The Hazards of Good Fortune, Part VI

The imam had not helped his case by cornering her in a restaurant. Moochie had circumnavigated the pool and was sprinting back toward the house with Dag in pursuit. The gardener had been there in the morning and the air was awash with the sweet smell of freshly cut grass. Dag did not want to ask if Moochie had spent the night.  
Chapter Fourteen
The flight to Los Angeles on the private jet that Trey chartered passed with the alacrity of a geological epoch. Did she not know that Dag still loved her—in a way that was problematic, to be sure, but was nonetheless enduring? 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. To Christine’s surprise, her husband brought his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes—those deceitful eyes—and pursed his lips. In his late forties with a lean face, Dominic Lupo’s features had improved with age. Love the show. A former U.S. If he were forty when they’d met, he probably never would have cheated. That’s not what I’m asking. Last week I did it with a baseball. Six foot two, about a hundred and eighty pounds, a piece of kindling next to Dag. “You ever see an eclipse?”
Dag looked over at Trey, irritated. Basketball mortality, once only a vague concept, was beginning to assume unmistakable form. I am here merely as the representative of a poor man who is unable to advocate for himself. “All I can say is I hope there’s nothing to it.”
“But you think there might be.”
“He’s complicated. 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. He would want a home again, with a family. Her relief at being given a break from the poignant effusions of her adulterous spouse was tempered by the realization that she would now have to get rid of this meddlesome cleric without making a scene. It was there at the camp that he found himself on an outdoor court surrounded by over a hundred teenaged boys (and Clyde, for god sakes! “On some janky reality show?”
“Call it what you want, D’Angelo, but I’ve got my own life going on. SPORTSCHICK: Doesn’t he know his team’s in a dogfight, trying to make the playoffs? What kind of a gullible dupe did he think she was? He hadn’t noticed her arrival. As for that knee—wrapped in a skintight lemon yellow catsuit, cinched at the waist by a wide calfskin belt. “What’s he doing there?”
“I don’t like him.”
“Where’s Mommy?”
“She’s in her room.”
It was late morning in Los Angeles. Ever. I know there were witnesses, and hopefully, those people will tell the truth, you will bring that truth to the grand jury, and they will act by that truth. He worked as hard as he did so his surroundings would reflect his self-image. He had too much deeply held respect to approach the subject from that angle. However, Plesko, as far as she knew, had not done anything wrong. “What are you talking about?”
Trey showed Dag his phone. On a typical Saturday, he rode his ten-speed bicycle from his home in Scarsdale—a town where the minority population consisted of a three-foot-tall ceramic lawn jockey standing sentinel in front of a neighbor’s center hall Colonial—to the nearby and far more diverse city of White Plains where he bought a ticket at the Palace Theater on Main Street to absorb the lessons of Shaft, get a slice and a soda at Nicky’s Pizzeria, purchase the Black Panther Party newspaper from an intimidating street vendor, and then pedal back to his family’s five-bedroom house, where he slouched on his bed beneath a five-foot-high poster of Jimi Hendrix immolating a Fender Stratocaster, and eagerly devoured the fevered accounts of violent inner city life. A skinny white kid from the broad-lawned New York suburbs, land of golf and tennis, dry martinis, private swimming pools, European vacations, elite colleges, and psychoanalysis, Jay was devoted to all things “Negro,” a label still acceptable then. She couldn’t see his neck due to the voluminous nature of the beard that had colonized much of his upper chest. I say no. What, exactly, did that mean? What of the imam’s request? They stood in the living room overlooking the yard. The man I’ve spent most of my adult life with, she thought as the veal marsala repeated and she covered her mouth, is blathering as if this were just another evening out; as if the two of us will have one like it next week and the week after. “When?”
“What are you gonna tell Church?”
“I got a family emergency,” Dag said. He was a star at Mount Vernon High School, and the buzz in the camp was that at least three Division I college programs were recruiting him. Now she focused her attention on what he was saying. CALLER #1: For more than twenty million a year. “With Moochie?”
Dag told his son he loved him and would see him soon. SAL: Is he regretting it? But Brittany was different from the usual groupies who crowded his neon life. SAL: He’s not lazy, Brad! Reflexively, Christine looked around for Sean Purcell, her savior in these situations, and remembered he had taken the night off. There were stories he heard of New York City playground legends like Herman “The Helicopter” Knowings and Earl Manigault, men that could pluck a silver dollar from the top of a backboard. His wife ignored him. That resided in Harlem, a place known to Jay only through the finger-snapping novels of Chester Himes, an author to whom he had been alerted by a sympathetic librarian. I don’t need to remind you that Kobe Bryant survived a rape trial. “I’m not gonna press charges, Dag. They pay to see the Dag Maxwells of the world, okay? Anyone going nightclubbing would still be home, particularly if it were before her children’s bedtime. It reminded her of ayatollah, a word she, like many who had lived through the seizure of the American embassy in Teheran, positively loathed. Yeah, jeez, would you want to be on the receiving end of a Dag punch? Already, it felt like they’d been flying for twenty-four hours. She’s jalapeno hot. She tasted the repeating veal marsala again, wondered where the waiter was with the club soda. He was lost.”
“Is this going anywhere?” Dominic wanted to know. “Why not? SPORTSCHICK: To make a point, Sal. Dag was breathing heavily. His wife leveled him with a look. Shock at having been exposed quickly gave way to irritation over having to deal with it, which yielded to shame about the whole situation. The team’s next game was three days away, and a win would make Church forget today’s absence. Why had he come to Los Angeles? It had gone like this:
“What’s up, little man? ¤
This book is a work of fiction. worst day in my entire life. He wore a diamond-encrusted gold wedding band, and she looked at it as he twirled the remains of his linguine al vongole. Jay didn’t dress black and didn’t make the embarrassing mistake of so many white boys that tried to mimic the speech, the walk, the innumerable signifiers of blackness, but was entranced by the remarkable culture conjured by African-Americans in all its rowdy proliferation. SPORTSCHICK: Then he’d better win a couple of championships. The two younger ones were asleep, but Little Dag was overjoyed to see his father. Could she possibly consider reconciling? In his late thirties, he was a light-skinned black man. Was this what Little Dag had been told to call Moochie Collins, Dag’s former teammate when both of them had played for the Milwaukee Bucks? But now that the real conversation had begun, it was hard to stick to the dialogue she had so laboriously composed. Head Man? She could no longer trust him. Jay had transformed himself into that most exalted category of basketball players, a category rarely breached by white people—he was a leaper. SAL: What do you do for a living, Brad? She remembered the long-ago night when, after several glasses of wine, he had sung an Abba song to her, “Dancing Queen,” made up lyrics for the one he wanted to impress—See that girl, watch that scene, her name’s Christine, she’s my dancing queen. Brittany screamed for him to stop but Dag was deaf to her agonized shouts. Jay couldn’t palm a regulation leather ball, but if the ball was rubber, and it was wet, he could now get it to stay on his hand—secret knowledge gleaned after a recent rainfall when he astonished himself by picking it up off the ground without putting his hand under it. But when guys like you call and tell me D’Angelo Maxwell is a bum, I’m gonna tell you—you need your head examined. “Tell me, what exactly does ‘imam’ mean?”
