January 15, 2014
Mirsky rounded the corner and braked to a stop for the red light.
One ...two...one..., one...two...one, one..........two........one,...one.......two.one. The light changed to green on the last one. It had to--rules are rules, and since he was seven years old these have been the rules that somehow came to be his; to count in order to effect a change. The ending of the count had to coincide with that change. He sped up or slowed his counting to achieve parity. He saw the green light turn yellow and timed his count perfectly. Mirsky was thinking about his birthday present to himself. This was a keystone year and he deserved to treat himself to a top notch gift. Forty years old and doing well, he thought.
I'm forty years old I'm doing fine. No forty year blues I'm like
fine wine. Fo-orty, fo-or-ty and
that ain't baad. Wah wah wah wahhhhh.
Mirsky sat in his Explorer waiting for a parking spot on the main drag. Those white back up lights on that VW have been on for a while, looks like she's reading her mail. A little toot on the horn will get her attention. I'll give her a minute or so. One...two..one. "Hey, hey, here we go," he said aloud as he put his gear shift in drive while the lady pulled out. He waved her a thanks and almost hit her when she stopped her car to see who was waving.
I've got me a spot I don't need a dime. The meter's still
working there's plenty of time. Scooby wah wah
Mirsky stood in front of LEATHER ON MAIN and looked in the window. With his office being just across the street he window shopped here often. Those soft leather briefcases with the shoulder straps are really in, he thought. Mirsky visualized himself, hands free, walking along carrying his papers in the light tan one with the flap. Cool. I'd be the coolest Realtor in town.
I'm so cool-just look my way. Check me out is all I can say. I'm
so cooool. Dubee dubee dooo.
Scrunching his toes in his right boat shoe Mirsky decided the leather bag was going to be his gift to himself. He moved on, scrunching his left toes as he walked to even up the scrunching. Too much. He one-scrunched the right toes and they evened out.
I wonder what my wife and kids are planning for my birthday. My big four oh. As he walked along Main Street Mirsky waved, nodded and said hi to a dozen or more people. Small town living. He crossed at the light and went into the post office and walked around the line of people at the window and up to his mail box. He touched all four corners of the box and then tapped the combo dial three times with his right index finger, and only then opened his mailbox. Stuffed, so stuffed the mail was folded over, and he carried the load to his tall table, one of the four tall tables in the lobby and waited until the person in his spot moved.
One...two...one..one...two..one...one....two....one...one...t w o. . . one... onetwoone.
Dropping his pile on the table top, Mirsky began to sort. As he did he scratched his left ankle with his right shoe and then his right ankle with his left shoe. It took three times for a balance. He stacked, sorted, and tossed the junk mail in the recycle bin and walked out and over to his office imagining himself with his mail in his new leather shoulder case instead of in his arms.
Mirsky walked into MIRSKY HOMES to the familiar tinkle of the door chimes. Margo, at the front desk and on the phone, looked up and nodded. Mirsky walked into his office, put the mail on his desk, and pulled his chair out. He spun the seat around twice stopping it in its usual place and sat down. His message light was flashing, but before listening he grabbed a letter opener and slit open the top and bottom envelopes. Then he pushed the message button on his phone.
Mr. Halprin, Mrs. Kiner calling. Someone knocked over my For Sale sign. Please take care of it.
Hey Mirsky, happy four-oh. Spring me from school and I'll help you celebrate. Do it before gym. Pleeease, Dad.
What gives, Halprin? You advertised a house in Sunday's paper but it was a picture of the house I just bought. Call me at . . .
Mirsky, honey. Hope you liked my wake-up birthday present--I did. Love you. By the way, don't forget motor vehicles--your license expires today.
Mirsky pulled up in front of the high school to get Lisa. The school never even asked for a reason when he told them he needed to pick her up early. She came out the door on the run and Mirsky changed his counting, from seeing her come out of school, to touching the car door handle.
"Hit it Mirsky. Where we going?" Lisa asked as she leaned over to kiss him. She dropped her backpack on the floor and put on her seat belt.
"Well, honey, there's a lot of places I'd rather go but my license expires today and I have to go to motor vehicles to renew it."
"Bring me back to school. This wasn't part of the deal."
"I'll drop you at the mall on the way and pick you up when I'm finished," he said.
"Nope. I'm with you all the way. You're only the big four-oh once. Well, once, except if you happen to be Aunt Myra."
"Watch it. That's my older sister you're talking about."
"Not for long. She's in the subtract mode, so next year you become the older brother. I can't wait for that to happen and then bring out the family album and start asking her questions about you guys and why she was pushing her "older" brother in a carriage, and that kind of stuff."
Lisa watched as her Dad filled out the license application.
