okay, Jay,” Dag said, with a trace of amusement. “Listen, Dag. He waited for Dag to say what was on his mind. It wasn’t anything Jay did on purpose, but lately, his very existence riled his younger cousin. In the past decade, Franklin put together a group of investors and attempted to purchase the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts. Dag did not particularly want to speak with Brittany but a sense of duty impelled him to press the icon that would initiate the conversation. Not much.” Jay chose not to elaborate. “Those are the reports.”
“And I didn’t say I was going to have you audited. Jay made as if to stand. The only perceptible sound was the voice in his head telling him he had treated this man seated across the table from him with nothing but respect for nearly four years, had not tried to be pals in the manner of some owners. “Well, neither am I.” Jay was surprised to find his throat had again gone dry. I was the Anti-Defamation League man of the year. Grabbing his phone, he called his sons Ari and Ezra and summoned them to the roof. And then Dag wondered why he had said Knick fans are crazy when with his boys he would have said Knick fans be crazy. “Do you know Steve Ballmer?” Jay asked. “Chump change,” Ari said as if he were used to hearing these amounts every day. The flames gathering behind their eyes were about to morph into full-fledged conflagrations when Ari said, “Dad, wait.” He was still trying to get back on his father’s good side after pissing him off earlier.  
When Jay left the office, Franklin exhaled, a long airstream of relief. Representing the Rangers was the jersey of the player who led them to their first Stanley Cup in forty years, Mark Messier (#11). Maxwell to sign with the Knicks.”
“Chuck, I believe that’s called tampering,” Jay said. But Dag did not elaborate on his declaration. He could tell Franklin was struggling to present a serene exterior and the breeziness implied by smoke rings was feigned. A violet shirt with starched white cuffs and collar, and a yellow patterned tie, all accented by a pair of cuff links fashioned from tiny crossed hockey sticks rendered in forty karat gold. “Let Jay find out when he sees it on ESPN,” Franklin said. “I totally love the idea, but there’s, like, no hockey tradition down there. “What are you doing in Texas?”
“I’m meeting with the governor down there to talk about the casino business,” he said in the voice of Cary Grant. “And if I want to talk about Grandpa, who busted his ass for this family, you two are damn well gonna listen.”
Ari hadn’t meant to set his father off. Also, Dag had brought it up, so the athlete only smoldered. Listen. He waited until he was certain his host had finished. I don’t want to do that.”
Franklin was two years younger than Jay. He didn’t like sitting across from this boundlessly privileged white man, born rich, who never had to contend with anything resembling the trials of Houston’s 5th Ward in order to ask that he be paid what he believed himself to be worth for his talent and prodigious labor. “You’re one of the great players of your generation,” Schumer gushed to Dag. Franklin did not appreciate his son’s tone. “Especially in a contract year.”
“Dag always delivers.”
At this juncture, Jay could have just nodded his assent. Any references to historical events,
real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. I have too much respect for you.”
Dag underwent a brief impulse of wanting to upend the table and drive his fist into the owner’s face as payback for having dared violate the unspoken pact that prohibited anything but happy talk when discussing the career of a superstar of Dag’s magnitude with the actual superstar, but the august surroundings and the high stakes of the conversation had an inhibiting effect. There was a Plexiglas-encased basketball used in the NBA Finals signed by Wilt Chamberlain. Ari nodded. “We’re doing that, too,” Ari said. Does he think I’m one of those pituitary cases he overpays to play for him on that pathetic excuse of a basketball team? Broad-shouldered, pumped up from the gym—the kind of physique that too much beer will quickly swell to fat—and a couple of inches taller than their father, they inhabited their tailored suits like beachwear. “We’re real, you and me,” Dag said, situating Jay in their shared moral universe, one in which both were virtuous actors. Wins and losses, records set and broken, who was the best of all time at what exalted skill formed a buoyant language that obscured the abyss between them. And if the table they wound up at happened to be in Miami, at least it wasn’t Buffalo. To pre-order on Indiebound, click here; on Amazon, click here; at Barnes & Noble, click here. There was a proliferation of cutthroat agents, shrewd operators who could obtain close to max deals for players who were not necessarily worth the investment. “If I buy the team, the three of us are going to run it.”