“An imam is a worship leader of Sunni Muslims.”
“Proceed,” she said, taking another sip of club soda. SAL: Honestly, I don’t know how much brand damage he inflicted. Gym shorts and gray T-shirts soaked with perspiration. As the car wended through the densely wooded roads of the posh enclave, Dag felt the sense of plans unfulfilled.  
Chapter Thirteen
In the six months since they had entered the socially sanctioned, sadomasochistic rite known as marriage counseling, Christine Lupo and her husband Dominic had gone on over ten “dates” with each other. Other than the imam, who Christine supposed might want to use the current situation to make a name for himself as an activist. SAL: Epic failure. To trail feebly away, having done nothing other than talk smack, was unacceptable. She understood and believed herself sympathetic to the grievances of the black community. No one knows if he’s injured or not. Muhammad pulled a chair from a vacant table and sat down. He managed to choke out a response but the scrambled manner in which the words tumbled off his tongue led the Knick divinity to nod and smile sympathetically before turning his attention to another camper. SAL: But here’s the thing—he’s not a knucklehead. “I don’t want to be married to you anymore, okay?”
“For real?”
“I’m not feeling it.”
In that instant, Dag realized it was over. The situation perplexed Christine, who felt besieged from all sides. The stultifying traditions that surrounded him, the world of his parents and grandparents, the round of brain-numbing Seders, High Holy Days services that droned on for hours, and bar mitzvahs where his schoolmates in madras jackets, pressed slacks, and loafers (boys), paisley or polka dot dresses and Courreges boots (girls), awkwardly Watusied around the dance floor to anemic bands that played deracinated versions of current AM radio hits, held none of the outlaw brio he craved. “Can’t you just wait ’til nighttime?” He was joking, starting to relax a little. But she loathed that hostile cop who represented Plesko’s union. Five running steps and he leapt toward the basket, elevated, and—was his entire wrist over the rim?—threw down a one-handed dunk. Understand: He wasn’t a clown about it. Because Dag had blocked access to the house, Moochie sprinted toward the yard, which led to the sight of Dag chasing him around the pool. They’d left New Jersey an hour ago. SPORTSCHICK: And he was defined by that single act. He’s a solid citizen. As he droned on about his week, what was new at the office, an upcoming business trip to Europe intended to explore the possibility of importing a particular cheese he had recently discovered at a food convention he had allegedly attended the previous week, she tried to observe him with the objectivity of an anthropologist. Trey took the Sunset exit and pointed the Porsche toward Bel Air. Dominic glanced guiltily at his wife, whose eyes looked like volcanoes. Jay offered her the book but she shook her head. Now it felt like he could no longer maintain this charade.  
THE ACE, W.A.C.E. “Article says there’s going to be a solar eclipse in a few days. Finally, Dominic cleared his throat, swallowed, and said, “You had me followed?”
“You look at what’s in that folder, and the first thing that comes out of your mouth is to ask me if I had you followed? Not that the District Attorney of Westchester County thought any killing was a good idea—she didn’t. Guy’s three times the size of Moochie Collins. SAL: But he’s a superstar, so maybe they do nothing. Several seconds elapsed before he spoke. He hoped it was not too late. Stretched out in his seat with a bag of ice on his hand, Dag reflected on what had occurred. Dag looked around the plane. He seemed as breakable as one of the clamshells littering the ceramic bowl in front of him. SAL: Not as far as we know. Did they think they could do anything they wanted? Trey indicated that he agreed with Moochie. And not just disrespect from Dag’s former teammate, who deserved to die, but also from Brittany, who should have known better than to let Moochie Collins soil her family’s nest. It would have been a sign of humility. He does his job. Dave Bailey? What kind of ghetto fool did his brother take him for? SPORTSCHICK: And the league? When the Maxwells purchased the luxurious house on St. But whatever spark had existed between them was extinguished, and he knew it. He still wanted to believe that Franklin, while problematic, was not that devious. To pre-order on Indiebound, click here; on Amazon, click here; at Barnes & Noble, click here. Apparently believing himself to be in sufficient control of the maelstrom within, he rested his chin on his fist, opened his eyes, and appeared to examine some breadcrumbs on the white tablecloth. His value’s never been lower. Wary of his intentions, she told him, “I’m no hoochie.” She was studying for a business degree at Cal State Northridge and, in her second season as a cheerleader, was wise to the romantic wiles of NBA athletes. “And I know who you are.” Her response was unsentimental. You’re useless, Trey. The nervousness of his rival’s ersatz smile gave Dag pause. She wondered who this meddling imam was so she googled him. Eventually, his life would cease to be an endless chain of gyms, restaurants, hotel rooms, and clubs. He thought of the two years Moochie was his teammate, how much he had liked him. Consummate smooth operator, sine qua non of gliding, sliding precision, a sinuous and mellow tenor saxophone solo sprung to vivid life, Clyde Frazier was the athletic godhead to which Jay prostrated. From his perch in the nosebleed seats young Jay hollered himself hoarse, throat in tatters as he willed the Knicks to victory and a place in the NBA Finals. The father of her children would’ve been far happier if, at that moment, she had been dressed like a Mormon sister-wife. Father? “Excuse me, sir,” Dominic said, having regained the ability to speak. There were so many of them, and their birth rate was so astronomical that none of the killings would ever make a dent. Rooted in what had been his living room, he gazed around. The accent was distinctly American. There had been pictures of him and Brittany all over, but none were in evidence, only family photos of her and the kids. “You happy now, D’Angelo?” Brittany asked, glaring at her husband. “We had an interesting conversation about Africa,” he said. “This is what you want?” She thanked the man who had alerted them, then turned her attention back to her husband. CALLER #1: Yeah, Brad from Livingston. . . . “You want me to come in with you?”
