The Hazards of Good Fortune, Part VII

“It’s where his family lived,” Imani said, information no doubt gleaned from one of the emails Aviva could not be bothered to send her father. Axel was wielding his camera phone again, aiming it at Jay. To pre-order on Indiebound, click here; on Amazon, click here; at Barnes & Noble, click here.  
Church stood at center court and blew a whistle signaling practice was about to begin. “Anyway, I asked if I could talk to our group. “I may not share their eloquence, but I share their aspirations. “I’m not sure we did get that settled, actually,” Imani said. And where did Axel fit into the equation? My mother was born and raised in Bensonhurst, graduated from New Utrecht High School, class of 1948. “Media relations wants to talk to you,” Church said. “I have a dream,” he intoned. “I told them we weren’t going to make you available to the press for the foreseeable future.”
This was a relief. All of the guys jogged toward him. But also, since no one who was openly gay crossed his path until college, gay people to Jay were always somewhat like Bulgarians or Fiji Islanders, perfectly acceptable, but undeniably exotic. How everything had changed. And he had won an NBA championship. Windowless. But let’s talk about it at least.”
“You should give a speech,” Axel said. Imani looked at Boris, sizing him up. He massaged the tender area with his thumb and flexed the hand again. Those are the facts.” He paused here as if the facts as stated by Jay Gladstone should be sufficient. Hearing my son upset, I got upset. No, that was too strong. “Dad, give him his phone!”
“I don’t want to be taped against my will, all right? You know, protest, get the media there, and then, if it came to a head, lie down in front of the bulldozers.”
Once again, Jay twisted his body to look at Aviva’s face. “Other than a ticket out of the hood for a tiny minority, I’m not sure what professional basketball provides, but, hey, go Knicks!”
“Glad we got that settled,” Boris said. On the sidewalk Jay checked messages on his phone—Nicole wanted him to call her back, Church Scott needed to talk about Dag’s new problem, still nothing from Aviva in Israel. Imani was taken aback but said nothing. He then requested that Axel stop recording. I told Axel I’d give it back later, and then he’s going to erase whatever he recorded since we’ve been together.”
“Well played, Pops,” Axel said. He sat in his chair and took the abuse. Aviva and Boris greeted each other familiarly. I think of the poet Hart Crane who wrote of the Brooklyn Bridge that it would ‘lend a myth to God.’ These men were dreamers who have inspired me to be more than a builder.”
Jay paused to gauge the effect his words were having on the committee. “I know,” Imani said. He had managed a few hours of sleep earlier, so he was feeling slightly more himself. If he broke it, he would have to play through the discomfort. “May I see your phone?”
“Sure,” Axel said, handing it over. Aviva said, “I told Mom I was going to stay at her place. They came all the way to the airport to meet me.”
When Jay and his ex-wife divorced, Aviva’s mother bought a duplex apartment on Central Park West. “Maybe I can draft a speech you like.” Aviva did not respond. A simple Internet search would have revealed his Anti-Defamation League Man of the Year Award and consistent support of Israel. In an accent that was a mixture of Eastern Parkway and eastern Europe, she identified herself as an author who had done research in libraries all over the world and avowed that this one should not be torn down, “no matter what castle in the sky is being fabricated to replace it by the slick flimflam of late stage capitalism.”
Jay reflected that, to the untutored eye, he and Sonia Trachtenberg represented the two most common anti-Semitic tropes of the past century, the avaricious moneyman, and the left-wing revolutionary. “Why are you home early?” He tried to disguise the implied displeasure but was not successful. A harried Pakistani patriarch herded his exhausted family toward the check-in counters. That was close, but not exact either because to admit being disconcerted would be to acknowledge something off the beam about it. While there was no ovation because who applauds a speech, however impressive, in front of the City Planning Com­mission, he believed he earned one. “No,” Aviva said. A bit of small talk revealed that Imani Mayfield was still Aviva’s classmate at Tate, concentrating in gender studies, a red flag for the already suspicious senior Gladstone, suggesting as it did the twin bugaboos (to him at least) of radical politics and sexual fluidity. “You’re a criminal, Gladstone,” she said, maneuvering directly in front of him. “Another kid and I traveled to the West Bank,” Aviva reported. “What happened?”
“Nothing.”
It was hard to know whether to believe her. Was she impressed with his lofty position or had she just offered a subtle critique of his status? “This is your daughter’s story.” She massaged Aviva’s shoulder and waited for her to resume. Not much more than five feet tall and with a graying pageboy and large glasses, she wore a denim skirt, white blouse, and a loose-fitting jacket that appeared woven from the wool of a horned animal that shared a postal code with the Dalai Lama. But he would have liked some positive response. ”
Were the committee members leaning forward in their seats or had he imagined that? This gesture gave Dag the opening he needed, and he stood up. “Let’s keep this on the down low.”
Dr. He recalled when she was fourteen and just home from summer camp. Why, he wondered, did these people see the world in such binary terms? Patiently, Jay listened to the presentation. JUNE 19, 2018

THIS IS PART VII of LARB’s serialization of Seth Greenland’s forthcoming novel The Hazards of Good Fortune. They appeared captivated. It felt like a peach pit had suddenly formed at the base of his neck, and he kneaded it with two fingers. “We all do stupid things,” Jay said. “We’re gonna make the playoffs, and when we get there, we’re gonna make some noise!”