When Ezra heard this, his knees wobbled. I respect that. But negotiating a deal like this without an agent—” Jay did not have to finish the thought, but could not help himself. “You’re supposed to be researching gaming regulations in Texas,” Franklin said. He was familiar with the history of grandstanding white people trying to save Africa for their own reasons and was careful to not be perceived as one of them. No other player on the team would be attending. “Mr. Gladstone.”
“You know I’m not a racist,” Jay said. Dag nodded, considering the proposal. “You might want to rethink that plan.”
“Like you said, I gotta do what I gotta do.”
Dag seemed entirely rational. He was still smarting from his lunch with Dag and would rather have delayed talking to Franklin, but the forensic accountant had informed him that his cousin had once again moved funds in an unauthorized manner and so a confrontation was no longer avoidable. His right bicep, the one with 5th tattooed on it, twitched beneath the wool sleeve of his suit jacket. “Have you met the President, Mr. “And when you look around the league, I don’t care what team, the best player gets a max.”
“That’s not true. “I know this is a business and you’re going to do whatever it is you have to do for you and your family. Not that he wanted to be one.  
Trey answered his brother’s texted order and produced the McLaren two minutes later, freshly washed, waxed, and with a brimming tank. He was aware that good intentions were often regarded with suspicion and didn’t want to come off like another white intruder. “Dope,” Ezra said. He relit his cigar with a lighter camouflaged as a baseball, the flame reflected on the face of the chunky watch he wore. Jay expected that he wanted to talk about the contract and wished he would bring it up so they could be done with it. When D’Angelo called and asked for a meeting, the club was Jay’s tactical choice. Although both boasted the title of vice-president, neither was privy to the inner workings of any aspect of the business. Franklin passed his college years in a haze of beer and marijuana. He and his boys were going to grab their plates and claim a place at the table. ¤
Seth Greenland is the author of five novels. His latest, The Hazards of Good Fortune (Europa Editions), will be published in 2018. He looked at the screen and saw the phone number of his Los Angeles home. The office was capacious, the walls adorned with an impressive display of sports memorabilia: framed uniforms belonging to New York baseball legends Mickey Mantle (#7), Willie Mays (#24), and as if that wasn’t enough to humble every male who stood on the carpet, there was the jersey Jackie Robinson (#42) wore during the 1955 season. If he could get Jay to bite on the fake, well, isn’t that what players of Dag’s caliber did? Then said:
“I was playing with you.”
This brought Jay up short. A flock of seagulls wheeled below them. But he didn’t have an agent. Franklin extended his right hand, the light glinting off the diamond on his pinkie like a celestial benediction, and both sons, as they had done many times since they were boys, placed theirs on top of his. “Mr. And if you thought about it, you probably wouldn’t exclude yourself.”
Jay waited to see how Dag would react to the last statement. “You know we’re one game out of the playoffs right now,” Dag pointed out. Greenland’s novel follows Jay Gladstone from his basketball-loving youth to his life as a real estate developer, civic leader, philanthropist, and NBA team owner, and then to it all spiraling out of control. “I think we can get it for around half a billion,” Franklin told them. It’s called discharging fiduciary responsibility.”
“I’m just saying.” Franklin looked directly at Jay and made a point of holding his gaze. “It rocks.”
“What about hockey?” their father asked. Maxwell? But then he would have been the one being ridiculous. “Dad!”
Franklin turned around to see his identical twin sons, Ari and Ezra. “This has nothing to do with him.” Franklin’s sons exchanged a conspiratorial glance. No, he does not. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to see a more detailed report by next week, okay?”
“It’s like you don’t trust me.”