“Don’t want you cappin’ no one,” Dag said. SPORTSCHICK: Here’s the thing, Brad. 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. Thrice weekly workouts at a Manhattan gym—she wondered if that was where he met the whore with whom he was betraying their marital vows—enabled him to retain his youthful physique. Certainly not by cursing him out. “I’ll bring some of the cheese home tomorrow,” Dominic said, resuming where he had left off. Originally from Florida, Ibrahim Muhammad’s name at birth was Dwayne Sykes. What were you expecting? Bebe’s eyes widened. Right now, any distraction was welcome. She watched him attempt to force disparate thoughts to cohere into something he could sell. Christine noticed he smelled pleasantly of nutmeg and Ivory soap. He would take care of her as long as she fulfilled that role. And what about his use of the remarkably loaded word “martyr”? They would laugh at him. SPORTSCHICK: What if Dag injured himself? He and his brother were the only passengers. Celebrity is an aphrodisiac, and when combined with great wealth it produces otherwise unimaginable results. They were standing outside his bedroom door and he had to raise his voice to be heard over the whirr of the Electrolux vacuum cleaner. “Shows everything don’t always have to be the same old same old.”
Dag laughed. SAL: You know he’s gonna get fined. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a professional athlete in the New York media market? But Dag charmed them, they relented, and Brittany’s life plan shifted. Jay grinned and with practiced aplomb said, “Damn right.”
Bebe asked if that was the first time he had ever dunked it. Everyone present knew Moochie had cuckolded Dag. “And?”
He paused before answering and Bebe’s expression darkened. His plan was to chase Moochie off the premises as a prelude to reconciliation with Brittany. SAL: So, Brad, you’re a big Dag Maxwell fan? “A cross between Reggiano and manchego, pungent but not too, and the cheese maker creates this earthy flavor with only six months of aging.” He stabbed a clam and stuck it in his mouth. Ancient and blue haired, she fixed him with a quizzical stare. The thought that her husband might have been serenading another woman was making Christine nauseous. After studying as hard as he did during the school year it was a welcome relief to do something less intellectually taxing, even if he had to be awake before the birds began to chirp. The district attorney, due to her frequent appearances on television, was accustomed to being approached by constituents in public. A man raised fatherless and poor, his entire life a twilight struggle to avoid that fate. She had the urge to reach out and take his soft hand. BRAD: I manage a fast food franchise. That Dominic played some piano and could sing a little—Did he sing to the tramp? This only deepened his sadness. SPORTSCHICK: What do you think about Dag? To Moochie, he said:
“What the fuck are you doing at my house?”
Trey hovered about ten feet behind Dag. Moochie Collins sleeping with his wife—Brittany remained his spouse until the divorce became final—was of a piece with his not being able to swing an endorsement deal with a major carmaker or wring the maximum allowable contract out of Jay Gladstone. When it came to the position occupied by “people of color” (a label he believed would eventually be as out of date as “colored,” but nonetheless employed because if others accepted it who was he to rock the boat?) in America, Jay held that no white person was more sensitive, kindhearted, and benevolent than he. She took a sip of her club soda. Witness:
The summer Louis Armstrong’s horn sounded its last blue note and the south tower of the World Trade Center pierced the clouds above Manhattan to become the tallest building on the planet, sixteen-year-old Harold Jay Gladstone got dunked on at a basketball camp in the Catskill Mountains. Dag couldn’t worry about that now. Until this evening, the DA had been unaware that the shooting victim was Muslim. Dag had made his point. He knew his wife was shooting the next season of Hoop Ladies and wanted to make sure no one was filming this party. “I ate it.”
Jay Gladstone was still fifteen (his birthday was in early August). “Inshallah,” the imam replied evenly. Jay esteemed the entire New York Knicks roster but Walt “Clyde” Frazier was his personal idol. “Moon passes over the sun during the day, and the world gets dark.”
“Why you want to see that?” Dag asked. Certainly not that the dead man had “friends” in the sense of ones with whom he went bowling but, rather, those with whom he made common cause. Being laughed at was the ultimate affront. So he puts up his twenty-three points and grabs his nine rebounds nightly. Traffic was light when Boris steered the Mercedes over the Third Avenue Bridge and on to the Major Deegan Expressway. 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. You think he’d be a good bagel maker?” For three dollars and twenty-five cents an hour Jay was enlisted to show up at Bagel Haven before dawn five days a week and assist in baking the cornucopia of bagels, bialys, and twists offered at the shop. “All right, Dag, that’s enough,” he said, rubbing his bruised chin. Jay was devastated. The police conducted private interviews with Dag, Brittany, Trey, and the guests, including the man who had called them (he reported a donnybrook had occurred and Moochie Collins grievously injured). I don’t know what happened with the officer. SPORTSCHICK: Not to mention what he’s done to his brand. The remark meant to be banal. There were two things he intended to accomplish in Los Angeles. To start with installment one, click here. He had to vanquish Moochie. “What can I say?” he managed, voice rough with suppressed feeling. A scrawny kid, short for a basketball player, and he had dunked. He passed the flight trying to corral his feelings into verses on his phone but found it challenging because he was unsure exactly what these feelings were. Dag could not yet see that his last conversation with Jamal intensified his response. Her husband’s lips were moving but, for the last minute, Christine had not heard a word. They were at Castaldi’s, a red sauce Italian restaurant in Harrison. After a wordless interval during which she willed her intestines to behave, she finally managed to say, “This is the worst day in my entire life.” The sadness that started to arise shoved aside the well-cultivated fury, catching her off guard. Then: “Yes!”
The previous April he had taken the Metro-North train into the city, devoured a sub at Blimpie for dinner, and furtively purchased a ticket from a scalper outside the Garden, where he attended game seven of the Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series when the Knicks squared off against Earl Monroe and the Baltimore Bullets. Dag kissed his sleeping children, said goodbye to Little Dag, who was still awake, and told him he would return as soon as the season ended. Brittany Terry was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Clippers when she caught the eye of D’Angelo Maxwell at a preseason game. She’s hot like magma. SAL: What I want to know is this: How does he expect ownership to say, ‘Hey, you’re our guy, you’re the face of the franchise,’ if he acts like a knucklehead? Her girlfriend who had attempted to film the action yelled that she should not go in the house with him, but Dag had never laid a hand on Brittany, and she knew he would not touch her. Christine had let him talk about the cheese while she waited like a sniper. “You should look at this,” Jay said to Claudie one day after school, offering her his worn copy of Soul On Ice. SAL: I get that it’s his job, but these guys are human beings. They reminded him of the flaming garbage cans the winos in his neighborhood would gather around in the winter to warm their hands but it was important to Brittany, so he relented. He would make them listen. “Can you believe that guy’s nerve?”
“I want you to move out of the house,” Christine said. He was flailing, but since it was a sensation he had not previously experienced, he did not recognize it. SPORTSCHICK: Yeah, it matters. Then yesterday I dunked a cantaloupe.”
She wondered, “Does Mom know you were playing with fruit?”
