We shook off the Major Deegan and 3 lanes of cantankerous, honking, stop-and-go weaving cars at 138th Street , splashing into crater sized pot-hole ponds, which caused Jay-B to wince, before turning left onto Morris Avenue a northeast and southwest street on the wrong side of the tracks, sirens wailing, lights flashing red, white and the blues on an after-the-rain-has-gone, overcast, battle-grey sky that stretched from the heavens to earth.
The ride was a get-well gift from Diaz to Jay-B on account of his less than mint and deteriorating condition. Diaz had originally proffered an ambulance, but they were all out at a five-alarm fire, caused by an M-80 firecracker, tossed by a pugilist in the late rounds of a pre-July 4th ‘fireworks fight’ in the yard of 1136 Olmstead Avenue, in the Parkchester section of the Bronx.
Our plump black-eyed broken-nosed cop-chauffer had flatulent twin riding shotgun. They were following that story on the radio, which was that fast moving flames and suffocating black smoke had ripped through the lean-to, double decker homes of five neighbors, injuring nine and “recklessly endangering hundreds of others and almost 200 firefighters,” according to Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, Daniel Nigro[i], who led the FDNY through search, rescue and recovery operations at Ground Zero after Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attack, who growled: “This fire is a reminder that fireworks are illegal in New York City because they are dangerous to civilians and firefighters alike.”
Across Morris Avenue to the east, through the tinted-glass passenger side window of the Ford Explorer Police Interceptor patrol truck, Lincoln Hospital, an overbearing bleak-brown-brick-shit-house, loomed large, made my eyes sore.
I’d worked Pro Bono for Lincoln on and off for a decade, defending its doctors, nurses and administration against malpractice claims I considered fraudulent, so that it could deliver on its mission to provide care to all New Yorkers regardless of their ability to pay for it, which was an extension of the hospital’s original mission to serve as a home for aged black people, many of whom had been slaves prior to the abolition.
AS A RESULT, I KNEW THE FACILITY, ITS STAFF AND ITS HISTORY WELL
It was founded in 1839 as “The Home for the Colored Aged” by a group of do-gooders known as the “Society for the Relief of Worthy Aged Indigent Colored Persons.
In 1895, after more than half a century of occupying various sites in Manhattan, the Board of Trustees purchased a large lot in the South Bronx — then a semi-rural area of the city.
The dedication took place on April 29, 1899 at which time the hospital became a general hospital open to all people, without regard to color or creed, and its name was inexplicably changed, to honor Abraham Lincoln, an incorrigible separatist who didn’t deserve the honor:
“Our republican system was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as blacks continue to live with the whites they constitute a threat to the national life. Family life may also collapse, and the increase of mixed breed bastards may some-day challenge the supremacy of the white man.”
Today Lincoln Hospital is known as Abe’s Sugar Palace because its insulin-dab at the center of Mott Haven, a 10% white, 30% black and 55% Latino (and 5% other) South Bronx neighborhood, where diabetes is endemic. [iv]
16% of South Bronx residents have been diagnosed with diabetes which is more than twice the national average.[v] And in sugared-up Mott Haven diabetes is the cause of 159 deaths per 100,000 residents,[vi] whereas the death rate in Manhattan's Murray Hill is approximately 19 per 100,000 residents. Yes, the white man is still supreme. And inequality is the grimiest of reapers, causing its unluckiest of victims to lose through amputation their lower-legs toes and feet.
And, Lincoln Hospital is New York City’s busiest chop shop, which is why there are more wheelchairs per capita in Mott Haven than any other neighborhood in the city.
And perhaps because the Lord gives what he has taken away and certainly because action and reaction are inversely related Lincoln was as good a place to go to try and reattach Jay-B’s digit as any.[viii]
Because we were running out of time.
The finger had been hacked from the hand at just after 3 AM and the odds of a successful reattachment diminish after 12-hours.
Which left us 90-minutes.
We were met by a pair of paramedics who wheeled Jay-B on a stretcher through a gaggle of smoldering cops who had come to visit a fallen brother, past a rotting drunk baying in the midst of a seizure from the first of a line of stretchers parked in the foul smelling hallway of an emergency room that is the busiest in New York City, handling 15% of the 1,170,938 emergency room visits to the city’s 11 public hospitals, and the sixth busiest in the USA with over 173,000 visits a year.