“Come on, Franklin. But he’d like to see how Jay would react to the possibility. I’m not saying he should. Jay didn’t need to remind Franklin of this. They’re into soccer and boxing, right? In the persona of the star of North By Northwest, he continued, “It’s a swell business but the old chap doesn’t like it and I’m going to change his mind.”
This tendency of Franklin’s—he also did mediocre versions of actors like James Cagney, Tony Curtis, and Bing Crosby—had a long history. “I floated it.” He seemed to enjoy making the boss squirm. When Jay was assigned to work on the development of a high-status property, Franklin viewed it as a personal slight. Although he occasionally allowed himself the indulgence of flying on the team plane, he didn’t socialize with the players unless it was a team-sponsored event, and was careful not to foist his presence upon them in unwelcome ways. But Dag was an intuitive enough negotiator to understand the value of destabilizing one’s counterpart. In the other direction, he could see the gray ribbon of the East River, and beyond that the apartments, warehouses, and cemeteries of Queens all the way to the airports and Jamaica Bay. “One more thing,” Jay said. A loud crack ensued. Now his bulk had swelled, and his cardiologist wanted him to lose forty pounds. Although he appeared unconvinced, he was still listening. “All right. It was bad enough that he was already playing on a surgically reconstructed knee. The club manager was a slender Frenchman with a fastidious air about him named Jean-Pierre. “Don’t tell Bebe, don’t tell Boris. “Ezra’s right. He didn’t believe the man was an actual racist, any more than anyone in his position was an actual racist. Nestled next to them was a handgun. He dropped the folder on the desk where it landed next to a framed family photograph of Franklin, his wife Marcy, and their three children, taken on a yacht somewhere in the Mediterranean. “We do what’s right.”
Jay nodded. But, listen, Mr. “But it gets me away from my desk.”
The conversation had meandered for half an hour, and Dag was not pursuing any discernible line of inquiry. Why was his wife calling him? ¤
Chapter Ten
 
The moneyed murmur in the elegant Stanford White dining room of the Paladin Club obscured the confidential nature of the lunch conversation that was taking place at a corner table between Jay Gladstone and D’Angelo Maxwell, who had dressed for the occasion in a suit so impeccably tailored it looked as if it could be removed only by molting. “You’re going to have me audited?”
“I didn’t say that. A vintage pinball machine with a Yankees theme was mounted on a short plinth and lit as if it were the Magna Carta. “And as you know, we’re trying to build a contender.”
“I’m all about winning.”
“We love that about you,” Jay said. Teams get stuck with bad deals, declining productivity puts them in situations where they’re overpaying. Their thick dark hair was gelled, and both sported a three-day stubble. “The company bought a table, but I’ve been doing more traveling than Marco Polo.”
“Did you ever play that game in a swimming pool when you were a kid?” Senator Schumer asked Dag. They fight all kinds of prejudice, including prejudice against black people. “My money guy has me in a bunch of real estate investments,” Dag said, impaling a piece of sea bass and placing it in his mouth. “I did a bunch of clinics in Africa last year,” Dag said. Through the cigar smoke, Jay could discern the sharp scent of his cousin’s cologne. That his cousin Jay had managed to purchase an NBA team magnified his already finely-honed sense of grievance. He could have corroborated Dag’s self-assessment quickly enough. “When my father was in high school in the 1930s he fought for racial equality. It’s a fact.”
“Never mind about Arizona,” Franklin said, ending the argument. “With my foundation.”
“We’re developing an entire town, a small eco-friendly city actually, and if it goes well, if it’s replicable, we believe it will intrigue other developing nations.”
Dag took a sip of water and licked his lips. “I want to talk to you guys about something else.” They looked at him like a pair of spaniels waiting for their bowls to be filled. He did not appear awed by the opportunity to meet the first black president. “We’re like Mantle and Maris, aren’t we?”
“In what way?”
“We’re both power hitters,” Franklin said. But let’s not wander into the weeds here. Dag chatted with the manager at the front of the room while Jay, in his capacity as a club officer, briefly spoke with a couple of diners about the dues assessment levied on each member for capital improvements. Franklin was on notice. He’s a big basketball fan.” Then, to Dag: “Get your owner to take you.”
