I Can Get It for You Wholesale, page 26
“Put him on. Hello? Hello, Tootsie?”
“Yeah. Who’s this, Harry?”
“How are you, Harry?”
“Swell,” I said. “And you?”
“I’m all right. Gee, I’m glad to hear from you, Harry. I been calling you for weeks and weeks, I guess. I didn’t know—”
“I been out on the road a lot, Tootsie,” I said. “I don’t get much of a chance to stick around the city, you know.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said. “Well, gee, it sure is good to speak to you again, Harry.” There was no mistaking the pleasure in his voice. I guess he was a nicer guy than I’d given him credit for being. “You all cured now?”
“Cured?” I said. “Oh, yeah, sure. I’m swell, now, Tootsie. Everything one hundred per cent, now. Believe it or not, the doctors gave me the old okay.”
“Gee, that’s swell, Harry. I mean it. I sure am glad to hear that. Let me ask you, how’s business? I hear you’re a big dress manufacturer now.”
“Yeah,” I said. “When I got back, after I was sick, a coupla guys I knew, they sorta asked me to go in with them.”
“You like it?”
“It’s all right,” I said.
There was a pause. I could feel that he wanted to say something, but that, of course, was his worry.
“I’ll tell you why I called you, Tootsie,” I said. I laughed a little. “All of a sudden, from a clear sky, the bank tells me I’m temporarily overdrawn. Can you beat that? Just for a coupla days, till my collections come in, I’m short. And I’ll tell you, Tootsie, I was just wondering if you could sort of, well, just for a coupla days, you know, if you could sort of let me have a coupla thousand? You’d get it right back on the thirteenth, the minute my collections come in. If you want, I’ll even—”
“Jesus, Harry,” he said in a low voice, “you know I’d gladly let you have it if I could. But hell, Harry, the delivery business isn’t what it used to be. I don’t even know where the hell I’m gonna get the money together for my payroll this week, unless I get some of my accounts to anticipate their bills.”
I opened my mouth to begin to coax him, but I stopped. I knew Tootsie Maltz. He wouldn’t lie to me.
“That’s too bad, Tootsie,” I said. “Well, thanks anyway. And call me up sometime, will you?”
His voice became excited.
“Harry!” he said. “Wait a minute, will you? Harry!”
“I don’t like to bother you, Harry,” he said slowly. “I know you got your own troubles and all. But hell, I don’t know, Harry. Things’ve been pretty lousy around here for a long time now. That’s why I been calling you, Harry. I guess I haven’t got the head for these things that you have, Harry.”
“Look, Tootsie,” I began. “I’m in a—”
This was no time to stop to gather compliments.
“Harry,” he said, “Please. Couldn’t you come up just for a few minutes some day? I just want to ask you a coupla questions and show you my books and all. You know. I just want your advice, Harry. It wouldn’t take you long. Just for a few minutes, Harry. What do you say?”
“Well, gee whiz, Tootsie, I couldn’t do it now. I’ve got to straighten this thing out at the bank, you know.”
“It doesn’t have to be to-day, Harry,” he said quickly.
“Any time’ll be all right. I just want to ask you a few things. There’s a lot of other guys in the business, now, and they’re cutting prices and going in for new kinds of services and all—and gee, Harry, I just can’t keep up with them.” His voice became desperate. “I know you can straighten me out, Harry. You started this business. You know it from A to Z. It wouldn’t take you long. A few minutes, Harry, that’s all. You don’t have to do anything. Just tell me what—”
“Listen, Tootsie. I can’t do it now. I’m in a hurry.”
“It doesn’t have to be to-day, Harry. Any time is all right. Please, Harry.”
“All right, Tootsie, all right. Some other time. I’ll call you up.”
“You won’t forget, Harry, will you? It’s important, Harry.”
“No, no, I won’t forget, Tootsie. Stop worrying about it.”
“Gee, thanks, Harry. It won’t take you long. You can just—”
“All right, all right,” I said. “I’ll call you next week.”
“It’s all right, Tootsie. Forget it.”
I jiggled the receiver. The switchboard operator got on.
“Yes, Mr. Bogen?”
“Get me Mr. Barnes at the bank,” I said into the receiver and slammed it down. I wasn’t worried. I was just sore. I knew we were in good shape. Our outstandings alone were four times our liabilities. And we had a good inventory, too. And we didn’t owe the bank a nickel. And we had more orders on hand than we could fill. So I wasn’t worried. But I was sore. Being temporarily short at the bank knocked my plans screwy for a couple of days. Well, I’d have to see to it that it didn’t happen again.
The phone rang.
“Mr. Barnes on the wire, Mr. Bogen.”
“Put him on. Hello, Barnes?”
“Yes, Bogen, how are you?”
“Fine, thanks, and you?”
“I’m all right, thanks, Bogen. What’s on your mind?”
