I can get it for you who.., p.11

I Can Get It for You Wholesale, page 11

 

I Can Get It for You Wholesale
 



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  “Sure,” he said, coming back. “Be right in,” he said and began to wrestle out of the coat.

  “You can come in the way you are,” I said. “I won’t keep you long.”

  He stopped fooling with the topcoat and looked like a kid that’s been caught in the icebox. Then he tried to get back as far into the coat as he’d been when I called him, at the same time walking toward my room. The result was that when he came in, he looked like something the cat forgot to drop at the door. It’s a funny thing about clothes. If you’ve got the build, and you know how to carry them, you can look like a million bucks in a nineteen-seventy-five. But if you haven’t got that natural feel for clothes, it doesn’t make any difference how much you spend on them. There was Tootsie, standing before me in one of the snappiest numbers that Kolmer-Marcus ever put out. I’d helped him pick it myself and I’d seen him lay seventy-five dollars in American money on the counter for it. But for all the good it was doing his appearance, he could have left it hanging in his closet.

  “I’ll tell you what I wanted you for,” I said, and stopped as though I had just noticed something. “Say, your coat there, it’s on all cockeyed. The collar’s bent in.”

  “Yeah—I—I was,” he began, flushing and stuttering all over the lot as he tried to straighten the coat out over his form. He could have saved himself the trouble. Nothing would ever fit him right. He was built like a dumbbell.

  “Well, I’ll tell you,” I said, turning back to the papers on my desk, “if you’re in a hurry, then suppose we let it go till to-night.”

  “I’m not in any hurry,” he said. “If you want—”

  I turned around to look at him.

  “You’re not in any hurry?” I said.

  “Well, I mean—I—I mean, if there’s anything you want, I—”

  “That’s all right,” I said. “It’ll keep. I’ll see you about it some other time. There’s no rush. To-night is time enough.”

  “Okay,” he said, and turned to go.

  “That is,” I added, “if you can tear yourself away by tonight.”

  He whirled around.

  “What do you—?”

  “Skip it, Tootsie,” I said, smiling at him. “Skip it.”

  After all, I’d done him out of it once before. But that was the first night, when I had to show him who was boss. Now, though, there was no need for another demonstration. I might just as well give him a break. God knows, there weren’t many times when a guy could afford to be generous. Why be a louse, when I didn’t have to be? A guy has to give up his principles sometimes.

  “Let’s make it for to-night,” I said. “Okay? I want to talk to you about something.”

  “Well, I won’t be back to-night,” he said.

  I raised my eyebrows. Maybe another demonstration was in order.

  “I beg your pardon?” I said elaborately, putting my palm behind my ear. “Did I understand you to say you’re not coming back to-night?”

  He dropped his eyes from mine.

  “I mean, Harry,” he said, “I mean I made arrangements to go up to the mountains for the week end. I didn’t know you—”

  “Oh!” I said, dropping back in my chair and waving my hand at him. “That’s different. I didn’t know that. I just thought I heard wrong, that’s all. You go right ahead, Tootsie. Monday is all right.”

  “I’m here now, ain’t I? If you wanna—”

  “Shall we make it Monday morning?” I said with a grin. “Say, about nine-thirty or ten? That ought to give you time enough.”

  “Listen, Harry. You can’t—”

  “Nine-thirty Monday morning, Tootsie?”

  He opened his mouth and then closed it. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll be back Monday,” and went out.

  I wasn’t positive yet, of course. But I was certain that before long I would know what I needed Tootsie for. I had a hunch I’d know why I hadn’t tossed him out on his tail as soon as the delivery service was going good.

  I picked up the receiver and spoke to Miss Marmelstein.

  “Get my home,” I said.

  A few moments later Mother was on the wire.

  “Hello, Ma.”

  “Hello, Heshie,” she said. “What’s the matter?”

  “What do you mean, what’s the matter?” I said. “Does something have to be the matter before a fellow can call up his mother?”

  “God forbid,” she said. “But just the same, what’s the matter?”