Your owner. I don’t want him to get wind of this.”
Together, Ari and Ezra asked, “Why?”
“Trust me; I just don’t. Ari and Ezra looked at one another and nodded. When they spoke, it was to express amazement and delight. He withdrew his NFL bid after the league commissioner informed him that he didn’t have the requisite votes on the ownership committee to be approved. Someone’s gonna bring hockey to South Beach—it might as well be us.”
Us? Shopping centers, condos, some golf resort down in Nicaragua—”
“A golf resort in Nicaragua?” Jay repeated, making sure he had heard correctly, as a vision of a Sandinista soldier teeing off burbled up. If that’s how he wants to allocate the funds allowable under the salary cap, then my job is to support him.”
“Yeah, well, we know who the best player on the team is,” Dag said, with the supreme confidence that comes with having been a star when he was ten years old, and in high school where he was the best player in Texas, and as an all-American during his one college season, and for most of his career in the pros. Franklin swung around and gazed out the window. “We love hockey,” Ari said. Was he actually joking? “I’m not an owner,” he said. Although D’Angelo Maxwell was a man of many accomplishments on and off the basketball court, it concerned him that in this context he might be unfairly viewed as just another African-American jock surrounded by two far more influential men of European descent whose ingrained sense of dispensation, and the gilded environment in which it was being exercised, rendered him a prop in the conversation. The incriminating email that caught his attention several days earlier (sent by an employee in the Hong Kong office) reported a twenty-million-dollar loan Franklin had taken from their gambling operation, something he was required to report to his partners. He hoped to be the club president when the incumbent’s term was up and asked for their votes. “Do you want me to vet any of them for you?”
“You don’t have to do that. Ari let out a whoop, then: “Holy shit!”
“Now, listen. “And you want to make the playoffs, right?”
The expression on Jay’s face slid from genial concern past barely concealed surprise and arrived at mild distress.  
Chapter Eleven
 
The ring of pungent cigar smoke hung over the ship-sized desk like a billboard advertising the prosperity and influence of the hefty man from whose mouth it had disgorged. It was unheard of for a player of Dag’s caliber to enter into a high stakes negotiation without representation. “So, you’re telling me what?”
“You really should hire a new agent,” Jay said. Church had told Jay that the appetite around the league for lavishing a huge contract on him was not there which meant that they could call his bluff. Tight-lipped, he stared at Dag. Employees of the firm preferred to work with Jay, who by the time he was thirty was developing real estate projects of his own and not paying much attention to his cousin. Then Senator Schumer turned his ingratiating attention to Jay. His fingernails were manicured and buffed to a pearly sheen, and when he ran them through his thick, curly hair, they looked like tiny fish darting beneath the surface of a stream. “There are other potential buyers, and our best chance of success is an all-cash bid.”
The boys were not certain how to process this information. These baubles had eluded Franklin, and after years of enduring this condition, he developed a degree of umbrage at the way things had turned out. “What?”
“Totally,” Ari said. The décor reflected the taste of Jay’s cousin Franklin Gladstone, the fifty-five-year-old mogul currently blowing smoke rings from the Havana grasped in his meaty paw. The observation platform, bathed in sunlight seconds ago, was in shadow. Maxwell at the club,” Jean-Pierre said when Jay joined them. That word again, with all of its antediluvian implications. Jay was thinking about his daughter, who was now in Israel. Gladstone.”
The check came. Race has nothing to do with it.”
Dag absorbed Jay’s lecture. Ours!”
Franklin had never felt so convinced of his ability to escape his cousin’s shadow. Jay absorbed the scabrous question. Jay thought once more about mentioning the loan but decided against it. ¤
This book is a work of fiction. The player and the owner parted with a handshake in front of the club. But his son sounded miserable. I’m thinking about making a play for the Buffalo franchise in the National Hockey League.”