“I’ll tell you, Barnes,” I said, “I sent my boy down to cash a check this morning and, heh, heh, believe it or not, we’d accidentally overdrawn our account.”
“We-ell, Bogen, don’t worry too much about it. That happens every once in a while to the best of us.”
“Thanks, Barnes. I just wanted you to know about it and to tell you—”
“Oh, I knew about it, Bogen. In fact, I was just sending you a little note reminding you about it.”
No wonder he hadn’t acted surprised or worried. Judging from the tone of his voice, it couldn’t be overdrawn such a hell of a lot.
“Well, what I wanted to say, Barnes, was that the reason we’re overdrawn is that it’s the tenth of the month and we paid our bills. But our receivables pay us at the same time, Barnes. In fact, those checks are in the mail to us right now. To-day is the tenth? To-morrow, the eleventh, or the day after, we’ll have a big deposit down there, Barnes.”
“That’s quite all right, Bogen. We’re not worrying.”
I had to laugh at these goyim and their politeness. They aren’t born smart, like Jews. And they know it and it scares them. So they figure out a substitute. They act like gentlemen to each other. They’re polite all the time, so they can be sure one won’t screw the other. Well, thank God I didn’t need any substitutes for smartness. I didn’t have to be polite, except for pleasure.
“Thanks, Barnes,” I said.
“Nothing at all, Bogen. We know you’re good.”
That made two of us.
“Thanks, Barnes. ʼBye.”
I did some quick mental arithmetic before I picked up the receiver again.
“Get me Riverside 9-0437.”
“Here’s your number, Mr. Bogen.”
“Listen, kid. I’ve got to run out of town for a couple of days to see some buyers, and—”
“Now, Martha, please. Don’t take it that way. This can’t be helped. But it’s only for a couple of days. To-day is the tenth. I’ll be back by the twelfth or the thirteenth at the latest. I’ll call you up as soon as I get back, all right?”
“Oh, gee, Harry, and I was—”
She was really wasting her breath and that baby voice of hers, because I knew just exactly what she’d been thinking.
“Now don’t you worry, Martha. This is just one of those things. And when I get back, we’ll take a look at that roadster then. Okay, kid?”
“Okay, dear,” she said.
FOR THE FIRST TIME in weeks I had nothing to do. I got
I went into the back to find Babushkin.
“Meyer,” I said, “you know those two dresses I asked you to make up for me a couple of days ago?”
Yeah, dope, the things we manufacture in our business.
“You know,” I said. “Numbers 790 and 890. The two I wanted you to make up in an extra large size.”
“Oh,” he said. “The forty-fours.”
“Yeah, that’s right. You got them ready yet?”
“Wait a minute, I’ll see.”
He disappeared into the cutting room and after a few moments returned.
“They’re all finished except for the slips. Why, you wanted them now?”
“Yeah, Meyer, I wanted them for to-night. Could you have them made up by about five-thirty or six to-night?”
“Sure, Harry. I’ll tell one of the operators.”
“Thanks, Meyer,” I said. “And when they’re finished, have them wrapped and put the box in my private office. Okay?”
“Sure,” he said.
I stopped at the switchboard on my way back and said to the girl, “Get my home.”
She hesitated a moment.
“Uptown?” she said. “Or—?”
“My mother,” I said and went into my office.
When the phone rang I said, “Hello, Ma?”
But the girl at the switchboard answered.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bogen,” she said, “but there’s no answer.”
“All right,” I said. “Keep trying it at regular five-minute intervals until you get it. I’ll be in my office all afternoon. Send in the News Record and Women’s Wear, will you?”
“Yes, Mr. Bogen.”
“And while you’re at it, send a boy out for the afternoon papers, too, will you?”
“Yes, Mr. Bogen.”
I wondered what I’d do if one of them ever said, “No, Mr. Bogen.”
When the papers came I didn’t touch them. I let them lie on the desk while I sat with my legs propped up on the opened top drawer and smoked.
After a half hour I picked up the receiver again.
“How about that Intervale number?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Bogen,” she said. “I’ve been trying it right along, like you said, Mr. Bogen, but there’s no answer.”
“All right,” I said. “Keep trying. And by the way.”
“Yes, Mr. Bogen?”
“Send a boy out for a carton of cigarettes, will you? Take it out of the petty cash.”
“Yes, Mr. Bogen.”
I guess it was a reflex.
“Hello?” I said.
“Yes, Mr. Bogen?”
“Yes, Mr. Bogen,” I said sharply.
“What?” she gasped.
“Nuts,” I said, and hung up.
I figured I could smoke one cigarette every five minutes. That made twelve an hour. Therefore, when the phone rang, it must have been ten after five. Because I’d opened a pack at a quarter to four, and now there were three cigarettes left in the wrapper. I lit a fresh one and picked up the receiver.
“Hello,” I said.
“Yeah, Ma.” I flicked the freshly lighted cigarette out the window and sat up in my chair. “How are you?”