Their mother, raised by European immigrants, had a phobia about wasting food. SAL: But what if he did? For a man of his athletic prowess, professional accomplishment, and celebrity, Dag Maxwell was unusually circumspect. She was not outwardly prejudiced against Muslims but was highly aware that they were the primary actors in a huge percentage of the conflicts in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The predetermined roles of the two men in this drama gave it a nearly Calvinist quality. Behind the revelers, the pool glistened in the early evening, the lights of the city a twinkling star field in the distance. The franchise was not able to surround him with the best talent, but every night he goes out there in front of eighteen thousand people with all of their expectations and what does he do? He told her that while he had thought the marriage was over, he was wrong and that his feelings for her overwhelmed him. He stood in the kitchen with Trey, peering out the window looking for a camera crew. ” he imagined the famous sportscaster declaim. But his reaction to this new information surprised him almost as much as the information itself. “They’re going to want to talk to you.”
Dag asked Brittany if he could have a word in private. SPORTSCHICK: Come on, Sal. Moochie Collins, that disloyal motherfucker, was sitting next to her with his hand on her knee. I’m sure you can see the problem.”
“You should get the hell out.” Dominic’s intensity surprised both his wife and her visitor. “As long as you earn some money,” he said, “you can dig ditches.” Bingo Gladstone was gregarious, the kind of man who would strike up conversations with strangers, and one morning when he and Jay stood in line at Bagel Haven to pick up lox and a dozen onion bialys for Sunday brunch he said to the owner, “Hey, my number one needs a summer job. Jay had been looking for ways to further empower his young cousin—he had begun to view Boris as something of a surrogate son—and on the ride back to Bedford considered sharing his concerns about Franklin. He’s always talking about his brand. The tailored jacket he wore hung loosely over an open-collared oxford shirt that left the soft declivity in his neck just above his breastbone exposed. He assumed his kids were upstairs with their nanny. Until now she had been completely in charge. He glanced at the contents. That was some homeboy bullshit.”
“Motherfucker deserved it.”
“Look around, Dag. You know what that kind of pressure is like, Brad? His hair was streaked with gray and had begun to recede, but that only seemed to heighten the acuity in his dark, lying eyes, the ones that concealed a sordid, hidden life that was about to be his undoing. government recruited him to infiltrate radical Muslim organizations but the official relationship terminated when he assaulted his handler. He dunked the ball. Was the imam threatening some mass civil action in the event the situation did not go his way? Dag wasn’t sure other than it was not because he loved Brittany. He did not expect to achieve those dizzying heights, had no hope that he would ever tomahawk (two-handed) dunk, the ultimate agreed-upon sign of basketball machismo. To his sibling it seemed like magic. It was a sign of disrespect, and he could not abide it. Lying in bed after the two of them had sex, did the cheating sonofabitch sing?—were qualities that Christine was drawn to when they first met. He told the woman he’d buy her a new one and she cursed him before angrily turning her attention back to what was transpiring on the lawn. Under no circumstances was this credo to be violated. “Did you talk to Franklin?”
“I did,” Jay said. BRAD: I handle it pretty well. SPORTSCHICK: One act. “This cheese we’re going to import is like no artisanal cheese I’ve ever tasted.” Cheese! SAL: Let me tell you something, Brad. Trey rolled his eyes. Dag was barely able to contain his emotions. Moochie had animated a vestigial feeling in Dag, and he had confused shame with love. “And you let him act like this? The name did not ring a bell. On winter nights, he reverently listened to Marv Albert’s Brighton Beach boom on WNBC emanating from the transistor radio nestled next to his pillow intoning names of deities like Frazier, Bradley, and Reed, and he would envision himself on the court at Madison Square Garden running with his heroes. “I need you to hear that what you’ve inflicted—” Here her voice gave out. His life had not gone well. Like the trial lawyer she had been, she played this scene out in her mind, imagined the various permutations until she had some idea how it would unfold. Dag welcomed them to the house and told them that some friendly tussling had gotten out of hand and an excitable guest had overreacted, a version of events Trey was happy to corroborate. They slapped moist palms. Finally, he managed, “What do you want to do?”
She had decided it was imperative that he move out but unexpectedly found his discomfort energizing and wanted to prolong it before getting into logistics. His sister rebounded the ball and passed it to him so he could shoot without breaking his rhythm. “What up, Mooch?”
“Have a sangria,” Moochie said. But Dag was in love and pursued her with phone calls, gifts, and finally, an invitation to be his date for All-Star Weekend, the annual three-day orgy of celebration the league throws for itself where players of Dag’s stature get treated like 17th-century French aristocrats. But Moochie had violated the unwritten laws of the social system where superstars like Dag ruled, and must be made to pay for this unforgivable sin. Since she would appreciate this man’s vote in the race for governor, along with that of any other black person he knew who might want to vote for her, she said, “You are—?”
“Imam Ibrahim Muhammad,” he said as if he was someone she should know. AM
SAL: What possesses a man like Dag Maxwell to charter a private jet, fly to Los Angeles, and kick the crap out of Moochie Collins? No more violence tonight. He had no business being on the court with a player as talented as Dave Bailey, and his entire infatuation with black culture struck him for the first time as a little silly. “You live for twenty years with someone,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper, “and you want to believe them.”
“That’s right.”
“And you want to believe in their decency, you know?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And just when I need to be able to trust you the most—”
Christine sensed the waiter standing next to her, but when she looked up, she did not see the waiter. As the plane passed over the California desert, Dag, after much internal back-and-forth, concluded that he should have told her this. Trey arranged for a rented Porsche to be waiting for them at Van Nuys Airport and just after seven in the evening they were headed south in light traffic on the 405 Freeway, Trey at the wheel. Moochie retreated. Gladstone should run him out of town. Brittany said, “Don’t you throw my guest out, D’Angelo.”
Moochie mumbled something about having to be somewhere and stole away crossing paths with another one of the guests, a white man in his thirties wearing jeans and a blazer, who had just emerged from the house. They were waiting. It would be easy to describe this behavior as sadistic, but sadism was not her motivation. She wondered what the former Dwayne Sykes would have done if Dominic had followed through on his threat to escort him out of the restaurant. Humid air filled his lungs as he inhaled deeply and focused his eyes on the rim looming ten feet over the asphalt. Jay started playing organized ball in the fourth grade, played on the freshman team, and then on the junior varsity. SPORTSCHICK: You think Moochie regrets hooking up with Dag’s wife? He nervously played with his wineglass. The dark part of her, the part that the nuns had made her ashamed of, almost wished she had seen it. The commissioner’s gonna stick his hand in Dag’s wallet and pull out a few hundred grand. ¤
Seth Greenland is the author of five novels. His latest, The Hazards of Good Fortune (Europa Editions), will be published in 2018. This had not happened tonight. “There are laws against that.”
Ignoring him, the imam continued, “I nearly interrupted you when you walked into the restaurant, but I had second thoughts and decided to wait for you outside. How could she have done that? But he knew he had to. At this point, the elderly waiter returned with a glass of club soda and the basket of the rustic bread. He was without money, and without luck, but he was not without friends. “Will the gentleman be eating?”