The players clapped and yelled, and their supportive cheers merged with Dag’s clarion voice to create a shield that for a brief instant protected them all: from the expectations of sportswriters and fans, from the demands of girlfriends and wives, from the still distant notion that the day would come when they would cease to be members of this charmed circle. He hadn’t thought of Imani since briefly meeting her during Aviva’s freshman year. To tell you the truth, I don’t blame him.”
 
The building housing the New York City Department of City Planning was a squat, neo-Classical pile in Lower Manhattan, around the corner from City Hall. “I’m curious to hear about how the trip went,” Jay said. “It was okay,” Aviva said. Only then did he and Boris leave the chamber. Usually, people just deferred. “What up, Boris?” Imani said. Dag’s media skills were impeccable, but he had no appetite for being grilled on the subject of what would invariably be described as his “rampage.” He planned to apologize to the team before practice for bringing this unwanted attention when all anyone should have been concentrating on was qualifying for the playoffs. This vibrant gaggle peeled off to reveal Aviva, who was striding out of the tunnel in a sleeveless dress with a sweater tied around her waist. The second thing he noticed was on the screen of his phone: A website that trafficked in the sorrows of celebrity was reporting that there had been an altercation at Brittany Maxwell’s home the previous evening. They embraced, briefly drew back to gaze into each other’s eyes, then kissed on the mouth. You’re the team president, Church. “Gotta gut it out.”
 
Biggie greeted Dag, stuck a wet snout into his thigh, and waited for his master’s attention. Aviva then hugged the ponytailed man with far more enthusiasm than she had shown her father. That morning, the Planning Commission was scheduled to render a decision on the purchase of the city-owned land at 1 Taft Plaza where the Gladstone Company intended to build the Sapphire. She stared at Jay as if trying to decide what kind of disease to wish on him. Audience members filled five rows of seats. Did they not hear when he mentioned his grandfather the plumber? “I acted a fool, I regret it, and I’m going to make it up to you and the team.”
Jay was craning his head to look up at Dag. Latimer said to Dag, “I guess we’re not shaking hands today,” and offered his elbow, which Dag indulgently bumped with his own. “You see this?” Dag said, showing his phone to Trey. This Imani person was getting on his nerves. He craned his neck to look at her. She refused to climb a staircase by herself. Axel reported that he had dropped out of Tate and was vague about what he did to support himself. The other business was processed in fifteen minutes, most of which Jay spent pondering his basketball team, how much he was willing to invest in the new arena, and what tax concessions he might be able to wring out of Mayor House, his guest at the recent Celtics game. “The whole thing is entirely one sided,” Aviva said. Several seemed genuinely glad to meet him and none of them, to Jay’s great relief, mentioned D’Angelo Maxwell. But Church was not going to step into that breach, so if Jay wanted to set the tone for the organization, he would have to act. But what was that kiss on the lips back in the terminal? The Manhattan skyline loomed, glass towers shimmering. Axel was still filming. Trey asked, “Can he play?”
“If it were the non-shooting hand, I’d suggest we put a splint on it.”
“I can’t wear a splint,” Dag said. He genuinely enjoyed knowing these guys and was touched by their support. “We just got here, baby! And as far as endorsements, what soft drink company would want as their spokesman a player who was in danger of being indicted for felony assault? Some are Peace Now two states and others are prejudiced against Arabs. If he was angry, Dag could not tell. Anyway, the Israeli government was planning to destroy this house because a guy who lived there set off a bomb and the—”
“Stop right there,” Jay said. Five minutes later the doctor called Dag directly and said he would meet him at his office. For the next hour, he listened with an expression that toggled from bemusement to dismay, before finally settling on sanguinity, as a parade of librarians, teachers, community organizers, and ordinary citizens excoriated the proposed building as if it were a portal to the Underworld and Harold Jay Gladstone Beelzebub. Trying to keep the internal tension at bay was only heightening it.  
A person as famous as D’Angelo Maxwell can’t just show up at an emergency room for an X-ray so as the Maxwell brothers headed north on the Turnpike, Trey called the team trainer and told him Dag had suffered a minor accident, could he alert the team doctor? “Word,” Axel said. Dag had been dozing fitfully, and the impact jounced him awake. Globetrotting Belgian backpackers in tie-dyed T-shirts double-checked luggage to make sure their hemp-positive lifestyles did not cause them to forget they were carrying substances that could get them beheaded in certain third world countries. The affordable housing will be divided into two sites. At the office, he described the meeting and the encounter with Sonia to Bebe who congratulated him on not allowing himself to be provoked. She could have said “So, you’re Aviva’s father,” but to Jay, her declaration seemed to imply an agenda. As the car rounded off the bridge and into Harlem, Boris asked Jay what he intended to do about the D’Angelo Maxwell situation. Jay was going to have to initiate the conversation. One of them may have been a superhuman physical specimen, but in the world in which they lived, of bills and spreadsheets, and obligations, it was the man that wielded the capital who moved mountains. It wasn’t as if he could punish her, so he chose to appreciate his daughter’s curiosity about the world and the fact that Hamas had not murdered her. But the look on Jay’s face was sympathetic. A curved desk of blond wood extended along two walls. He had planned on waiting until they were alone but had been thrown off by the invocation of the word “Palestine” in the context of his daughter’s return from the Middle East. This declaration was far from the ringing endorsement Jay had desired. Jay swung his head to the side and realized this was Sonia Trachtenberg, liberated from the relative decorum of the City Planning Commission hearing, her face righteously ablaze. He hoped she would grow to enjoy the new library he was going to build. “This is why I pay Church,” Jay said. But perhaps she only bore the mark of the current American campus zeitgeist—where support for immediate Palestinian nationhood was the litmus test for anyone who did not want to be considered a right-wing troglodyte—and had no idea what his views were. After the beaming students accepted their certificates in front of a small gathering of proud parents and faculty, Bebe gave a short speech in which she pledged that the Gladstone Foundation would provide college scholarships to every one of them who finished high school. Boris informed him the story was blowing up the Internet. “Praise God,” Jay repeated. Dag felt rebuked by the man’s entire existence. One of the reasons Jay had hired Church was because the coach believed in discipline. “Rah-rah Israel, and I wanted to see the other perspective.”
