Frankie Mann operated a small, Brooklyn music office. He often hired a junkie sax player named Freddie. Frankie’s father, Mambo, was a gangster down in Florida. He financed Frankie as a front. He also used a fat singer named Peter Vallone, who told jokes, usually with an Italian accent.
Now Doctor Frankel stared kindly at Brown. Frankel sat erect in his chair. The speaker went on. “It’s their wedding night. They”re in the mother”s house in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The guy has four toes missing on his left foot. The bride, who he sometimes calls Maria, sometimes calls Josephina, comes running into her mother’s room. The old man had died a year ago and supposedly they never slept together, the bride and groom; and they never even disrobed. Maria shouts, “Mama, Mama. Ah Gino! He’s got a foot and a half.” The mother says, “Ah, you wait here, baby, and I go in and I talk to him!” And right at the punch line, when I”m about to strike the bass drum to accent the humor, this drunken guitar player Carmelo Lugo, half Italian, half Puerto Rican, the worst mixture of those two hot blooded races, kicks a hole in my bass drum, God Damn it, and says, “Mother fucker, you missed a cue on an earlier Jobim bossa nova and screwed up my solo!” Ironically, the song was called So Nice.”
Doctor Frankel continued to look kindly.
“Anyway, I became an adult, left the music business.” Brown straightened his back in his dark suit and continued. “I was sitting in my basement years later writing some amateur stories based on Hemingway’s brief style, with a mixture of Dashiell Hammett, who probably influenced Hemingway, you know? The snow was piling up outside just like it was at Binghamton that day, and I came up with a pretty good revenge novel that sold well around the states for a while and even in Europe.
“What a buzz, typing my first words, recalling the event that set it off, from the way the snow piled up outside.
“After that success, I wrote more revenge stories. It’s an easy theme to develop, you know?”
And Doctor Frankel was now thinking, this early spring March day, in a light-blue suit and dark red tie, “What an asshole.”
He started to daydream. Brown’s voice droned. Frankel had the experience of the dog on a popular modern cup. The designer shows the pooch putting up with the speech of a man, but only hearing his name. The rest of the speech is arbitrary marks. And the man continues to lecture him. The Quakers in the field in the reproduced painting on the office wall were, of course, not going to help Doctor Frankel and the flames and flowers on the pleasant Indian-designed rug below his feet weren’t going to help him either. The Styrofoam coffee cup he’d brought in for this session and placed on a mahogany-stained round table to his right was not going to assist him.
The traffic outside on Ninth Avenue jerked Doctor Frankel out of his daydream. He heard Brown in the middle of a phrase which, as he did hear Brown speak, began: “…and, oh, the noble work of O. Henry.”
Doctor Frankel took one last sip of the coffee. That did not help. Looked at the rug again. Again that did not help. Even the peaceful picture didn’t help.
A sudden silence descended into the small, professional, Manhattan office room. It was at the southern end of a dark blue-carpeted hall and was part of a larger professional suite housing two other shrinks. Each held a different perspective. Doctor Bemer, on the right side of the hall, was a Freudian analyst. Doctor Lanier, to the left, practiced an eclectic brand of Jungianism and Eastern mysticism. Brown, down at the end, flanked by both offices, a certified social worker with a Master’s Degree and training school experience, was a cognitive therapist.
Doctor Frankel paid by check the $175 requested. He was too humble to make a big splash of what happened. Later in his Central Park apartment, he pondered the problem looking out the window through the tree branches at the moon. He thought he’d check into NYU School of Psychiatry and try elsewhere.
Mysticism, mobsters and musical madmen. That’s what I call a lethal injection. Great story, Carl. Now I have to call my therapist.