“The gentleman will just be here for a minute,” Ibrahim Muhammad replied in a slightly bemused tone. As he scrambled to his feet, Dag set upon him. “What’s this?” her husband said. “Let’s talk about this like men.”
Dag’s response to this suggestion was to grab a deck chair and smash it over Moochie’s head. To him! Guy’s biceps look like bricks. SAL: You seen Hoop Ladies? For an angel? The first punch caught Moochie on the chin and sent him reeling although he managed to stay on his feet. You don’t average nearly nine rebounds a game if you’re lazy. Dave Bailey was a seventeen-year-old black kid, six foot three and explosive. Her marriages had foundered because Bebe Gladstone was accustomed to getting her way. He met the ball five inches over the rim—higher than he had ever jumped, he was airborne!—where the force of Bailey’s arm rocketed Jay’s hand into the iron. “It’s all right,” his wife said. SAL: Apparently, it doesn’t matter to him. But the man did not appear to be dangerous, and Christine secretly welcomed his presence since it temporarily delivered her from continuing to experience the emotional pain that had so recently flared. The universe shrank to this brawl with Moochie Collins. There were four of them, three men and a woman, and to a person, they were daunted by the presence of D’Angelo Maxwell. SAL: Guy’s never done anything like this in his life. When it was time to get a summer job after his sophomore year in high school, Jay was adamant that he didn’t want to commute into the city to work at Gladstone Properties. SAL: Your analogy is bananas. SPORTSCHICK: Total knucklehead. So maybe he’s a little frustrated, and maybe he takes that frustration out on Moochie Collins’s chin. Then he and Trey drove to Van Nuys Airport for the flight back to New Jersey. The boy was puzzled. She was caught completely by surprise when Trey snatched the device from her hand and flung it in the water where it made a small splash before sinking to the bottom. It would not be an exaggeration to say Jay Gladstone worshipped them.  
Two hours later, her husband relocated to the guest room, the DA sat in bed propped on pillows, unable to sleep, laptop open, in search of distraction from her marital woes. Have you ever seen one?”
“Naw, man. He attempted to back away but Dag connected again with another blow, and this one landed Moochie flat on his back. She told him that his arrival in her life had diverted her from a well-considered path and she now intended to resume where she had left off. “That was weird,” Dominic said as if their evening had been going well up to the imam’s arrival. I think you’ll like it.”
Her briefcase rested on the floor. Say he can’t play? Say a guy does one dumb thing, but that thing is so freaking stupid that it defines him. A massacre in Nigeria one day, a suicide bombing in Iraq the next, all of the violence melted together into a miasma of horror. CALLER #1: It’s his job! When Dominic did not say anything, the waiter placed the bread on the table and turned to the imam. But since the alleged victim had left the premises and did not appear to be interested in pressing charges, the quartet of cops departed, all of them shaking Dag’s hand on the way out. As the plane cruised eastward over the Rocky Mountains, Dag began to understand that the only reason he had flown to California was to avoid looking like a fool. She told him he should fly back to the east coast after he talked to the police, then she returned to her guests. This display of emotion was not what Christine had expected. In his evident sincerity and high moral purpose, both of which appealed to her sense of fair play, she had infinitely more admiration for this clergyman than she did for her wayward spouse. At least it appeared to be buttoned to his neck. Dag was happy to listen to his brother talk about astronomy. That kid looked as if he had dropped a quarter in the soda machine and a can of Coke appeared. A shard of history and it belonged to him. While not quite elite, he was talented, and scrappy enough to play at the next level so his ascension to the empyrean realm—letter jackets, cheerleaders, and the approbation of the entire community that crammed into the gym on game days (his adolescent mind swam at the richness of this vision)—was a near given. No one pays to see Jay Gladstone play basketball. “I wanted you to hear about this man personally,” the Iman said. “Your impatience is understandable,” the imam said to Dominic. She would inform Dominic what he could do with that delicious rustic bread. I followed you here from work.”
“You were stalking her,” Dominic said. “Gladstone from the corner . . . He was not yelling or gesticulating, but the coiled rage he emanated, combined with his size, rendered him terrifying. His father, to his surprise, took this in stride. It felt supernatural. Then he stretched his fingers over the rubber surface and palmed it. “The police, Dag,” Brittany said. Cloud Drive with its landscaped grounds and sweeping view of Los Angeles from the towers of downtown all the way to Catalina Island, the idea was that this was where they would raise their family, a place to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and one day, weddings. “Don’t bother.”
He looked at her quizzically. Gladstone can’t run Dag out of town. Dave Bailey sized Jay up as if he were eyeing a succulent morsel and faked left. She researched the price of her house on Zillow, since it would surely be a factor in the divorce, purchased a mystery novel from Amazon, then checked tomorrow’s headlines. But how to address the transgression? She was the mother of his children. It was their therapist’s idea and intended to reignite the absent spark in their nearly twenty-year relationship. She consumed her usual vodka martini with an olive and a twist and was nursing a second glass of wine. SAL: Don’t take this the wrong way—he’s not supervising pimply-faced kids making French fries. Marine who had done jail time for armed robbery and drug dealing, he had several wives and at least ten children. CALLER #1: Hahaha, yeah. John Eagle was using drugs, and it appeared that he was not mentally stable. “Been practicing. There was an audience, and it included his wife, whose respect he craved. The condescension wounded him. That night he lay awake in his bunk endlessly replaying what had happened and concluded consciously what he had been unwilling to admit. CALLER #1: Trade him, he’s a bum. SAL: This was unprofessional. As if we’ll finish dinner, have coffee, drive home, go to bed, then wake up and repeat the whole charade. She’s smokin’ hot. SPORTSCHICK: Disaster. Several other diners stole glances in their direction. She could tell he thought the evening had gone far better than anticipated. Certainly not the kind who would fall for a gambit so transparent. The daughter of a dentist and a teacher, Brittany had been raised in San Diego, the oldest of three children. Through the process of his divorce, Dag twisted himself like a pipe cleaner to arrive at the apparently false conclusion that his love for Brittany was a memory. Now, ten men and women (he recognized most of them as Brittany’s crew and their boyfriends), surrounded the fire pit on the patio. While Brittany saw his obvious emotional distress, he sensed she felt sympathy but not love. SAL: Does he stay with the team? The thought loop in his head rewound and he wondered whether he should have told the Dave Bailey story to Dag. Any references to historical events,
real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. She asked, “Who are you, exactly?”