The mouths of the twins gaped open at the same time. I treat them well because I’m a humane person, but they’re assets.” Jay stuck a forkful of the beef into his mouth and chewed. “I can’t tamper.” The friendly man chuckled and looked at Dag, who nodded uneasily. Why was he kowtowing to Jay Gladstone? And that’s an organization that doesn’t just fight hatred against Jews, either. Don’t be ridiculous. It was easier when they played high school hockey. Then he upped the ante:
“How many black faces do you see here besides the waiter or the dude who handed me a towel in the washroom?”
“We have black members.”
Dag didn’t have the patience for an extended back-and-forth. Who does that prick think he is, to come in here like some puffed up dictator and make demands? If he could get the owner to consider the slightest possibility that his thinking could be racially motivated, it might cause enough of a fissure to enable Dag to slip through and collect the riches he believed were due him. Dag was already on edge. Their fathers had passed them the keys to the kingdom—the millions had multiplied to billions—and decreed their progeny be co-heads of what was no longer simply a real estate company called Gladstone Properties but rather, the Gladstone Group. “Are you going to be back for Passover?”
“I w-w-w-wouldn’t miss it,” Jimmy Stewart stuttered. “Before it was fancy.”
“You O.G.,” Dag said, trying to get into the jocular spirit. Probably to discuss some minor detail of the divorce. “Why don’t you hire a new agent?”
Dag appeared to ponder that possibility. His short hair and his smile were equally crinkly. To Dag’s relief, the car did not reek of weed. He produced a small camera and asked Dag if it was all right to take a picture with him. “Then I’ll see you at the Seder,” Jay said. He sliced into the meat as he talked. All employees of the Gladstone Group were required to sign a morals clause, and this included Jay and Franklin. Jay said, “Dag, have you met Senator Schumer?”
“No, I haven’t,” Dag said and extended his hand, which the politician clasped and shook. “I say Marco; you say Polo.”
“They didn’t have that game in my neighborhood,” Dag said. Tittle (#14) and a white Jets jersey that had belonged to Joe Namath (#12). “You understand.”
“But you’re a free agent once the season’s over, am I right?”
Dag’s eyes darted around the room. Still, it was not easy for him to control the degree to which this request annoyed him. To the senator’s suggestion, Dag said, “We’ll see about that.”
“And if you come to the Obama dinner,” Senator Schumer said, “I promise not to talk about the Knicks.”
Jay and Dag both feigned laughter, Jay’s the mirth of satisfaction, Dag’s the heh-heh of social obligation. And the television networks? “You did not pay me, Mr. “We’re kings, you and me,” Jay said. He immediately ceased the pantomime, thumped his sons on their backs, and reminded them that the most important thing was family. Gazing directly at Franklin, Jay placed his forefinger on the folder. There were those that would not be bothered by this, would accept their good fortune and play a lot of golf. They could have been discussing an element on the periodic table. “Did you inherit all that real estate from your daddy?” Dag asked, cutting a piece of the asparagus next to his sea bass. Who cared if he used gamesmanship to achieve his ends. You think my attitude to your contract negotiations comes from a position of race? He took another sip of water, swallowed, and rolled his neck. Why had he fired Jamal? If the surreptitious loan went unremarked in the next report, Jay would consult his lawyer. It was an environment in which he felt exceedingly comfortable. That team is his business. He climbed behind the wheel and pointed in the direction of the team’s practice facility in New Jersey. But since I’ve been in charge, our company has developed several properties here in America, and we’re doing a major project in South Africa now.”
Jay was proud of his work in Africa and did not mind sharing the information with people of all races. “A lot of it. His parents were revolving door Jews, in at Rosh Hashanah, out at Yom Kippur, and he had inherited their secularism. Dag was a talented offensive machine who fans forked over hundreds of dollars per ticket to see work his mojo live. On the ride through the Holland Tunnel Dag thought about what he had said at the club. As he turned to go, Franklin stopped him. “Ahead of schedule,” Franklin said. They could have been vacationing hit men from the Mossad. “Are you coming to the dinner for President Obama at the Waldorf?”