“That is why they bring you there,” Jay pointed out. Latimer regarded Dag skeptically. He wondered if he should have brought a security person with him, some muscle to keep the inflamed public at bay should someone’s emotions get out of hand (Boris was no bruiser). And that’s when the group leader told me to pack my bag because they were sending me home early which kind of sucked because I didn’t get to see Tel Aviv and I heard the club scene there is awesome.”
“How can the Israelis party with all that suffering going on?” Axel asked. That’s what he’d tell the coach. And would he then have to rescind his invitation to the Obama dinner? “Oh, I have some news,” Jay said, in hopes of relaxing the edgy nature of the conversation. The people who were not there in support of the project—everyone other than Jay and his band of allies—looked to be a cross-section of middle-class, educated Brooklyn of both sexes, varying in age from twenties to sixties, united in their disdain, he believed, for the free market. Did she employ it to smite him? It was naïve to think that what he had done would not immediately blast its way into public consciousness where his lack of control, bad decision-making, and a newfound penchant for self-destruction would streak like a comet across the media firmament. Imani held Aviva’s hand (there was no mistaking it) as if to fortify her friend for the clash with the oppressive forces represented by mondo-Zionist, incontrovertibly cisgender, heteronormative Jay. After the environmental lawyer addressed the impact of the project on the neighborhood (he claimed it would be negligible), it was Jay’s turn. Jay received none. With great restraint, he said, “If your books are as crude as you are, they must be wildly popular.”
Sonia Trachtenberg sneered and walked away just as Boris brought the car around. It was possibility and prospect, and in its iconic but ever-changing profile seemed to convey that somehow, the future would always be brighter. “Oh, girl, it was so your scene,” Aviva said. “Praise God, there’s no tape,” Church said. Jay paused, in the hope that Church would bring up the topic they were both avoiding. “Sorry, you’re right,” Imani said with a zipping motion across her lips. Maybe it was a blessing. Her passions continued to rise, and her arms began to semaphore through the air as if she were guiding a 747 into a parking space, all the while imploring the commissioners not to allow this terrible, civilization-shattering transaction to go through. Jay wanted to throw this kid out of the car, but that only would have further impaired relations with Aviva, so he ignored the remark. Rather than ride the elevator to the lobby, they walked down five flights. As a child, she experienced what her mother coined “threshold anxiety,” a reluctance to go into new rooms alone. Dag had been hoping to delay this encounter. He found his coach’s religiosity oddly comforting. Church repeated what Dag had told him. In other words: Everything. Jay looked on in awe at the organism that was a team. An hour later Jay, Boris, and Bebe met Mayor Major House at the Amiri Baraka Junior High School in Newark where they honored twenty Gladstone Scholars. After exchanging brief pleasantries, Jay and Boris took seats in the back. His daughter’s face was an empty chalkboard. “We’ve developed over twelve thousand apartments across the city in all market segments from affordable housing to middle income to market rate. ¤
Seth Greenland is the author of five novels. His latest, The Hazards of Good Fortune (Europa Editions), will be published in 2018. Jay learned that her father was a letter carrier, her mother an elementary school teacher, and she was going to be staying with Aviva at Jay’s ex-wife’s Upper West Side apartment until the end of their spring vacation. That it was Dag’s left (non-shooting) hand did not escape Jay’s attention. Jay glanced at the others in attendance. Was this dynamic young woman simply a college comrade of his daughter’s, or was Aviva going through some sociologically mandated lesbian phase? Moochie had said he was not going to press charges, but it was already clear he could not be trusted. It was the house of a terrorist?” He noticed Axel was taking video of him with his phone. “What Dag was involved in was a non-basketball matter. Who was Imani Mayfield to Aviva anyway? “That would be too awkward.”
“Awkward!” Imani said in an artificially high voice followed by a barely suppressed giggle. They greeted their leader with friendly shouts. There was a family photograph on his desk. “I guarantee we’re going to make the playoffs,” Dag said. It was only a fleeting worry because these weedy utopians pelting him with their words would never pose a physical threat. “Thanks for all the emails,” Imani said to Aviva. Dag had ignored it. Finally, we’re following the HireNYC plan, and to that end over half the workers on the job will be from Brooklyn, and assured up to three years of union employment. Jay embraced her, and she patted his back with one hand, the other remaining at her side. “Did you solve the problems of the Middle East?” Boris asked.  