“I am the imam at the Lower Westchester Muslim Society. Church was not happy when his star player called to tell him an urgent family matter would cause him to miss practice. The fans are on his back; the press is on his back. SAL: Suspend him for a couple of games, at the very least. A year earlier they had won their first NBA title and the liquid way the team played the game, the seamless passing, cutting, and shooting in which they engaged with the heedless swing of the jazz cats his father savored, was the Platonic ideal of what sport was meant to represent. The district attorney had recently read an article on the Internet where she learned that an entire one fourth of the Earth’s population were adherents of the Muslim faith. SPORTSCHICK: Gladstone and Church Scott, what do they do? Zeus felt the eyes of the mortals. Because of that ‘janky reality show’ I’m working on a fashion line, a cosmetics line, and a beauty book. “He showed up at the mosque one day as a young seeker and requested instruction. “Back off, man,” Moochie said, more request than demand. Damn errand boy.”
Although being called an errand boy cut him to the quick, Trey did not respond. Women threw themselves at Dag with alarming regularity, cocktail napkins with phone numbers proliferated in his pockets, straight-up propositions in hotel lobbies were an everyday occurrence. It was 1971 and to the greater world what happened on that sweltering afternoon had no larger meaning, but Jay learned a painful lesson that remained with him for the rest of his life: However much an individual might believe himself to be at the zenith of his power, capability, and influence, he is always one small slip away from ruin. The ball went through the rim and the screams emitted by the crowd, the festive sideline dancing to celebrate the burn inflicted, the mayhem unleashed by Bailey’s ability to rule, all combined to make Jay ignore the throbbing in his hand where X-rays would later reveal a hairline fracture. CALLER #1: He’s lazy. You never knew how someone would react. SPORTSCHICK: Hey, Lee Harvey Oswald never shot anyone before he killed Kennedy. The circumstances required Dag to act. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. To her, this was not welcome news. The media reported that Russell Plesko had been placed on desk duty, and the office of the district attorney was continuing their investigation. “The leader of the mosque the martyr John Eagle attended.”
Ah, he was someone, more specifically the same someone who had been calling the office nonstop for the past twenty-four hours trying to arrange a meeting with the district attorney, who was not a fan of the word imam. “That’s some weak-ass shit, Moochie,” Dag said. SAL: Caller one, you’re on the air. At the patio grill, mounted in custom-built brick housing and the place where Dag had cooked hamburgers for his children, Moochie picked up a two-foot-long cooking fork and brandished it at Dag. Their world was ending, and Dominic was yammering about cheese! “Again, please forgive the intrusion,” the imam said. Looking at Moochie now, the man trying not to quake, Dag did not want to lay a beating on him. Too flummoxed to respond, and still fighting a welter of feelings, Dominic sat blinking, a frog on a lily pad. Dag hesitated before getting out. Lunch, dinner, cars lined up at the drive-thru. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the U.S. The district attorney watched as Ibrahim Muhammad navigated through the tables and out the door. Dag’s hand had started to throb. Jay never forgot that when he tried to talk to Clyde Frazier he had sounded like an idiot. “What up, D?” Moochie said. When Dag hugged his son, he noted the boy’s Portland Trailblazers pajamas—the Blazers were Moochie’s most recent team—and realized they must have been a gift from the man sleeping with his wife. It was moments like this that he liked having his brother around. Dominic might have been obtuse but he was not stupid, and almost instantly the situation was clear. He also planned to “bring the ruckus” to Moochie Collins. You ever notice that? ¤
Chapter Twelve
It was late afternoon and as Jay’s legs pumped on the elliptical machine in the executive gym, he could not stop thinking about the lunch with Dag. A cable news financial show flickered on the television monitor above him, but he ignored it as his mind ranged back to his youth. Dag got down on the floor and built Duplo structures with his son until the police arrived. His trainer had left five minutes earlier and he was alone. Bebe screamed. On his head, a white skullcap. “God willing. Three years earlier he’d been the only kid in his eighth-grade class to read Eldridge Cleaver’s memoir. He’s never won anything, he’ll never win anything, he’s a loser. There was an unwritten rule in the league that teammates (and once a teammate, always a teammate, the bond everlasting) stayed away from each other’s exes. SAL: What if he can’t play? His wife’s betrayal, the refusal of Jay Gladstone to meet his demands, his fear and rage at the toll age was taking, all of this found concentrated form in Dag’s fists. SPORTSCHICK: I get it, Sal. He caught his wife’s eye and smiled, trying to create a mutual appreciation, a disillusioned but bighearted acceptance of the fruitcakes in this nutty world, the kind of shared experience husbands and wives in long marriages will reflect on early in the morning or before going to sleep, something we’ll laugh about in the future, remember the night when the Muslim interrupted our dinner at the Italian restaurant, ha-ha-ha. Clyde had said! There were several luxury cars parked in front of the house. While she considered this, the imam stood up and thanked the Lupos for their time. Further, the league frowned on players becoming romantically involved with cheerleaders for the simple reason that, legally, these were office romances and could just as easily wind up in marriage or court (unfortunately for Dag, his and Brittany’s liaison checked both boxes). The idea that his mistake had been one of timing tormented him. “It’s why I’m in the gym.”
“Who with?”
She told Jay that it was someone she met at a benefit, the first deputy director of the International Monetary Fund. You find her mysteriously attractive. What did imam, in its unutterable foreignness, even mean? Trey played games on his laptop while Dag contemplated his phone call with Little Dag. The possibility that the housekeeper might be perplexed by the son of her wealthy employers purveying the literature of revolution while she tried to clean the upstairs hallway eluded him completely. She indicated that he should clear her plate, but Dominic asked for more of the restaurant’s “delicious rustic bread” so he could dip it in the broth which, he always told her, everyone knew was the best part of the meal. “Maybe I should throw you out.”
“I said I’d handle it,” the district attorney reminded her husband. “Watch this,” Jay commanded his sister one humid afternoon when the two of them were in the driveway of their large, Tudor-style home. I mean, come on, he’s a professional. Is there anything else you’d like to say?”
The concentrated aggression his wife displayed neutered him. The other part of his conversation with Jamal that contributed to his presence on the chartered jet was the unspoken suggestion that his career was on the downward slope and the end, if not exactly near, was on the horizon. Point is, he was brought to New Jersey to be the savior of a business valued at nearly a billion dollars. Oswald didn’t have to shoot anyone else, did he? “This isn’t your house anymore, D’Angelo,” Brittany said. SAL: Lotta pressure, right? She waited for him to say something. For a year, desperate to improve his jumping ability, Jay had been plodding around with weights laced to his ankles. his eyes seemed to say. Moochie rose uneasily from his chair. What was it with men? CALLER #1: Guy’s over the hill. These evenings invariably began in fragile stasis, as if both wife and husband were wary of doing or saying the wrong thing, but by the time they had consumed cocktails and a bottle of Pino Grigio, embers flickered, and they usually managed a moment or two of intimacy. “Why are you here?” Brittany said, trying to keep her voice from shaking. They were playing with a basketball made from rubber. Let’s just make an effort to understand. It’s a hell of a lot worse than when the drive-thru window gets backed up during the dinner rush, and you’re running low on ketchup. Pitiably, he said, “I’ll do whatever you want.” Then: “I love you.”
