At 11 a.m., after the breakfast rush, Maxie arrived at the Jubilee.
He was carrying a powder-blue Samsonite suitcase and a brown
leather satchel. Wearing a hooded winter jacket and a black wool watch cap,
he peered out the world from behind a pair of thick bifocals. While King
was a young 55, Maxie at the same age looked old and worn out. He was bald
beneath the cap and his teeth were bad.
Ronnie, who was at the cash register when Maxie arrived, took one
look and knew it was him.
- Maxie Fisher. Am I right ?
- Huh ? he said, looking around in bewilderment.
- Maxie Fisher, Ronnie repeated. King's friend from the Navy days.
That right ?
- Yeah, I'm Maxie, all right, he answered, standing there
uncertainly and holding onto his bags as if for dear life. He added nothing
to his statement and looked at the floor.
Ronnie had to help him out.
- I guess you must be looking for King. He's cooking in the
kitchen. Why don't you and your bags sit down and take a load off.
She steered Maxie to a booth within sight lines of the kitchen
door. Maxie stumbled along, shoved his bags toward the inside end of one of
the red leatherette seats, then plunked himself down.
- Would you like a cup of coffee ? Ronnie asked.
- Coffee's no good. And I don't drink and I don't smoke. That
stuff'll kill ya.
- Let me go get King, she said, edging away from the booth. She
then turned sharply and headed for the kitchen.
- King, there's a guy with a New Yawk accent sitting out there and
he's asking for you.
- Oh Jesus, that must be Maxie. How does he look ?
- Like a tired old man. And guess what ? You were right when you
called him a sad sack.
- Guess I better go say hello.
By the time he arrived in the dining room, Ruby was seated across
from Maxie, listening closely. A natural-born storyteller with a commanding
if woeful presence, Maxie could hook people with his tales. In fact, Maxie
never really conversed with a person. He told stories. There were usually
- I used to tame them, boy, Maxie was saying. I was wild. I'd ask
them : "What can you offer a man ?" One of those girls, she tried to put
her hand on my face. I said : "Don't you do it. I'll put your arm in a
sling. Both your arms will be broke." I tell you, I was tough with them. I
wouldn't take that for them. At this stage of the game, they're looking for
a doctor, a lawyer. They want to see a prince on a white stallion coming up
the Boardwalk. "So what are your potentials ?" they ask me. "Do you have
a car ? How much money do you make ?" As soon as they open their mouths
about money, I leave. Yeah, I'll give 'em, all right. Bupkus is what I give
'em. One of 'em, I told her : "You see that old house on the Boardwalk ?
This is your next home. The old age home. Where were you 25, 30 years ago
when I was a young man ?" I said. I'm tellin' ya, I'm a hard man.
- Maxie, is that you ? King said.
Maxie looked up. He squinted at King, said,
- King ! You old goat ! and started to laugh. His laugh was beyond
belief. It was deep and hollow, like the staged laughter you hear on old
radio mysteries. Lasting longer than it should and filling the room like a
presence, it exuded more ill will than joy.
Back to Summary 7-1997
©1997-2000 by pisalou