Chapter Sixteen
 
Several hours earlier, in the chemical dawn of northern New Jersey where pink light refracted through a particle haze, the private jet made a bumpy landing. It was the kind of morning when office workers take al fresco coffee breaks, savoring the early days of spring. “Too late to worry about it now,” Trey said as the jet taxied to a stop. Church loved that word. Jay had no idea where to begin. Jay scrolled through the pictures taken in the village. “I did.” Jay tried to hide his disappointment in her disappointment. Jay had hoped that he could debrief his daughter about her Israel trip without a stranger in the immediate vicinity, but the presence of her two friends made this impossible. When I got there, I did something I shouldn’t have done. A tall man in his fifties with thinning blond hair, Dr.  
Jay thought a solitary walk around the perimeter of the training facility would lower his blood pressure, so he asked Boris to wait for him in the car. In the event Jay had misread his opponents, he wanted to avoid an unpleasant encounter in a confined area. Jay had been previously alerted that the discussion of the site he hoped to purchase would take up the majority of the meeting. “How can you sleep at night?”
“Sometimes I need a martini,” he replied, trying to defuse this bespectacled grenade. Anyway, some of us hung out with the little kids there. Boris, equally puzzled, nodded in the new arrival’s direction. “So that I understand, your position is to take no action?”
“We’re trying to make the playoffs, Jay. If his daughter was gay (which was fine!), her lover was a black woman. “Media relations” consisted of several people whose job it was to maintain the wall between the players and the press and propagate the illusion that every guy with a league contract was a cipher and thus incapable of antisocial behavior. The closer: “I love Brooklyn. 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. Sal and the Sportschick had discussed nothing else for the past half hour. Is it all right if Imani and Axel ride back to the city with us? To start with installment one, click here. While Aviva introduced Axel to Boris, Imani turned to Jay. To their backs were a pair of decorative Corinthian columns in the middle of which were an American flag and the orange, blue, and white flag of New York City. “What do you think we should do about Dag?”
“Do?”
“Fine him, suspend him. Rather than attend with a kingly retinue, a display Jay knew would not work in his favor, only Boris accompanied him. Jay knew that Church was managing him and rather than begrudging it, respected his approach. Sensing that this person he just met was spoiling for an argument, Boris chose to not pursue the topic. As Jay was leaving the school, his phone vibrated. On the wall, a picture of the University of North Carolina team “sophomore sensation” Church Scott had led to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament before turning pro. Although Church was nominally in charge, everyone in the league knew that superstars called the shots. He was waiting for Boris to bring the car around when he noticed what he thought was a child move quickly toward his flank. “It isn’t to tell you that things are better in Syria or Yemen.”
“It’s a great country,” she assured him, “but the Palestinians are getting screwed.”
“Big-time,” Imani chimed. “And after that,” Dag said, “Sky’s the limit.”
“Bang bang, motherfucker,” Jay said. The chairman informed the room that the members of the acquisition team—Jay’s allies—were now going to speak, each for an allotted three minutes. The kids are, like, all over the map politically. But he was not quite sure how to interpret what she said. 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. As the car inched along, he reproached himself for not considering it. Every sports journalist in the country was going to want a piece of him. Jay imagined telling the fuming Sonia that they had a great deal in common—starting with their ancient religion but encompassing the love of culture, of literature and libraries, hatred of anti-Semites and Nazis—as the tiny agitator hectored, gesturing with her hands, fingers opening and closing. He also was not going to point out that if, as he suspected, Aviva was in a temporarily gay phase and her new Muslim friends found out about it, they might have stoned her to death. “Look, it’s your day. Given that Imani was doing gender studies, he concluded the answer was obvious. The subway took forever!”
A black woman, college-age and breathless from running, threw her arms around Aviva. Any references to historical events,
real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. I apologized to Coach and Mr. An assistant coach signaled to Dag, who had been waiting outside the gym because he didn’t want to talk to his teammates individually before he addressed them as a group. “You’re always with the group, whether you’re hearing lectures or touring sites, or schlepping up Masada. Either way, he was going to have to recalibrate his perceptions. Jay said he would be happy to drop them off there. Now he ambled toward the scrum of players, a piece of protective plastic taped to the back of his shooting hand. 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. Let the Aryan-looking kid shoot all the footage that he wanted. “Tell me what happened.” Intended to sound casual, Jay worried that his request would be perceived more as a demand. Dag wished the coach had told him Gladstone might show up. Church, the three assistant coaches, and the eleven other team members all waited for the star to tell them what was going on. Jay grimaced at the mention of the more prominent franchise and informed her that someone else owned the Knicks. “This proposal—it contains a brand-new state-of-the-art library that we are selling back to the city for the grand sum of one dollar—includes one hundred and fourteen units of affordable housing in Sunset Park, which we will build without government subsidies, and the city will own outright. It was just after nine in the morning as they turned on to the 138th Street Bridge. When they had gathered around, Church told them that their captain had something to say. He turned to face the three Tate College students in the backseat. “His father was a famous historian.”
Axel said, “Yo, Pops. Two Nigerians reached into trouser pockets for passports and boarding passes that would allow them to go through security and board a flight back to Lagos. Behind it sat the ten members of the planning commission, two Latinos, an African-American, and seven whites of varying ethnicity. He had been around enough of them to know that they were not alike, but this year’s group seemed to have genuine affection for one another. “They need their own country, like, yesterday.”