“I love you?” Christine had not expected to hear that. And Jay played the game, oh, how he played the game. Hostility and a request for a divorce, perhaps, apology and a plea, maybe, but not this, not tears. SPORTSCHICK: Let’s go to the phones. He gestured with his fingers as he spoke, pianist’s fingers. “I’ve been standing outside for an hour and a half. Boris was changing into workout clothes and they coordinated a time for the drive back to Westchester. The long months of tramping around with weights strapped to his lower extremities had worked. But he swelled with a pride he had not felt since he flawlessly read from the Torah on the day of his bar mitzvah. He propped himself up on an elbow and spit bloody saliva on to the slate patio. His anger had dissipated, and he went upstairs to visit his children. The team misses out on the playoffs because Dag flew to LA so he could lay a beat-down on Moochie Collins? The waiter, an elfin man in his seventies with a crooner’s head of dyed black hair, smiled wearily and retreated to the kitchen. Her parents were not thrilled when she brought Dag home and let their daughter know. Dominic was still looking at the ceiling—at a light fixture? He had to be resolute, to perform the part, not only of the aggrieved husband but of the basketball star. Moochie had used this lull to get to his feet. They were valid, and her office needed to address them systematically. They held glasses of sangria and were listening to his wife hold forth. What Jay lived for—more than his tattered Chester Himes paperbacks, Soul Train, and seeing the Supremes in the flesh on a family trip to Expo 67 in Montreal—was basketball, specifically the New York Knicks. “We have channels in our office, and you need to go through them.”
“I was not getting satisfaction that way.”
“You followed her to the restaurant?” Dominic asked, ever the vigilant spouse. More friends than you probably realize.”
More friends? They greeted each other and Jay asked if she had plans this evening. It was a question of gauging who she wanted standing behind her on the campaign trail, angry activists or first responders. The incursion of an ex-teammate into his former domain, and his intensely jealous reaction, made him realize that he wanted to make one last-ditch attempt to save his marriage. One of the female guests, a black woman in maroon leggings and a baggy ecru sweater, true to Dag’s prediction, aimed her phone at the action and began recording it. Early in his career, he had released a rap album and, while his rhymes had not risen to the level of art, he had written them himself. Dag had just chartered a jet and flown three thousand miles. He thought Brittany was in the past, that the smoking ruins of their relationship were now in the capable hands of lawyers and accountants, and he was primed to reap the rewards of the single life. “John Eagle was a recent convert to Islam,” the imam told her. It felt to Dag like he was checking the time on his phone every five minutes. “Is this how you want your kids to behave?” She turned to Trey, who tried to remain impassive in the face of his sister-in-law’s contempt.  
Dag had never wanted a fire pit. The men in the circle, all of whom were civilians, uneasily rose to their feet but no one had the slightest intention of actually doing anything to protect their fellow party guest. SPORTSCHICK: Those guys have their own rules. Then the taller player bounded toward the basket. “That’s the best you can do?”
He paused and looked away as she awaited his next foray. How was it that I missed this sadly predictable midlife meltdown of my husband’s? You?”
“I want to,” Trey said. And if you thought you were going to change my mind by beating up Moochie, that shows how little you know me.”
“I know who you are,” he declared, a forlorn attempt to convey what he thought was his love and regret. How long was this flight supposed to take? Dag had aspirations, a soulful yearning to express what lay within him through means other than slick passing and jump shooting and this urge set him apart from the Darwinian wins and losses world of professional basketball.  
The guests registered a mixture of surprise and alarm when they saw Dag striding toward the fire pit, except for Moochie Collins, who could not hide his considerable panic. Further, if these Muslims weren’t killing non-Muslims, they were murdering each other at an ever-increasing clip. As usual, no one acknowledged his presence. The anger Dag had quelled during the ruminative phase of his trip to Los Angeles had come roaring back. SAL: A single act. He backed away from Dag, moving toward the house. She asked how he did it. While he was showering, it occurred to him that if he told Dag what had happened in the summer of 1971, the player might think that everything Jay had done in the world of basketball since then was built on revenge. But no one’s saying he injured himself. When Moochie heard this, he turned toward Dag. SAL: You’re comparing D’Angelo Maxwell to the guy who killed the president? She reached down and removed a file that she placed on the table. It was over between them. The casual temerity of the suggestion with its We’re-all-adults-here implication gave Dag the excuse he required. She had been married and divorced twice—once to a bankruptcy lawyer and once to a political consultant active in Democratic politics—and had no children. And he earned enough money that by the end of August he was able to pay his own way to Walt Frazier’s basketball camp. “He was puffing on one of his cigars and he blew a lot of smoke.”
“Franklin’s the king of the metaphor,” Bebe said, pumping away on the stationary bike. He would say hello to them when he was done handling his business. Dag said, “Anyone starts taking pictures with their phone—”
“Ain’t gonna have a phone,” Trey assured him. SPORTSCHICK: You’re a very sensitive flower today, Sal. She capitulated. Everything okay?”
“Uncle Moochie’s visiting Mommy.”
Uncle Moochie? Then it occurred to me that if I accosted you in the parking lot someone might shoot me.” Here he paused, and the tiniest sardonic smile flickered on his lips, “and then another man would have to talk to you on my behalf. He felt a lump in his throat but willed it away. He looked quizzically at Dominic, presumably the one running things. That designation could not in this context possibly presage anything encouraging. He’s still a lazy bum. Days were measured in jump shots, layups, and free throws, dribbling drills where the ball went behind his back and through his legs, all of which were put to use in an endless round of playground pickup games. But despite this personal interaction with his hero, the hidden meaning of Good try’s pat on the back was the inescapable punch in the nose of You failed. Jay had switched on to Bailey because the teammate who was guarding him had been flattened by a pick. He knew this was Dag’s show. JUNE 12, 2018

THIS IS PART VI of LARB’s serialization of Seth Greenland’s forthcoming novel The Hazards of Good Fortune. “Please forgive the intrusion.” His voice was brandy-smooth if his timing was not. “Only person you’re thinking about is you.”
“That ain’t right,” Dag said. “Point is, it’s nighttime in the daytime,” Trey said. He looked over and saw his brother standing next to him. SAL: Here’s the problem with that, Brad.  