As paramedics parked Jay-B at a crowded nursing station, Fernando Jara, chairman of the emergency medicine department, jay-walked toward us, expertly sidestepping stretchers and medical equipment on the go, shaking his head, with his right paw outstretched to greet us,
“Degas, everything’s full.”
So, Jay gave him the finger and crossed himself, which changed everything.
I was wondering how he dealt with the stress, when he told me. So, I wouldn’t have to wonder any more: “¡Me resbala!I deal with trauma on a constant basis, so for me, it’s normal” He said. “You talk to a soldier on the battlefield and that’s their comfort zone.[xii] This is my comfort zone. I tell the interns here, that if they can learn medicine in this environment, then they can handle anything and everything that’s coming their way.”
I looked back at the mummy and muttered, “No te salva ni el medico chino,” which means more or less that not even a Chinese doctor could save him, expecting a laugh in return.
Instead, he looked at me abstractly. Like he was wondering how I’d grown up knowing so little about the world and how it really works. And then he explained with enviable certainty what makes his world go around:
“We saw more than six hundred patients yesterday, that’s more than six hundred stories. Most of them are repeats, sequels or documentaries, but occasionally you get an Emmy winner; where a Carajito comes in sujetando el dedo con su mano derecham on ice in a Zip-lock bag and begs you to stitch the finger back to his hand.”
We burst into the operating theater, where the paramedics parked Jay-B’s ride at the epicenter of four bright overhead lamps made of a multitude of bright LED lights, where a flock of nurses in light-blue scrubs shoe covers, masks, caps, and eye shields, hooked Jay-B up to a pulse oximeter, an infusion pump and other monitors and life support and emergency resuscitative equipment; where an anesthesiologist knocked him out before he gotten to cinco.
By the time Jara reentered the room in matching light-blue scrubs and set to work scraping the damaged tissue off the metacarpal bone, it was almost 3 PM and the burner was buzzing in my pocket. So, I slunk out of the operating theater the way I came, bludgeoned my way through doors signed HOSPITAL STAFF ONLY, which led to something that looked like a boiler room.
She’d been sitting, chillaxing with Nadyia and Vlad “munching through a feast of turbot fillet from the fucking North Sea followed by fillet and cheeks from fucking Friesian beef[xiv],” when Kunt came over to invite Vlad to meet “dictador a pretendiente” in the library, which he’d secured for the now not so secret occasion at 10 PM, which was only 55 minutes away. And that she had made a deal with Vlad’s Russian interpreter to wear her magical brooch.[xv]
So, I left Jay-B in Jara’s steady hands and grabbed a gypsy-cab on 149th, that had the scent of its last ride, which was old and musky. The Yoruba cabbie had six lines cut into each cheek, suggesting his birthplace was Owu, a kingdom in Abeokuta, which is in Nigeria’s Ogun State.
I offered up “Pẹlẹ o,” and he smiled and returned my “hi” back.
Then we swapped my office address for a pristine copy of the Post.
Its headline read: ‘BEASTS FOR GOD AND PROFIT,’ and under her byline, Monica told the story of Mitch Winner, the young heir to the Winner casino fortune and various pro-sports and cable franchises, who had been abducted and abused by a kidnapper who skipped bail while waiting to be tried, for the distribution of photographs showing young Korean girls fucking wild animals in a South Korean billionaire’s private zoo.
Monica’s take on the story was that the case had been solved by the Beasts for God, a quasi-religious sect to which she had once belonged, which had rescued the kid and delivered him, more or less whole, to Detective Diaz at 44th Precinct.
They’d also delivered the kidnapper in a coffin.
According to Monica, the Beasts had performed the exact same party trick in three other cases on three other occasions, netting more than $11,000,000. It was coincidence that could only be rationally explained if the Beasts were returning goods they themselves had stolen
The rag promised more, but for that we’d have to wait twenty-four hours, as the story came in two parts — the tease being that part-2 would expose a “beastly Cohn-Kunt connection.’