“We don’t have to get into that right now,” Jay said, in as pleasant a way as he could manage. He imagined the number of times he could have hit the brakes—before climbing on the plane, before stepping out of Brittany’s kitchen and into the backyard, before he chased Moochie down. He knew how to deal with the modern athlete. Now, that’s a reasonable position. Disconcert­ing? “I hope you didn’t say yes,” Aviva said. Church told Jay he would speak to Dag as soon as he could and loop the owner in at the appropriate time. Aviva radiated confidence. We brought them pinwheels to play with, they love pinwheels, and we took a bunch of pictures. The boy was upset. And the leaders are always telling you how awesome Israel is. “Let’s hope so,” Jay said. Today was the last day testimony, for and against, would be allowed. While there was nothing wrong with either of those things, to a man born in the Sputnik era, it was—he didn’t exactly know what it was. He didn’t want to get into a protracted discussion of Middle Eastern policy. If Aviva’s friend was trying to create a positive impression, she was operating counterintuitively. All I want is for you to succeed.”
“We’re all trying to win a championship,” Church interjected. Facing the commission members, an African-American female clerk sat at a table with a microphone. “How’s the hand feel?”
Dag told him he needed to get it looked at immediately. None of these thoughts were conducive to relaxation, but sheer exhaustion finally lowered him into sleep. Dag had humiliated him and there was a good chance he would seek redress. Secrecy was not proper protocol (the organization needed to be apprised of every ding and bump a player suffered) but he said nothing. Neither Dag nor Church stood. Boris tuned the dial to an oldies station. That the incident had occurred on the heels of their lunch at the Paladin Club did not redound to Dag’s benefit. This kind of violence was not going to help in his search for an acceptable contract. He slugged a guy who was sleeping with his wife. What Jay took away from this entire exchange: It could have been so much worse.  
“How’s the hand?” Church Scott asked when he entered the room. The pain was behind the knuckle of his middle finger. Its plastic case was a polka-dot pattern. Imani looked skeptical. Jay didn’t want to suspend Dag; he had wanted Church to do it, at least for a single game. They have, like, nothing. The word was a cudgel to Jay. “I know, right?” Aviva said. “Look at the pictures.”
She grabbed the phone from Axel and handed it to her father. The ‘authority figures’ wouldn’t have let us. Strangely, he admired Dag’s boldness. The first thing he noticed was that the over-the-counter painkiller the co-captain fished out of the plane’s first-aid kit had worn off and his right hand hurt. To start with, he never would have flown to Los Angeles, gone to his old house, confronted Britanny, or assaulted Moochie. This was enlightened capitalism working cheek by jowl with the government in a manner to benefit everyone. The coach preached the Gospel of Accountability and Team First. “Dad, the phone,” Aviva said. Jay always thrilled to that view. “I signed with this franchise to win a championship,” Dag began. Without denying the suffering of the Palestinians, he believed what Aviva had done was rash and irresponsible, although also quite plucky, a quality he admired. Before Aviva could answer, another voice drew her attention. “I was on the third mile of a five-mile run when you called,” he said. When other highly remunerated players quailed and ran for cover, Dag declared he was The Man and took over. And then he stopped, uncharacteristically gripped by emotion. This wasn’t funny to him. Jay slipped it into his jacket pocket. Beneath the vaulting ceiling, Jay and Boris stood behind the barrier and watched as a group of women in multihued chadors appeared like an assortment of Fiestaware saltshakers, trailing their luggage behind them. Jay rationalized that it was natural for someone like Dag to want to destroy a pissant like Moochie Collins. The woman from the Economic Development Corporation spoke about the potential of public/private partnerships. For all of the problems in their relationship, Jay controlled the finances, and their arrangement called for his approval of any credit card charge over fifty dollars. I had one.”
“Don’t worry about me, Coach.”
Church placidly nodded although he wanted to do to Dag what he surmised Dag had done to Moochie Collins. But the team was struggling to make the playoffs and by suspending Dag wouldn’t he be working against the team’s interests? “I hope you’re all going to come to our Seder.”
¤
This book is a work of fiction. Like many people of his acquaintance, he was forward thinking on matters of sexuality, supported gay marriage and LGBT equality, but harbored a deeply held wish to not have a gay child, mostly because Jay suspected that homosexuality would likely make that child’s life more challenging. The children indeed looked happy with their new pinwheels but it was hard to concentrate on the images. When Madame Secretary leaned into her microphone and Jay heard, “the matter of the disposition of city-owned property and acquisition of property concerning 1 Taft Plaza,” he perked up. “I didn’t realize you were on the trip.” He kept his eyes on the road. Gladstone, and now I want to apologize to you all.”
The players nodded, called out “No need” and “We got your back,” and “Fuck Moochie, man,” which caused general laughter. It was his shooting hand and a broken bone in that location at this stage of the season was the last thing he needed. Before he got out of bed yesterday morning. “Really?” Jay said. He stared at Dag’s hand and wondered if it augured the end to another disappointing season. The daughter offered the father another desultory pat on the back. But the coach/superstar relationship precluded this. “We want to maintain strict transparency, so there’s a website, Gladstonesapphire.com. Dag’s actions were going to compromise the coach’s job. He texted back: I’m coming to pick you up. Paying no attention to Axel, Jay said, “The president of Tate called me and asked if I’d speak at your graduation.”