When he climbed off the elliptical machine after forty-five minutes, twilight inked Manhattan and Bebe was riding a stationary bicycle. Then he choked back a sob and gazed at the ceiling. How many “friends” could some unemployed, mentally unstable victim of police violence have anyway? How is he not a knucklehead? Wrong time to trade him. It didn’t matter that the ball was rubber, not the regulation leather, or that he had slicked it down so the surface would stick to his hand. Without another word, he sprang like an uncaged cheetah and loped around the fire pit toward Moochie. He had few delusions regarding his musical ability—that he would never be an ace rapper was not surprising—but he found comfort in working his thoughts out in rhyme and recognized the value of having an outlet for his querulous emotions. “I know why you’re here,” Christine said. “Christine Lupo?” he asked. “Once again, I apologize for the untimely intrusion.”
Christine was pleased that this man was polite and did not seem to be the type who sent suicide bombers hurtling through barricades. Jay turned on a nearby hose and wet the ball. As he reared his arm to dunk, Jay, suffused with pride in having altered the ability of his body to perform feats heretofore impossible, secure in the belief that he could against all expectations stymie his high-flying opponent, and pulsing with adrenaline, leaped and extended his arm to block the shot. But I can’t possibly drag this out any longer, let it go on another day, wake up next to him and pretend I have no idea what he has done to me, to our children, to our lives. Dag ignored Brittany’s question. In a voice like velvet! The transformation he underwent that night, the sense of abandonment, of release, of beatitude was no less profound for him than what the Baal Shem Tov, about whom he had learned in Sunday school, experienced during his mystic visions three centuries earlier in the forests of Poland. Yes, of course, the kids, the kids, always the kids, who do not need to overhear our marriage fragment while they try to do their homework. That delicate petal floated between the couple, husband not daring to utter a word, wife unsure what to say next. The Lupos had been there for over an hour, and the district attorney had not yet broached the subject of her husband’s transgressions. And Muslims were certainly entitled to equal protection under the law. CALLER #1: I do, Sal. Black culture had dunked on him and Jay realized he would have to evolve into a better version of what he already was, and not try to be something else. For someone like D’Angelo Maxwell, the only condition more ignominious than defeat was being the object of laughter. SPORTSCHICK: They can keep that stuff under the radar. Yes, I had you followed. The pilot, co-pilot, and stewardess, for whom proximity to fame was nothing special, kept to themselves. Brad, you brought out something new in Sal. He bowed his head slightly, then departed, gray tunic swishing around his knees. “G’bye,” Dominic said, not looking at him. He rechecked his phone. Better to not have mentioned it. “Pungent but not too?” She said this in a way designed to see if he was paying attention to her. Despite his polite manner, the apology sounded like a threat. “Big date,” she said. “You have two minutes.”
Ibrahim Muhammad inched his chair closer to the table. They slowed down and came to a stop in front of a contemporary wood and glass home nestled into the verdant landscape. The waiter nodded and departed. When Jay didn’t go for it, Bailey drove right with Jay stuck to his hip. The man turned to Dominic. The place was half full, local couples, soft conversations. The only man she would defer to was her brother. What she saw was a bearded toffee-skinned black man in his forties, dressed in a knee-length gray cotton robe buttoned to his neck. SAL: Here’s my question: Dag wants to be LeBron, but does he have the goods to get there? But to communicate his suspicions might poison Boris’s opinion and Jay, being a fair-minded man, did not want to risk that in the event they proved unfounded. I talked to him and recommended some books, and he began to learn how to pray. Let’s keep this between us.”
Dag only stared at him. “You’re always talking about ‘my brand this’ and ‘my brand that’ but what you did to Moochie? The women, except for Brittany, did not move. “Good try, son,” Clyde had said to him. It wasn’t that he was particularly talented, although he harbored a fantasy that he could achieve a certain level of competence, but his devotion to improvement knew no bounds. “Whatever,” Moochie said. His long nose was straight, and his lips curled slightly upward, so his resting expression appeared to be a smile. Months earlier Brittany made it clear that she was ending their marriage so why did he react with such passion if he already knew it was over? Being single did not concern her, and she viewed dating like a sport, something to do in order to keep in shape. The impassive reaction to his splendid feat reflected a self-assurance the white suburban victim could only begin to imagine. Does this seem like the hood to you?”
Dag knew his former Bel Air home did not resemble the hood. In the autumn of 1971 the varsity squad loomed. The waiter appeared at the table, and Christine requested a club soda. “Vacation pictures?”
“Open it,” she said, not smiling at his feeble joke. Christine ordered the veal marsala. When Jay retreated to the nearby woods to escape the consoling words of his teammates, all of whom secretly thrilled it hadn’t happened to them, he tried to believe the tears he could no longer hold back were from the pain he felt and not the humiliation. A black woman from Georgia, Claudie had been working for the Gladstones for as long as Jay could remember. The woman in front of him was someone to whom he was physically attracted and who, for the rest of his life, would be the mother of his children. This assault sent him sprawling to the flagstone patio. He told Brittany the police were on their way. Not weeping at Castaldi’s over his linguini al vongole. Obviously. As it happened, Jay was acquainted with him. Does he take a pay cut and join a contender? How could anyone, much less one of his players, insinuate that his attitudes about race were in any way questionable? And why did I decide to confront him in a restaurant where I feel myself becoming ill? SAL: Hey, I’m not saying they shouldn’t trade him. The media’s not reporting that and the story’s all over the media. “Don’t embarrass the family.”
Bebe smiled and increased the resistance on the bike. But no government official seemed to know how to deal with this state of affairs, and it made her nervous that the number of Muslims in America was burgeoning, however incrementally. Several of them believed Moochie was about to get the whupping he deserved. He had already disabled the security cameras (it was a matter of flipping a switch on a panel near the front door), so there would be no record of what was about to happen. “Get the fuck outta here, Moochie,” Dag said, massaging the back of his sore right hand with the palm of his left. Dag Maxwell is carrying an entire professional sports franchise. SPORTSCHICK: He can afford it. I’ll leave it at that.”
“All will be revealed.”
In the locker room Jay grabbed a clean towel from a freshly laundered and folded stack. An honor student in high school, she planned to get a corporate job after college, then start her own business. This was not a skill typically found in the repertoire of an average-sized suburban teenager. There was a backboard mounted on the garage, and it was there that Jay worked on his skills in the morning, after school, and on weekends. Clyde was watching!), crouched at the top of the key, guarding the best player on the opposing squad, with five seconds left in the championship game and his team up by one point. No one’s reporting he went to the hospital. Then he told Trey they were going to Los Angeles. SPORTSCHICK: Then don’t remind me. He didn’t mind the work. “Exactly,” he said, and confirmed her suspicion. “And I debated whether or not to go in,” the imam replied. We serve members of the ummah who live in the area and build bridges with our neighbors of other faiths in accordance with the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.”
“Nice speech,” Dominic said.