"Hey, Mirsky, you forgot something," she said.
"No I didn't."
"You forgot to check the organ donor box," Lisa told him.
"I never do," he said.
"Do you have any idea how many people are waiting for body parts?" she asked. "We had someone from the hospital speak at our assembly a few weeks ago. Like it's not like you're going to need any of your body parts when they start harvesting. That's what they call removing organs and things-harvesting."
Mirsky was silent. He knew he skipped checking the box--he never checked the box, but he was in a bind now with Lisa standing over him.
"Just think, Dad, you'll be giving sight to someone who needs corneas."
Right toes scrunch, left scrunch, right right scrunch, left left scrunch.
He wondered, "What happens if I start to breathe after they've taken my corneas? It can happen. Of course it can happen. I could still be alive and in a deep, really deep coma so they'll think I'm dead. Afterwards, I'll have to go on a waiting list for a cornea transplant."
"And," Lisa continued, "If there's a kidney match, some poor person will be able to get off a dialysis machine."
"Maybe there will even be a perfect match for your heart. Wow! Wild! My Dad's heart running around in some stranger's body. I wonder if I could get visiting rights. Do you think your corneas in someone else's eyes would recognize me?"
If Lisa only knew how much her father wanted to run out of the building. But she didn't, so she reached over and picked up the chained pen and checked the donor box.
"Let's get this show on the road, Mirsky," she said taking his hand and leading him to the bad photo section.
Mirsky looked into the camera lens and saw workmen taking down the HALPRIN REALTY sign and replacing it with HARVEST REALTY.
"That will be forty dollars, please," the lady behind the counter said as she held tightly onto his laminated license. "I'd give you a discount if I could," she said. "I'd do it for all people who are organ donors. I personally don't have the stomach for it."
They exchanged check and license and on the way out Lisa said, "Great picture, Mirsky. You look like Freddie Kruger's second cousin." She flipped his license over and pointed out the bold ORGAN DONOR stamp in the corner. Mirsky noticed it was under the laminate. Stamps should go over the laminate, he thought, not under.
Margo had seen Mirsky looking into the LEATHER ON MAIN windows twice that day and watched as he took Lisa inside. After they left she called the owner, Seymour, and he told her what Mirsky was looking at and she had him wrap it and she got the seven other agents in the office to share the cost of his birthday gift.
After lunch together, which Mirsky was too queasy to eat, he dropped Lisa off at the high school so she could ride home with her friends. Trying to take his mind off his body parts, Mirsky drove downtown to buy himself his birthday present. It was gone. "Only minutes after you left someone came in and bought it," Seymour said.
"Get me another."
"I can't, Mirsky. It was one-of-a-kind."
He glared at Seymour and then walked out of the store and crossed mid street to his office. It didn't please him that no one was at the front desk and no one came out to see who was there when the door chimes chimed; so he was totally taken off guard by the yell of "Surprise!" when he passed the empty salesmen's cubicles and got to his private office. By the time he had unwrapped his new shoulder bag and hugged all his agents he'd forgotten about his driver's license. Seymour walked in and asked for a piece of cake. Mirsky hugged him too, and then messed the seventy-year old man's hair and gave him a pretend noogie.
It was almost three weeks later when Mirsky had to show his license to cash a check that he looked at the organ donor stamp. He had been somewhat able to control his panic attacks over it by not looking at the license since his birthday. He realized what he had to do. "Hey! I'm an organ donor, too," the clerk said. "When my mother died the hospital really went into action," she said with great pride. "They had her eyes in a box on a plane in a few hours and her heart was driven to St. Raphael's Hospital cross town with a police escort, no less."
Mirsky was in the throes of a panic attack--a major one--the kind with chest pains.
"Mister, you don't look so good. How about sitting down for a few minutes? You want I should call the organ donor people? Ha. Ha. Just kidding. Anyway, they took clumps of her hair, roots and all, to see if they would take on a bald person. I think they were going to use someone who lost their hair from chemo. I got thank you letters from people who got pieces of Mama. Of course, they didn't come directly to me, privacy you know, but the hospital forwarded them."
Mirsky woke. He heard the stirrings of the operating room.
"Quick! Open his chest, we need the heart. The transplant patient is in the next OR." Mirsky's worst nightmare had come true. One... He tried to sit up but couldn't. He blinked his eyes but couldn't see. "Don't bother to sew him up, the lung and kidney team are waiting."
Mirsky tried screaming. No go. He no longer had his screamer.
Mirsky woke up again. His wife, Lana, had her hands on his throat--trying to choke him. He shrugged her off and this time he could sit up and see. He was shaking.
"What's going on, Mirsky?" Lana asked. "You were screaming in your sleep. I was trying to shake you awake."
