“Hey, what happened to you? Danny asked. “Did you have a quickie with our waitress? You look like shit.”
Jack shook his head. “I’m leaving.”
“Are you kidding? The night is young. Some of the other guys will be here in a few.”
“That’s okay. I’m not feeling great. Must be something I ate or drank. I don’t know. I’ll get a cab.”
“You better be okay for the game. We leave for N.Y. at 8 in the morning. The front office will have my ass if you’re not. ”
“Thanks for your concern. I’ll be fine.”
Danny got off his chair. “I’ll get a taxi for you. Sit tight.” He went off to the front.
Jack took a seat. He wrapped his hand around a glass of ice water. He wanted to put it against his stomach. The pain from the punches and kick was killing him. Everything was a blur. Carrie had to tap him on his shoulder after she served the drinks. He jumped.
“Whoa, are you all right?” She asked.
“Sure, with all the noise, I didn’t hear you coming.” It was a lame excuse but what the hell, he wasn’t feeling sociable.
“Hey you must be jacked up for the game tomorrow. I hope you win.”
He heard himself say, “thanks.” He sensed she was still at the table. He let go of the water glass. “I’m fine, really.” He looked at her. “My friend is getting a cab for me. I’ll be at the hotel.” He reached into his pocket and took out a $10 bill along with the crumpled note she gave him earlier. He straightened out the paper and re-read her name. “Carrie?” He smiled, “I mean Carrie. I’ll see you around.”
“Sure thing.” She took the money. “Is this for both drinks?”
It took him a few seconds. “Yeah. Keep the change.”
“You mean the .50?”
“Shit. Sorry.” He put a couple of bills on the table. “Better?”
Before she answered Danny came back and put his arm around her waist.
“Hey Darl’n. Your ball player is poop’n out. A cab is waiting out front. Now you got me all to yourself.”
She aimed her plastic smile at Danny and gracefully stepped out of his grasp. “Must be my lucky day,” she said.
Jack got up and started moving to the front.
“Good-luck,” she said.
He didn’t know whether his “thanks” got swallowed up in the crowd. He elbowed his way out the door.
“Hey which one is the cab to the hotel?” He asked one of the car hikers.
“Mi Inglés no es muy bueno,” he said.
“What? Cab, where…is..my…cab?”
The man had a blank look.
Shit, Jack looked around to speak to someone else. “Anyone know English?”
Before he had a chance to ask, he spotted Fred of the L.A. Times. There was no place to hide.
“Hey, if it isn’t the Yankee killer, Jack Rakow. Boychik, how ya do’in? You com’n or going?” Fred asked.
“Leaving, early flight.”
“Spoken like a true boy scout. Well as fortune will have it, I’m going too. We’ll share a taxi.”
“Great.” Jack took a quick glance. No one was there to save him.
He watched Fred speak to the same valet. The two of them shared a laugh and then the man held out his hand and waved down a taxi.
“Gracias,” Jack heard Fred say and saw him hand the man a bill or two. Fred motioned for Jack. “Your chariot is waiting.”
“Thanks.” Jack got in on the driver’s side. Pain shot through his body when he reached to shut the door.
“You all right?” Fred asked. “You look like you’ve been chewed and spit out.”
“Nah, been a long day.”
“Uh-huh.” Fred gave him a hard look. “Vas zenin ir kiding,” he said in Yiddish.
Despite the aching, Jack smiled.
“Boychik, one minute you look like your dead and the next you have a happy face. What gives?”
“You, Fred. When I hear that language, I think back to my parents.”
“Takke, really? Me too. I was maybe 10 years old when I came to the U.S.”
“So you were born…?”
“We lived in Lodz’. It was not far from Warsaw. I have a few different birthdays. Birth certificates along with everything else were destroyed in the war. My mother or the woman who came to be my mother told me I was born in 1937.”
He stared at him. “That’s quite a story. Were you in the camps? How did you survive?”
“The cab ride isn’t long enough even if it’s LA. traffic ” he paused, “I was very lucky.”