  “Nothing’s the matter,” I said. “I just wanted to try out the new telephone. How does it feel to have a telephone in the house? How do you feel?”

  “How should I feel?” she said. “The same as I felt when you left in the morning. All right. And how do you feel?”

  “I feel all right, Ma,” I said.

  “So I feel all right and you feel all right,” she said, “So it’s perfect. Now, Heshie, what’s the matter?”

  I laughed.

  “You’re okay, Ma,” I said. “Try and put one over on you, hah?”

  She laughed too.

  “Well, you can try, Heshie,” she said.

  “All right, then, Ma,” I said, “I’ll tell you why I called. I wanted to know how the blintzes situation was.”

  “Oh, my God!” she said. “How could a person eat so much? Three times you had them last week. And now, now you want them again!”

  “Can I help it, Ma, if you make them so good?”

  “Never mind with the fancy talk,” she said. “By you it’s easy to talk. You say a couple words, you tell me they’re this, they’re that, they’re wonderful, and me, like a dope, I have to start working over the hot stove. So it’ll be without blintzes to-night, Heshie. Kill you, it won’t. It’s not good you should eat so much the same thing. I’ll make you a nice piece spring chicken for to-night. You’ll have blintzes again in a couple days, maybe next week.”

  “Aah, Ma, don’t be like that,” I said. “I wanted to bring a friend home for supper to-night. Here I been talking about your blintzes to everybody, and now, now I’m bringing somebody home to try them, so you’re not going to make them? I ask you, Ma, is that nice?”

  “Oh, you’re bringing somebody home, hah?” Her voice dropped a bit. “Who is it?”

  “Just a friend, Ma.”

  “A boy, or a girl?”

  “Ma, will you stop trying to marry me off,” I said. “It’s not a girl. It’s just a friend of mine. A business friend. And I want him to—”

  “All right, Heshalle,” she said cheerfully. “I was just fooling. What time will you be home?”

  “Oh, I don’t know, Ma,” I said. “Around six or seven. That be okay?”

  “Yeah, sure, plenty time,” she said.

  “Okay, then, Ma, thanks. I’ll see you to-night.”

  “All right, Heshie. Good-bye.”

  I took my hat and coat and stopped at the switchboard on my way out.

  “I’m going over to Pulvermacher, Betschmann & Kalisch,” I said. “If a Mr. Babushkin calls me from there, tell him I’m on my way over. If anybody else calls, just take the message. Tell them you don’t know where I am. Got that, Miss Marmelstein?”

  “Yes, Mr. Bogen,” she said, giving me one of those tragic movie glances that made her look like she ate something that didn’t agree with her. But I kept on moving toward the door. I don’t let those things worry me. Just because I slipped her the business once, that doesn’t change our relationship. She was still an employee of mine, and I was still paying her a salary.

  When I got up to Pulvermacher, Betschmann & Kalisch, Inc. I went into the shipping room and spoke to the man in charge of it.

  “Hello, Singer,” I said. “Everything all right?”

  “Yes, Mr. Bogen,” he said. “Everything’s fine.”

  “Packages moving out on time?”

  “Oh, yes. Everything’s okay.”

  “That’s fine,” I said, making a notation in my pocket notebook for his benefit. “Remember, now, any complaints, or anyt
hing like that, you just let me know, and somebody’ll get hell.”

  “I know that, Mr. Bogen,” he said. “But so far everything is fine.”

  “Good,” I said. “Now, on these air-mail packages, Singer. If that’s going to be a regular thing with you, I mean, if you’re going in for it big, you let me know and I’ll have one of my boys ready for you every day at two-thirty so you can get them on the first plane west. I noticed here—” I looked at my notebook—“you had almost twenty for Chicago and Los Angeles last week. You might as well take advantage of the extra couple of hours, and it’s no extra bother for us, you know.”

  “Oh, I don’t think that’s necessary, Mr. Bogen,” he said.

  Neither did I. “When I call your office, that usually gives us plenty of time.”

