The Short Man
A guest in the lobby told the following story that took place over thirty years ago. He told me four other stories similar to this in the period of an hour.
I get a phone call from Short Man, troche he wants to see me. We were best friends in high school in the Carribean, he never finished and I hadn’t heard from him much since. He’s in New York. I was going from Europe to Miami but he changed my ticket for me. Three guys came to pick me up in a car at LaGuardia, they said, “We want to take you, the Short Man wants to see you.” It was the first time I was in New York. They took me to a place (I would later realize is called the Bronx) to a dilapidated building sort of like Cabrini Green. There wasn’t an elevator, they took me up these steps. We kept climbing up all these steps to the top where there was a big red door. They knocked a certain kind of patterned knock. A guy on the other side of the door lifts a flap, peers at us and says “Okay.” He moves a big steel cross from the door and lets us in.
From knee height all over the floor is only money, guns, drugs and people counting it, putting it in rubber bands. Short Man is running the operation. I’m told he will be here in a little bit. I wait and watch people counting and eating cheap sandwiches. As I wait they tell me that I’m welcome to any amount of money I want. “Just take it.”
I’m waiting and he’s still not coming. They ask, “Is there anything you want to do? Chase women? Play pool? Strip clubs?” I said I think I’d like to drink beers and play pool like we do in the Caribbean. I am to play pool against the bar’s resident pool master as my three friends (who I don’t really know) watch on and I break the shot. The pool master says, “Well, you know its $100 a game. We play for money here.” I said, “What? I’m not used to that.” My three friends said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll pay for you, just have a good time.”
I accidentally hit some of his balls with the cue. He took my cue stick, threw it down on the table and shouted, “You lose! You’re not supposed to hit your opponents balls here, ‘house rules!’ Just pay me my money and get out of here!” My friends told me to play him again. So we start playing again. Now I try and get the white ball by going at an angle, but I miss the whole shot. I lost again. “We play the next one for $500 or you pay me my $200 and walk away from the table. I tell my friends, “I’m sorry I put you through this inconvenience.” They reply, “No, you’re okay, play again.”
By now I’m learning from my mistakes. I surround his balls very carefully with mine so that when he goes he had to make the same hitting violation as game one. When he does I declare “Aha! House rules!”
What happens next is unpleasant and I don’t want to repeat it. Eventually he connects up with Short Man and they go shopping together for eight days.
We kept going to the shops and whenever something costs $800, he says, “I’ll take that. I’ll take that.” I was ready to go home, about to take the airplane, Short Man begged, “I don’t know anyone in America, stay with me. I have a problem, I’m making so much money it’s like a garden hose with water coming through and I can’t shut it off. I don’t know what to do with it.” I asked him how much money he had and he said he was making two million a week and asked, “I have a question for you, you’re my only friend. Why is it you never took anything from me? No diamond, no rolex, money or camera?” So I said, “We are like brothers, there is no need for me to take anything. As long as you have something, I have something.” Short Man nodded his head and said, “That makes sense.”