“I’ll be there if I’m in town,” Jay said. Did he say us? To Dag, who made his living asserting his potency, his physical superiority, and his iron determination over other athletic marvels, this was enraging. “Church and his wife are coming as our guests.”
Dag was intrigued by the information that Church Scott, a man he esteemed, a coach who had won an NBA championship in his previous job, would attend. And now he intended to move into a new area. He did not do any of these things. He stayed away from home for extended periods of time, often traveling during school vacations to the beaches of Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. “And if we get it,” Franklin said, “I want to move it to Miami.”
The news had traveled from great to greatest. Sometimes he wanted to smack his son—Jerry Gladstone had belted Franklin a couple of times, always with an open hand, never a closed fist, and he didn’t suffer for it—but he could never bring himself to strike his wisenheimer son. This meant Jay was now significantly wealthier than Franklin, another blow to his delicate spirit. “The Knicks could use you,” Senator Charles Schumer (D—NY) informed him, placing his other hand over the one that was already holding Dag’s. Come on, Franklin.”
“That’s what you’re implying.”
“The financial reports you provided are cursory,” Jay said, waving the cigar smoke away. “Not yet.”
“Bring this man to the dinner, Jay,” Senator Schumer said. Franklin wished they still wore numbered jerseys. Sometimes their voices were the only way Franklin could tell them apart, Ezra’s a slightly lower register. He failed to see the humor in the topic. Summers, they attended the same sports camp in the Berkshires where counselors organized sons of Brookline, West Orange, and Great Neck into “tribes” of Iroquois, Apaches, and Mohicans. Franklin teed them up: “We are—”
“The Gladstones!” the three men shouted, and threw their arms jubilantly in the air. But then a middle-aged white man in a Brooks Brothers suit approached their table. “The basketball minds in the organization, Church and his guys in the front office, they’ve made a determination. Given their limited understanding, it most definitely sounded dope. He looked forward to the lunch ending. “First, I do take it seriously, and since it’s at our house, I’m going to lead the service. Copyright © 2018 by Seth Greenland
First Publication 2018 by Europa Editions
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form. What was it doing there? He had been dreading this lunch. He appeared to consider what Jay had just told him. This behavior did not go over well with Jerry and Bingo, who reminded him that they were a family business, one that treated non-family members like family. Two princes of such different dispositions could not hold sway over the Gladstone realm together, and their prescient fathers determined that, in the service of family peace, they would divide the responsibilities. The ritual of celebrating holidays together had survived the deaths of Bingo (2009), and Jerry (2004), thus Jay had inherited Passover. Since he was a kid, Franklin had been burly. I’ll deal with it when I get back.”
This answer did not satisfy Jay, but he was not going to press further right now. Dag wondered why the encounter with the senator had made him uncomfortable. When Jay became a team owner, he learned that fraternization with players was, for the most part, minimal. As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, Jay had, with his fortune, made a bold and risky bet on the performance of gold in the commodity markets and Franklin, who secretly harbored a nagging belief in Jay’s superiority, had followed his shrewd cousin’s lead. Sometimes he wondered if his sons had what it took to succeed. Dag did not know Steve Ballmer. Ari and Ezra were so relaxed, everything they wore seemed like beachwear. “We’re listening,” he said. He recognized how undignified an outburst would have appeared to the other diners, not to mention the Internet clickbait that would have resulted—DAG DECKS OWNER IN DINING ROOM DUSTUP—and remained immobile, though no less infuriated. Franklin’s lifelong interest in mimicry suggested to Jay that he lacked something essential, that his core was a ball of string whose threads were always threatening to unravel. But if he wanted to do that he wouldn’t have asked to meet for lunch. Franklin hired and fired the Howard Roarks of the world. Franklin had a dream, and that dream was to be the owner of a professional sports franchise. This is between your agent and Church.”
“I fired my agent,” Dag said.