“All right,” she said. “And you?”
“I’m okay, Ma.”
She cleared her throat.
“Did you get my check, Ma?”
“Yeah, Heshie. I got it. Thanks.”
“Everything is all right, Ma?”
“Everything is all right, Heshie.”
“Anything you want, Ma?”
“No,” she said, “nothing.”
“Don’t be bashful, now, Ma,” I said. “And don’t worry about my spending money. Anything I buy for you, I can get it for you wholesale, so don’t worry.”
“Thanks, Heshie,” she said. “I don’t need anything. If you want, if it’s not too much trouble, you could send me two or three small checks, instead of one big one. It’s easier that way for the grocery man to cash. But that’s all. Only if it’s not too much trouble—”
“No trouble at all, Ma,” I said. “I’ll do that.”
We were both quiet for a time.
“Where were you all afternoon, Ma?” I said. “I been trying to ring you since two o’clock.”
“Couldn’t be, Heshie,” she said. “I only went out a little after half-past two.”
“Maybe I got the time wrong, Ma,” I said.
“Where were you?”
“Where should I be? I went out in the park a little, to sit in the sun.”
“That’s fine, Ma. I want you should take care of yourself.”
“All right,” she said.
“Keeping you busy these days, Ma?”
“With what? What should I be busy with? I don’t even have to cook any more.”
“You want to cook, Ma?”
“I mean, you’d like to cook to-night, Ma?”
She didn’t say anything.
“Hello?” I said. “Hello, hello?”
“I said, Ma, would you want to cook to-night?”
“Sure,” she said. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m getting lonesome for a good meal,” I said.
“You mean you’ll—?”
“That’s right, Ma,” I said. “You cook me a meal to-night, and I’ll come home. And I’ll sleep over, too. What do you think of that?”
Damned if I wasn’t working up an appetite already.
“You mean it, Heshie?”
“You bet,” I said. “And not only that. You be a good girl, Ma, and I’ll bring you home—”
“Don’t bring me no presents, Heshie,” she said quickly. “I don’t want you should spend—”
“Who said I’m going to spend? You let me handle this, will you? You just do the cooking. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, and laughed at how funny the word sounded when she said it. I laughed, too.
“You know what I’d like to eat to-night?”
“Blintzes,” she said.
“Right,” I said. “Do I get them?”
“What a question! Of course!”
She sounded lonesome.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll be right home.”
“All right,” she said.
I walked into the back, whistling, to look for Meyer.
“Those dresses ready yet, Meyer?”
“A few minutes, Harry. The boy is wrapping them,” he said.
I waited until they were folded into the box and tied and took them. I went into my office for my hat and stopped at the switchboard on my way out.
“I’m leaving for the day,” I said to the girl.
She looked at me, a bit frightened, and said, “Yes, Mr. Bo—”
I put my hand on her lips quickly and grinned.
“Save it for to-morrow,” I said, and went out.
I got a seat in the subway, but I gave it to a w
One mistake I almost made, though. I was a good block past the bakery on the corner of Daly Avenue and 180th Street before I remembered about the cheese cake and the Stollen. I went back and bought them.
When I turned into Honeywell Avenue I saw her leaning out of the window, watching for me. I shifted the packages to one arm and waved to her with my free one. She waved back and I quickened my step.
She opened the door and threw her arms around me without a word. I kissed her several times and then lifted her bodily, packages and all, and carried her into the kitchen.
“Heshie!” she said, when I set her down.
“In person, Ma,” I said. “How’s the girl?”
“Fine,” she said, “and you?”
“I didn’t feel so good in the morning, but I feel okay now.”
“What’s the matter?”
“I was hungry for blintzes.”
She laughed and took the boxes out of my hands.
“Let me see what kind of foolishness you went and spent your money on now.”
The first package she opened was from the bakery. She broke off a corner of the cheese cake, the way she always did, and nibbled at it while she smiled happily.
“You never forget your mother, hah, Heshie?”
“You bet, Mom,” I said. “Just take a look in the other box.”
She dusted the crumbs of cheese cake from her fingers and opened the second box.
“I’ve got so many dresses already, Heshie,” she said, “I don’t know when to wear them all. You didn’t have to spend money—”
“I didn’t spend any,” I said. “I had these made up for you in the place.”
“Yeah, sure,” she said derisively. “You had them made up in the place! Since when such a high-class firm like yours they make dresses this size, big like elephants?”
“We don’t,” I said. “But for you, Mom, we make anything. I wanted you to wear the same kind of dresses the young girls wear, and they should still be built for you, not for somebody thinner, so they don’t fit.”
For a moment her face took on a serious look.
“Dresses don’t help, Heshie,” she said quietly.
“Yes, they do, Ma,” I said. “Everything helps.”
She folded them back into the box and said, “Thanks, Heshie.”
“That’s all right, Ma,” I said. “Forget it.”
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