A whoop of joy from Aviva would have been too much to ask for, and Jay did not anticipate that his declaration would elicit one. He pondered what had caused him to do something so out of character, so against his interests. “I’ll give it back when we drop you off.” Axel knew he had been temporarily outmaneuvered and offered a wry grin. Should one of the dreamers Jay envisioned want to purchase a condo in the Sapphire, she would need verifiable liquid assets well into seven figures but imparting that information at this time would destroy the beauty of the moment he had just conjured. No one was amused. “Excuse me, Alex.”
“It’s Axel, Pops,” he said. Upsetting? I don’t like it but it’s not our business.”
Church’s stance surprised Jay. He blinked a couple of times and said, “I genuinely appreciate that apology, Dag. “Set off a bomb? “My name is Jay Gladstone,” he began, without notes. Jay had faced irate citizens for much of his career and was accustomed to these kinds of personal confrontations.  
Boris was at the wheel of the Mercedes as they rode into Manhattan, Jay in the passenger seat, and Axel and Imani in the back with Aviva between them. Only Jay heard the irony and he did not share Boris’s sly sense of comedy. “There’s no break.”
Dag stared at the X-rays, mounted on a light box, and thanked the universe. An articulate woman in her fifties, with salt and pepper hair that fell to her fitted jacket, she elucidated the dire economic straits of the public library system—the branch currently at 1 Taft Plaza had ten million dollars in immediate maintenance needs—and how the sale of the air rights to the Gladstone Group would benefit all of the citizens that use it. “I can play,” Dag said. She kept a horse in Colorado and wanted to ride in the mountains “to shake out the cobwebs.” He wouldn’t mind a few days apart. She took it exceptionally well. It was time to start practice. The tone of the speakers ranged from pique to trembling rage. If the team failed to make the playoffs, the Los Angeles escapade would provide an acceptable pretext should they decide to cut him loose. “Sure, Pops,” Axel said, and put his phone away. It was a quandary. Jay was impressed with her strength, although he did not always appreciate when it manifested as a lack of reluctance to disagree with him. “I want to apologize to you personally for my conduct.” Dag could read the surprise on Jay’s face. The room was bland and functional. When Dag excused himself to see the trainer, Jay asked the coach how he thought the player was doing. In a couple of hours, Jay was scheduled to make a presentation to the Planning Commission on behalf of the Sapphire, and the last thing he needed was the distraction D’Angelo Maxwell was providing while the team tried to claw its way into the playoffs. Aviva appeared to have drawn Imani’s hand toward her lap. “Bone bruises in your hand are pretty painful. Holding a cell phone up to record this encounter was a tall young man with blond, shoulder-length hair gathered in a loose ponytail. He handed the phone back. If the team failed to make the playoffs, both their careers would be damaged. “Kind of,” she said. No assistant coach or player would think to enter Church Scott’s office without waiting for permission. The Gladstone Group wants to bring the inspiring New York architectural tradition that includes the Woolworth Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center to the great borough of Brooklyn. Five kids and married to the same woman for twenty-seven years. “Feeling okay,” Dag said. Then Jay called Church Scott to talk about Dag.  
“Bone bruise,” the doctor said from behind his desk. He faced front again. I posted them on Instagram if you want to see.” She held her phone out to her father. He ascribed this vestigial prejudice to his era, chose not to be tortured about it, and contributed annually to Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I thought the best way to deal with the situation was to go to Los Angeles. The clerk, who the chair addressed as Madame Secretary, summarized what was on the schedule for the day, a litany of properties in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn whose status the Commission would review in this session. He could establish scholarships, donate liberally to charities, and still these enemies of progress would find him abhorrent. “The Bedouins, by the way, are amazing. Behind her was a podium. “The army wound up cancelling the operation, I’m not sure why. I’m proud of our history of public/private partnership, and the Sapphire will be the jewel in the crown.” He paused to let this reverberate, the idea that the building he proposed would be the culmination of a decades-long Gladstone family effort to make the metropolis gleam for all of its citizens. It was probably nothing, just a scare that would teach him to control his impulses. But as he lay in bed, instead of falling asleep, he found himself reliving the events of the previous night and imagining what he might have done differently. It was late afternoon, and the Van Wyck Expressway was jammed. The team had traded assets to get him (three rotation players and a first round draft pick), but his tenure with the franchise had been disappointing, and the championship he had guaranteed upon signing had not come close to materializing. When the session finally ended after nearly three hours, Jay shook hands with every committee member. “Bang bang, motherfucker, indeed,” he said, and offered his left fist for the owner to bump, which Jay did. 