  “All right, then,” I said. “But in case you want the boy special, you can have him.” I grinned at him. “That’s what the word ‘Service’ stands for in our name.”

  “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll call you if we need it.”

  I turned to go, and stopped.

  “Oh, by the way, is Mr. Babushkin around?”

  “Why, yes. I think so. He should be in the cutting room, I guess. Did you want to see him about business?”

  “Why, yes,” I said, “if he’s not busy. I just wanted to ask him some questions about a new scheme I’m working out for delivering cut work to contractors.”

  “Just a moment, Mr. Bogen, and I’ll find out.”

  He left the room and returned in a few moments.

  “He’s in the cutting room, all right, Mr. Bogen. Straight through this door and turn to your right.”

  “Thanks,” I said, and went through the door.

  Babushkin looked up at me from the other side of the cutting table and almost dropped the wax chalk he was working with.

  “Hello, there, Meyer,” I said heartily.

  “Hello, Bogen,” he said, looking to right and left at the people working around him.

  I guess that was another thing I’d have to teach him—manners. I call him Meyer, and he calls me Bogen!

  He came around the cutting table quickly to head me off.

  “You want me, Bogen?” he said nervously.

  “Yeah,” I said, “I just wanted to ask you if—”

  “Ssshhh,” he said under his breath, “not so loud. Don’t talk about that here, Bogen. I don’t want—”

  “About what?” I said, playing dumb.

  “About the—you know—about—”

  “Oh!” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder. “Why, Meyer, don’t be silly,” I said in a low voice. “What do you think I am, a dope? Would I talk about a thing like that in front of all these people?”

  He looked relieved.

  “Well, you know how it is, Bogen,” he said apologetically. “While I’m still working here, I wouldn’t want—”

  “Of course, Meyer,” I said. “I understand those things. I only came up here to invite you up to my house for dinner to-night, that’s all.”

  “Gee, thanks, Bogen,” he said, scratching his head. “But I don’t know if—”

  “Come on, Meyer,” I said, “don’t turn me down. I called up my mother already, and she’s making those famous blintzes I told you about.”

  “I certainly would like to come up, Bogen,” he said. “But I don’t know if I can make it. My wife, you know, and the baby—I don’t know if—”

  I suppose according to the book of etiquette I should have invited his wife, too. But I don’t like women around when I’m talking business.

  “Aah, come on, Meyer,” I coaxed. “It’s only for once. Tell your wife you’ve got a business conference. That’s what it is, isn’t it? You know we can’t talk down here, Meyer.”

  He looked around quickly and said, “Ssshhh.”

  “So what do you say? Call your wife up and tell her you’ll be home a little later. Say, that’s an idea!” I said. “We can have an early supper, and we can talk for an hour or so, and then you can go home in plenty of time for her not to worry. How’s that?”

  “It sounds all right,” he said, still doubtful.

  It was. Like that I’d get him off my hands as soon as we were through talking. Or rather, as soon as I was through talking.

  “Go ahead,” I said, taking his arm and leading him toward the phone. “Call her up and tell her.”

  He looked embarrassed.

  “I’ll call her later, Bogen,” he said. “But don’t worry. It’ll be all right. I’ll call her and tell her.”

  “Swell,” I said. “So I’ll pick you up here about five-thirty or so, all right?”

  “No, no,” he said hastily. “You better not come up here for me, Bogen. Just give me your address and I’ll meet you up at your house.”

  “You won’t stand me up, now, will you?” I said. “Because my mother is making dinner special, you know.”

  “No, don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll be there.”

  I wrote out the address and then added complete instructions about which subway train to take and how to walk. I wasn’t taking any chances.

  “Here,” I said, handing it to him. “How about six o’clock, all right?”

  “We-ell, I don’t know,” he said. “Better make it six-thirty, Bogen, or seven. Between six-thirty and seven.”

  “All right, then,” I said, reaching for the door. “My house to-night. Follow those instructions, and you can’t go wrong.”

  Not about the directions, anyway.

  “All right,” he said, and nodded.

  “You won’t go wrong, now, will you?” I said again.