Mirsky got out of bed, looked suspiciously at Lana and went into the bathroom to aspirin and cold water himself. Lana followed. Mirsky at first began to cower, thinking she was attempting to kill him for his organs. He then began to think defensively and plan his strategy if she were to attack him again. Finally in the shower both the aspirins and reason took hold. He knew that Lana wasn't trying to kill him and he remembered the nurse in his nightmare having the same voice as the store clerk.
Lana had left for work so he left a voice message for her at her office telling her that he was okay and that he loved her. When he got to his office he told his secretary to take his messages, that he'd be busy for a while. He turned on his CD and listened to some mellow jazz piano. Mirsky took scissors, masking tape and a pen from his desk. He took his driver's license from his wallet and pushed The New Haven Register away from mid-desk so he could work on his license. The folded paper opened.
DMV EMPLOYEES ARRESTED FOR SELLING LICENSE INFORMATION. His proof--right on the front page. The article didn't specifically mention organ donors, it was mainly social security numbers, names and addresses, but Mirsky knew that they were trying to shield the public from panicking. He felt justified in his belief that there was a band of organ thieves waiting for this list and no one on it was safe. Somewhere there was an internet chop shop for body parts.
Now mission driven, Mirsky cut a piece of masking tape to fit over the organ donor spot. He printed--CHANGED MIND! NOT AN ORGAN DONOR!!! Feeling better, he replaced his wallet in his pocket. A few hours later he checked and saw the ink had smudged and the only recognizable word was DONOR. This time he printed it from his computer and Scotch taped it onto his license. It didn't smudge, but after a while the tape loosened and Mirsky had to do it again. Of course, if he hadn't pulled his license out of his wallet constantly to check, and just left it alone, the license, tape and all, would have been fine.
The DMV story was on the nightly news for months and in the newspaper daily. It only fueled Mirsky's imagination. He was being followed, that's the one thing he was sure of. He often saw the same car a few lengths behind him and there was a couple that sat in the coffee shop by the window. He felt they were sizing him up when he walked in for his morning coffee. He even ran into them at the movies, and once at the post office.
Mirsky took to varying his schedule and route to work. Lana could no longer count on him to be where he told her he'd be at the time he said, and Lisa couldn't rely on her father to get her to school on time. "Dad takes these wild rides," she told her mother, "he goes down dead-end streets, waits a minute, and then drives back fast as hell. He tells me he's checking out houses or land, but I know he's not." Lisa, for the first time in two years, thought about taking the school bus again. Luckily, her friends wouldn't let her suffer that humiliation so they took turns picking her up.
Mirsky was scheduled for some minor surgery. His doctor had found a small growth that he wanted checked out. "It'll be quick," Dr. Silver said. "It's an out-patient morning procedure, and you won't feel a thing. Better safe than sorry."
Mirsky canceled the procedure twice.
"This is Dr. Silver's office. Please hold for the doctor.
Mirsky put the phone on speaker knowing that it could be a while. Impatiently he waited for the doctor to finally get around to him.
One...two...one..one... Mirsky heard the click of the phone over the speaker, twoone. "What the hell is going on Mirsky? I had a call this morning that you canceled again for tomorrow. What gives? I'll tell you what gives. I've canceled your cancellation and you're going in tomorrow or Dr. Morris won't have you as a patient, and he's the best there is in the area. What's going on with you? Tell me. Not now--another time-- I've got to run, but you'd better have your ass at Dr. Morris's office tomorrow."
Mirsky lay on the operating table he began counting, waiting for the doctor to show. He looked at the operating room nurses, one on each side, giving each other knowing glances. One.. two.. The Darvon and Valium took effect. His tolerance was low and it put him out instead of keeping him awake and sedated during the procedure.
He came out of his nether world in the recovery room with Lana sitting beside him. She smiled, but he saw conspiracy in her face--conspiracy with the two nurses hovering close by, whispering, just as the nurses had done when his anesthesia was taking effect.
Under oath he would swear that he saw them holding his wallet and driver's license. They then called over another nurse who quickly made a phone call and then came over to him and marked his body with a black grease pen. "One..two..one. " the nurse said. He knew she was marking the location of his organs, and his last thought, before going completely under, was the cow chart at the butcher shop, the one that showed the side view of the cow with lines all over its body depicting the different cuts of meat. Somewhere there was a Mirsky chart with an auctioneer pointing to his different organs, and the sound of bidding from faceless Doctors' voices in the crowd. He remembered Dr. Morris and Dr. Silver in a bidding war over his appendix.