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. The president of the Brooklyn Public Library stepped to the podium. The chairman, a bow-tied white man of about sixty with graying hair and a hangdog mien, called the room to order. In his life, it usually worked that way and today was no different. Imani obviously knew who Aviva’s father was. That day Aviva learned her parents were getting divorced. Whatever he felt, it was not anything he wanted to say into a microphone. There was no other choice. There was no point reviewing what had happened, only in finding the best way to navigate the aftermath. He would give her a pass on that for now. Jay nodded at him and pictured the Bob Marley tattoo he probably had somewhere. When they arrived, he said hello to the four members of the Gladstone team who would be addressing the committee: the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, an associate of the architect Renzo Piano, a representative from the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and an environmental lawyer retained by the Gladstone Group. One of the marvelous aspects of sports, he reflected, was its capacity to bring participants to psychological states resembling those of childhood. Dag was in no mood for a lecture. Harlan Latimer was the leading orthopedist of northern New Jersey. When she finished, a representative of the architect Renzo Piano, a man in his thirties, Swiss, with Germanic features Jay tried to not hold against him, discussed the design of the public spaces in and around the proposed building. There was a photographer from the Newark Star-Ledger there, but only because Mayor House insisted. “Are you a basketball fan?” he asked. “So, you’re back early,” Jay said, choosing an oblique approach to the abortive nature of Aviva’s trip. “Tell me you didn’t lie down in front of any bulldozers,” Jay implored, mindful of a young American activist that, in similar circumstances, had been crushed to death. Players stopped their warm-up routines, stretching, and half speed games of one on one. There was Drew Hill, the point guard whose slick, no-look passes Dag relished, and Odell Tracy, the lanky center with whom he often played cards on team flights, and Giedrius Kvecevicius who was always inviting him to visit Lithuania in the off-season. Dag was relieved to see his popularity with his teammates had not waned. He had teed off on people who refused to acknowledge the complexity of the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and as they drove past skeletal remains of the 1964 World’s Fair, he was laboring not to let that occur today. He also understood that people responded positively when their better angels were engaged. Jay stood on the sidelines with Boris. I’ve watched with growing excitement as the borough, neighborhood by vibrant neighborhood, is being returned to its former glory. Attempting to be clever, Dr. “In a Bedouin tent,” she said. We’ve closed on one already, and we expect to close on the other by this summer. “How’s the hand, Dag?” Jay Gladstone looked fit and rested, like a man without a worry. The ground floor will contain two micro-retail spaces of four hundred square feet each that will generate dynamism at street level. “I’m the co-chairman of the Gladstone Group, the grandson of a plumber, and a lifelong New Yorker.” To Jay, who enjoyed speaking to groups under almost any circumstance, this was as easy as floating on his back in a placid lake. “I hope you did.”
“No, no, no, we didn’t lie down in front of bulldozers,” she assured her father. Jay graciously thanked the committee then blessed the memory of Professor Morris Markowitz, with whom he studied American Lit his sophomore year at Penn, and, rather than sweep out of the room—no one should think he was too grand—returned to his seat. Yesterday, I talked to my son on the phone. “That would’ve been the shit,” Axel said. “We got games to play, games to win,” Dag continued, volume rising. “Cute kids,” he remarked, rather than saying what he thought, which was junior Jew-haters. Superstars were not usually so quick to take responsibility. He smiled at her, but she did not smile back. Emotionally sapped, he was the sick tired where his limbs tingled with fatigue. Ok if I put a cab from the airport on my AmEx? Men like Church Scott were a big reason the whole world, despite always being on the verge of coming apart, continued to function. “They’ll love you.”
The subtext, served with a ladle, was impossible to miss. Both men waited for Jay to speak. Instead, this information produced nothing at all in the way of emotion. “You didn’t have to come,” she said. And that was kind of it.”
Jay nodded, relieved. Jay’s cavalier response seemed to further agitate the crusader and her eyes, magnified behind smudged lenses, blackened. He was waiting in his office dressed in a tracksuit. Jay clapped Dag on the shoulder in a friendly way. He turned to face the backseat and once again found himself looking into the camera lens of Axel’s raised phone. This was the reason Jay had bestowed the responsibilities of both general manager and head coach on Church. “Well, the trip is super-controlled,” Aviva began. This jolt blinded him to the phone now suspended in Aviva’s hand between the front and back seats. More important, and distressing, Aviva had sent multiple emails to Imani. Church Scott had called Jay early that morning to notify him of their star player’s problems. “It’s like I was in Palestine with you.”
Palestine? “And everything I’ve done has been with that goal in mind. They were listening to Sal and the Sportschick on the car radio and Jay couldn’t take it anymore. Jew-haters would have a field day with the pair of us, he thought, two sides of the same shekel. You know, ‘Israel invented this, Israel built that, Israel high-tech, blah blah blah.’ It’s a lot to take in.”
“What they don’t talk about is the Palestinians,” Imani informed Jay. They were facing the Pistons in Detroit in two days, and Jay asked Dag if he expected to play. “You’re not going to talk to Dag?”
“Guys like me don’t tell guys like Dag what to do.”
“You’re the owner!”
“Boris, it’s 2012. As the seconds accumulated, he saw the coach glance at a scouting report. He dared not steal a glance at his adversaries. Jay inhaled his daughter’s scent of rosehips, lemon, and mint. Dressed in practice gear of a team sweatshirt and shorts with a layer of compression shorts beneath, kneepads around his ankles, Dag was seated in the small cinderblock office of his coach, just off the gym at the team practice facility in South Orange. Her desire to address the troops, however misguided (in his view), showed embryonic leadership ability. “Right now, I’m helping Aviva and Imani with their senior project.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Jay discerned movement in the backseat. “Only if someone kidnaps me,” Boris said, chewing a Cinnabon. Still, he was pleased to hear from her. She never glanced at Jay, but he could feel the utter disdain for him and his kind seeping from her pores. At the very least Dag would have to write the man a large check. “Oh, and we spent the night in the West Bank.”