In that instant the past became the present and I saw the big part of the Torah I’d rehearsed for the Bar Mitzvah I’d never have, vividly, through the broken clouds of what was suddenly a mid-summer’s day:
And the Lord said to Noah, come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteousness before me in this generation. Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and the female; and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and the female.
And there was my faux-papi Abe, conducting the chant, doubling the ancient melodies, and clinging on to the words, seemingly vested in the outcome. Smiling widely and wisely as he explained that the clean beasts were needed in sevens, so they could be offered up to God and slaughtered for kosher food, and that the less useful unclean beasts were paired and saved for reproductive purposes only.
He was an expert on the subject of sacrifice, as his papi, Jacob, had been a shochet; a professional slaughterer, whose position in the rabbinical hierarchy was similar to that of a bookkeeper to a CPA or a paralegal to an attorney. He was respected enough to work with God, but not enough to preach.
I’d never met Jacob because Hitler met up with him first and gassed him to death in Treblinka. But, by all accounts, and there were many, he was a dreadful, judgmental man, with a ravine on his shoulder, more concerned with hierarchy than happiness, who messed up the minds of those he touched by rebounding his bitterness off them. And on the few and far between occasions that I allowed myself to think of Abe, I wondered if his overbearing vanity was cover for the disappointment he’d felt at having wasted his brilliant mind away, on similar small-world concern
Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy off the face of the earth.
Maybe the Beasts for God were Kunt’s beasts or perhaps they belonged to Vladimir, and Shango was preparing them for the flood. If that was true they’d be sailing soon.
It was time to go say “Saludo” but I had a show to catch first.
I had 7-minutes to spare when I paid the cabbie and a few seconds less, by the time I got to the top of the steps, where my office-door was ajar.
Peeping through it, I could see Joy waiting for me as if she had never left, spinning rocks around an empty glass.
“I came over to see a show,” she said without turning to greet me as I walked inside, making it quite clear she would not lift a feather to see me. So, I stooped down to peck her on the cheek as I passed and got tickled by her long locks in return.
The first brooch-cast image of that private meeting was of Vlad and Kunt arm-wrestling. I had the idea that Vlad was toying with Kunt, because that was the story of his then toothless smile. A couple of goofy return smiles later, Kunt quit rather than lose, which is the way losers lose world-over.
And then Vlad gruffly reminded Kunt that he was holding a handful of markers:
Мы купили тебе гребаные президентские выборыVlad barked at the translator, making a V-for-victory sign with the first two fingers of his right hand, which came back as: “We bought you the fucking Presidential election!"
And then pointing to his dick in broken but not bust English: “We’ve got the piss-tape, from the Ritz!”
“I personally hold the notes on the $540,000,000 in loans you took from my friends, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater at the Bayrock Group, which funded Trump Soho and your transformation from a builder to a brander,” Vlad teased offering his Mont Blanc Meisterstück 12cc Wallet.
[xvi] “I arranged for Dmitry Rybolovlev buy 515 N. County Road in Palm Beach from you for $100,000,000 in 2008, which was $58,650,0000 more than you paid for it in 2004 and at least $50,000,000 more than it was worth at the to help you out of a fucking sour cherry jam,”[xvii] Vlad jabs, punching Kunt’s right arm.
“Мы взяли тебя с потрохами”he said which came back from the lady with the brooch as “We’ve got you by the short and curlies”
“AND I HAVE HEARD ENOUGH ABOUT MAKING AMERICA GREAT, what we need in exchange for all these favors is the chance for post-soviet Russia to catch-up.Re-take our rightful place in the world?”
“All we need from you Kunt is chaos: withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a good first step, now we want you to fuck with NATO and NAFTA, but don’t leave. We like to keep our enemies close --- Будь близок со своими врагами. You must say goodbye to the Paris climate agreement because we need to sell our oil, gas and coal at fair prices. And we want racial conflict and one or more Government shutdowns to stir the pot, which you can deliver by insisting on your crazy wall while appearing strong to your base” “And my legacy?” Kunt replies tearing. “Was fucked the day you took your first Ruble,” Vlad replies patting Kunt’s back as you would comforting a child.