Several days later, Mirsky heard from Dr. Silver that the growth was benign, and later that day the couple from the coffee shop walked into his office. They told his secretary that they had inherited an Uncle's house and had been in town for a month or so getting it ready to sell and now it was ready and they wanted to put in on the market. "The people at the coffee shop recommended Mr. Halprin," they told her. He saw his secretary point to his office and pick up the phone to page him. He went out the back door, feeling like Major Major in Catch 22 going out his office window to escape visitors.
As he pulled his car out of the lot Mirsky realized that there was only one way to stop these goings on. "I'm going to take care of this right now," he said aloud.
Mirsky stood in line almost fifteen minutes before it was his turn to talk to the woman behind the counter. He timed each person ahead of him.
When he finally got to the head of the line the woman shook her head at him and nodded towards the lady behind the counter next to her. "No," she said, "you couldn't just step right over to the front of the line. Of all the nerve," he heard her say to the next person in line. This line moved faster. one....two....one......one... In less than ten minutes he was explaining to the lady how he'd lost his driver's license and needed a replacement. She handed Mirsky a form to fill out as she went and sat down at the computer. He finished filling out the lost license application and didn't hesitate a bit when it came to the organ donor question. He checked no and waited for the lady to return.
One...two.... "Go over there," she said pointing to the Polaroid camera. "Come back to the front of this line with your picture," she said, "no sense waiting longer than you have to." She smiled.
Mirsky walked up to the front of the line, picture in hand, ignoring a few nasty remarks from others, standing, waiting their turn. As soon as the man being helped was finished he cut in front of the women waiting next in line. He shrugged at her dirty look and turned away.
My license is new, I have nothing to fear,
I think I'll go buy me something to wear.
Scooby dooby doooo. Wah wah wah wahhhhh.
Right toe scrunch, left toe scrunch--too much right toe--left left--half right--half left left right scrunch together. Full left scrunch. Full right scrunch. Even.
"Mr. Halprin," the lady said. "Move right in here," the lady said to the dismay of the woman Mirsky cut in front of. Mirsky did and immediately felt line daggers shooting at him.
Mrs. Wilks. Her name tag read Mrs.Wilks. She was prim--very prim. She was looking over his application and computer readout. "Mr. Halprin," Mrs. Wilks said sweetly, "you seem to have made a small mistake on your application."
"Oops," he said. "Did I misspell something?"
"No. You were marked as an organ donor on your last license which has three and a half years to go, and in this application you checked no under donor. You must have checked the wrong box. "Right?"
Mirsky says nothing. Being a salesman, he knows that the first one to speak in a negotiation loses.
Mrs. Wilks must know the same thing. She says nothing.
He looks up at Mrs. Wilks and she is no longer smiling sweetly, not smiling at all. She has suddenly adapted the expression of Miss Barrow, his detention teacher from high school. She draws a line through the no and puts an x in the yes box. She turns the application around, facing him and says. "Initial here, please."
She spoke first, I should have won, Mirsky thought to himself. Now she should just laminate my license after changing things back and let me go. Mrs. Wilks is pointing at the no box she crossed out. "Please," she says. Her "please" no longer sounds sweet and friendly but more like a Nazi General interrogating a Jewish Realtor. "Please.You vil tell me vich houses are de best buys. Von't you now?"
Mirsky looks over Mrs. Wilks shoulder and sees a big round clock with a sweeping second hand. He can hear the tick of the seconds. Ch..Ch..Ch.
Mrs. Wilks remains standing still and prim and gives off an aroma of annoyance.
One . . .. twooooo.one . . .scrunch..scrunch..half scrunch...scrunch..half scrunch
Mrs. Wilks puts the pen down next to the paper.
Mirsky unsuccessfully attempts a smile.
Mrs. Wilks looks through him.
Mirsky stares at the pen.
Mrs. Wilks pushes the paper towards Mirsky.
He now stares at the paper.
She gives the pen a push.
Mirsky tries to thwart a panic attack.
Mrs. Wilks, remaining in her ramrod straight posture, flicks her finger at the pen so it rolls towards the edge of the counter.They both watch it roll, roll past the paper, and over the edge.
Instinctively Mirsky catches it.
With a slightly smug expression, Mrs. Wilks pushes the paper forward again.
Mirsky Raises the pen.
I've got the pen right here and the
door's right there--maybe it's
time to get out of here--
can do--can do
Mirsky and Mrs. Wilks lock into a stare. He cracks first, grabs the paper, and in a flurry of hand movements circles no, round and round--crosses out the yes in the donor box--initials both, signs his name, and pushes the paper back to Mrs. Wilks. He shoves the pen towards her and she lets it roll off the counter edge without looking away from him. One...two...one.. She takes his application and picture and walks slowly towards the laminate machine.