“In a Palestinian village?” Jay asked. Nicole texted him that she was flying to their house in Aspen for a few days and was presently on her way to the airport. “Did you tell anyone you were going?”
“Of course not. The coach himself, however, appeared nonjudgmental—a great relief. Stepping back, she turned to Jay and said, “This guy who’s shooting us—he’s Axel.” The young man shook Jay’s hand. Were they holding hands? Details were hazy, but witnesses said—
Dag didn’t bother to keep reading; he could imagine what witnesses said. Was Dag to suffer no consequences for jeopardizing their teetering season? The fan base was restive. “Today, I think of native son Walt Whitman who in his poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry wrote of ‘glories strung like beads’ and see the Sapphire as a modern glory. It was an effort for Jay to contain himself. “Really?”
Axel took the phone from Aviva and began scrolling through the pictures. He examined the hand as he flexed it. ¤
Chapter Fifteen
 
“Turn that crap off,” Jay said to Boris. It occurred to him: Wasn’t she supposed to be home the following week? “Are you ever going to visit Ukraine?” Jay asked. I’m not suspending him.”
“Don’t we have to do something?”
“Yeah, win.”
Church uncoiled from his desk. The Sapphire will be in the tradition of the great New York City landmarks and a beacon for tomorrow’s dreamers.”
Jay knew he was spreading the cream cheese a bit thick on the bagel, employing the beacon-for-dreamers construct to shill for a condominium, however architecturally stunning it might be. “I appreciate that,” Dag said. In his flattered state after the college president’s call, it had not occurred to him that his daughter’s mortification might be an issue. Babatunde and Lourawls were in the kitchen eating breakfast keen to hear what was going on, but Dag went straight upstairs without greeting them. The residential part of the Sapphire will consist of one hundred and forty-nine condominiums ranging from one to four bedroom apartments. Jay knew they regarded him as if he were the rich guy with the top hat and monocle on the Monopoly board. Jay’s head whipped around. “So, you’re the owner.” There was lightness in her voice, a friendly bounce. “Nobody talks to the media today except me.”
Dag heard a knock and then the sound of the door opening. It was the quality that allowed him to rise above the smog-choked streets of Houston, command millions, demand the ball when the game was on the line. “Kind of an emergency, Doc,” Trey said. “And my cousin Boris,” Aviva said. “I wish I had been there,” Imani said. “I’m glad you’re here, Jay,” Dag said. He strongly disliked being put in this situation, but he tempered the displeasure he felt toward Dag because he knew it would cloud his thinking. To a man, they had read the accounts of what had happened and wanted to show him some love. The room waited for him to continue. He added a hint of trombone to his voice, “Our family business has been around for almost sixty years,” and its tenor notes filled the room. The final speaker against the project, a diminutive woman in her sixties, introduced herself as Sonia Trachtenberg. The Sapphire was “a blemish,” “a monstrosity,” and “a symptom of everything that’s gone wrong with New York since Reagan was president.” Jay—looking right at them, speaker after anguished speaker—was “high handed,” “arrogant,” and, of course, a “greedy developer.” The words “for-profit” were invoked like curses. “But there’s something else . . . A text from Aviva: Arriving this afternoon from Israel. “I can’t pass up an airport reunion,” he said, relieved to have her home. As Jay contemplated what appeared to be his daughter’s moral relativism and budding lesbianism, he discreetly popped an antacid pill and took comfort in knowing that Aviva no longer seemed to suffer from threshold anxiety. “But when I got back to the hotel the next day the group leaders were kind of pissed.”
Boris commented, “Just because you snuck into the territories to bait the IDF and spent the night with Bedouins?” like it was nothing. He retreated to his bedroom, drew the shades, and crawled under the covers.  
Chapter Seventeen
 
The International Terminal was a flurry of saris, kurtas, salwar kameezes, dashikis, niqabs, djeballahs, jeans, and sweatshirts. It’s your call.”
The coach laid the scouting report on his desk. He looked at Jay, waited to see if he would speak. Jay took out a handkerchief and wiped the gout of spit hanging off his smooth cheek. Sonia Trachtenberg could not have weighed more than a hundred pounds. The lacuna after Jay’s appeal for an explanation expanded. “I haven’t talked to Church yet,” Dag said. “You should rot in Hell,” Sonia said in her geographically nonspecific accent, “But you would probably just build condos there.”
Jay’s look of wry amusement at this witticism froze when the globule of saliva propelled from her angry lips landed squarely on his face. Dag laughed at Jay’s invocation of the D’Angelo Maxwell catchphrase. He didn’t want to deal with the owner now. What up?” His voice was deep and full of false bravado. Team memorabilia decorated the empty waiting area, and the familiarity of the colors and graphics was a comfort to Dag as he nervously contemplated his future. The owner was unreadable. The backyard might as well have been Timbuktu. Turning to her father, Aviva said, “You remember Imani.”
“Of course,” Jay said, while he shook her hand and tried to decipher what, exactly, he had just witnessed. “Anyway,” Aviva continued, “There’s this international student group that was going to coordinate with the villagers to see what they could do to stop it. He stepped to the podium, gratified to see smiles of recognition on several faces of the committee members. “Oh, hell yeah,” Dag said with what he hoped was the right measure of don’t-worry-about-it. Dag ignored the dog. It happened on his time, away from the team. Church closed the door and sat behind his metal desk. “It’s your choice,” Aviva concluded.