  Do I love being subtle!

  “No, no, Bogen,” he said. “I’m sure I won’t.”

  I wondered what made him so positive.

  13

  MOTHER WAS WAITING FOR me at the door when I came home.

  “I got a surprise for you,” she said with a smile, and began to lead me by the hand toward the living room.

  “What’s the matter, Ma?” I said. “My friend get here early?”

  It was only a few minutes after six, and Babushkin didn’t look like the kind that could talk his wife out of or into things very easily.

  “No,” Mother said, “it’s not your friend.”

  We reached the doorway of the living room and she stood aside, beaming, so I could look into the room.

  A dark-haired girl in a black and white dress was sitting in the new armchair, looking up from the pages of the magazine she had been turning on her lap, and smiling. She didn’t have to turn sideways to show the long, drooping nose for me to realize that it was just the kind of Jewish-looking squash I’d been spending three-quarters of my waking hours since I was thirteen trying to avoid.

  “This is Ruthie Rivkin,” Mother said, smiling toward her. “Mrs. Rivkin’s daughter. You remember Mrs. Rivkin, Heshie, she had the grocery store when we used to live on Fox Street?”

  “Sure, I remember,” I said. But I didn’t smile. I could see right away that the only way out of this situation was to make as few encouraging remarks as possible. “How do you do?” I said. What the hell, you can’t be impolite to your mother’s guests.

  “Hello,” she said, and smiled.

  Her voice was pleasant and her teeth were square and white. And the smile accented the softness that was in her face in spite of the profile. And she could thank heaven for one thing: while she was definitely on the plump side, she was just as definitely not fat. But it would only have been fair to tip her off in advance that it was going to take a lot more than a couple of redeeming features if she even wanted to place in the competition for my lily white hand in marriage that her mother was obviously entering her in.

  “I made a mistake with the blintzes,” Mother said to me with an innocent smile. “I’m such a thick head, I forgot you said you were bringing only one friend, and I made enough for God knows, maybe even a dozen. So I thought to myself instead they should go to waste and I should have to throw them out, I
d invite up Ruthie she should help us finish them.”

  “I wouldn’t exactly call that a compliment to Miss Rivkin, Ma,” I said with a smile of my own. “Seems to me you should invite your guests because you like them, not because they can eat a lot of blintzes.”

  “First of all,” Mother said, “where did you get so high class, so fancy, with this Miss Rivkin talk? Her name is Ruthie. And secondly, I invited her for two reasons, because I like her and because she knows how to eat blintzes. So now maybe you’re satisfied?”

  “When you do something, Ma,” I said, “I’m always satisfied.”

  I pinched her cheek and we all laughed.

  “Will you excuse me for a few moments while I get rid of some of these packages?” I said, lifting them for her to see.

  “Of course,” she said, still smiling, and mother and I walked toward the kitchen together.

  “Nice work, Ma,” I said sarcastically in a low voice. “Why don’t you open up a marriage broker’s office? Or maybe you could just stick a sign in the window? I’ll bet you could pick up a nice piece of change that way.”

  She stopped to look at me with an injured expression.

  “Why, Heshie! Is that a nice way to talk? Can’t I even invite an old neighbor’s daughter to have a bite to eat with us without you should begin right away—?”

  “Yeah, I know, Ma, I know,” I said, patting her shoulder. “You just wanted to have somebody to try out the new armchair, didn’t you?”

  She laughed and pushed me gently.

  “You’re only afraid somebody is going to grab you and marry you, aren’t you, Heshie?”

  “I’m not afraid,” I said. “The only thing is, of all the days in the year for you to pull your fancy stuff and try to get me a wife—yeah, I know, I know, you weren’t even thinking of that—but of all the days in the year for you to do your stuff, Ma, you have to go ahead and pick out the one night when I’ve got an important business friend coming up to see me. Why don’t you let me know in advance when you’re going to do these things, Ma?”

  She smiled wisely.

  “I should tell you in advance, so you shouldn’t come home for supper that night?” she said.

  I pounced on her quickly.

 

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