Izzy and the Hypocrite Lecteur

Izzy and the Hypocrite Lecteur

by Eliot Fintushel

Izzy and Fay were a match made in heaven. Fay was Izzy’s fresh-baked-this-morning cheese Danish and a hot cup of joe. And Fay’s Izzy, every time the matzoh balls of Fay’s little life sank to the bottom of her soucoup, old Iz knew just how to leaven them—“Kootchie-koo, Feigeleh!”—till they effervesced. They were up to their silk anniversaiy, common law of course, but they had never met each other—a lapse that Izzy, having spent twelve years of months of weeks of days bumping to the bottom of his priorities list, at long last decided to rectify.

So he gave Sarvaduhka a tinkle, his motel mogul chum in Buffalo, and talked him into a little bachelors’ vacation.

“Two weeks, Izzy? Am I Conrad Hilton? You think I can afford to have my cousin run the Lucky 3 for fourteen days during the tourist season?”

“Don’t argue, Savvy baby. You end up coming along with me regardless. This is all settled business, except for you jawjacking. Read Parmenides.”

Sarvaduhka had read Parmenides. Also Ashvaghosa and Nagarjuna, late into the night, to avoid self-abuse. “Being is,” he said, “I know. Ohkay, two weeks, on speculation I may get some female action. But we include in these two weeks date of departure and date of arrival. Fourteen days complete package. And if this has anything to do with your psychic puphula, Izzy, as God is my witness, I’ll make your face look like a papadoum.”

“Seven times two, Ducky. Done deal. Your car or mine?”

His. Sarvaduhka had a VW squareback with rust so serious that at slow speeds you could stop it by dragging your foot on the pavement through the hole next to the clutch pedal (operated by a rope). Sarvaduhka loved his squareback. It was fuel efficient. It was venerable. He burned Agarbatti jasmine incense in the ashtray. On the dashboard he had a blue soapstone elephant with a dozen arms and a plush-bottomed shakti in its lap, resplendent with rhinestones and filigree. The shakti scissored the elephant’s pelvis with splendid, long legs as she fondled his tusks. She had arm bands. She had breasts.

Plus, Sarvaduhka wanted the home turf advantage. He didn’t like the way Izzy drove. Izzy picked up hitchhikers—on principle! The mad telepath picked up everything with a thumb and took them exactly where they wanted to go. Ducky gnashed his teeth. Izzy had them riding the undercarriage and dangling from the roof rack, serial murderers and hebephrenics. Once, outside Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, Izzy’d picked up a whole family of armadillo-eating hillbillies, five of them, aged one-and-a-half to seventy-eight, en route to Florida to lug melons for the big bucks, they’d heard.

Sarvaduhka didn’t like that. “This is a motel on wheels,” he’d complained. “If I had wanted like this, I would have stayed at the 3. At least there, I have my dirty videos.” That had been their last little bachelors’ vacation.

So he picked Izzy up in his Amor Vincit Omnia squareback with the Playboy bunny deodorizer and the soapstone Ganesha.

“You’re going to meet me driving this thing?” Fay said, handing Izzy a thermos of coffee through the shotgun window as Sarvaduhka flooded the engine.

Izzy wadded a jacket behind his bad back. “If I don’t, our whole sweet life together is a fiction, Feigeleh. Is there cream in this?”

Sarvaduhka let the engine rest. “Meet?? Fiction?? I don’t want to know what you’re talking about.”

“Izzovision,” Fay couldn’t help explaining.

“Izzovision!” Sarvaduhka spat. “This is Izzy’s way of gilding his disease into a talent. Psychic abilities! Izzy, I see the future also. I see your face turning into a papadoum.”

Izzy yawned. “I knew you were gonna say that, Duke,” he said. Fay laughed. “But we’re talking about the past here, not the future.”

“Being is,” growled Sarvaduhka, and he floored it.

“Be careful, Izzy!” Fay called after him.

“I was,” he said.

* * *

They were in Erie. They were in Cleveland. They were in Toledo, just like that. Sarvaduhka started to feel expansive. “Is Fay a hot number, Izzy?”

“Sizzling. Almost more than my sacrum can take.”

“I am of the belief that the females find me attractive, Izzy. I have attractive mustaches and thick hair, not just on my head, Izzy, but all over my tight little body. I will never be bald, as you are.”

“Sarv, that patch of skin is my antenna.”

Angola. Mongo. Lagrange, Indiana. “I thought it was that single eyebrow of yours, but I don’t want to talk about psychic baloney. I am talking about female action.”

“Ah, female action!”

“That is what my bachelors’ vacation is about. We have nearly completed one day, Izzy.”

“And no sign of action. Watch the road!”

Sarvaduhka leaned on the horn and shouted something in Hindi. From the left, a bright red Porsche had swerved in front of him en route to the exit ramp. Sarvaduhka slammed the brake pedal. The three-quarter-ton pickup just behind him did the same. The truck behind that one maneuvered to the left just in front of a couple of motorcycles, and they all blasted Sarvaduhka, who thought it was for the Porsche. “The red ones!” Sarvaduhka snarled. “Always the red ones! And did you see his face? No respect whatsoever.”

Izzy was grateful to be alive. “It was an elderly woman, Sarvaduhka, a volunteer hospice worker from Duluth, if you want to know. And you were crawling halfway in the exit-only lane.”

“Pull in your aerial, Izzy.”

“You pull in yours. You don’t know nothing about who’s in the other cars or what they’re thinking. Your projections are gonna get us killed. Pull over and give me the wheel. If I die here, I won’t ever have met my Fay”—who was now, by Izzovision, in Izzy’s unique understanding of “now,” strolling the salt flats near the Bonneville Speedway, deciding to desert the rat who took her there, the one before Iz.

“I’m not tired, for your information, and it was a teenaged boy. With a safety pin in his cheek. His left cheek.”

South Bend. La Porte. Gary. Izzy shrugged and readjusted the wadding under his lumbar. He pulled his shoes off. He snoozed.

* * *

Here’s what Fay had done.

(In deference to Izzy’s meschugge clock, to hedge the issue of chronological sequence, we’ll downshift here from pluperfect into the historical present, a non-committal tense…)

Fay is going into an East Tonawanda laundromat to use the change machine for her parking meter. In the laundromat, Fay meets a laid-off tour guide from Niagara Falls, down the road. He is carrying a double washer load of underwear to the industrial-size dryer. They collide. Her mother recently deceased, Fay is anxious to leave Tonawanda, where she has resided continuously since high school. He is on his way to Wendover, Utah, where he is convinced there are golden opportunities in the tourist trade. He manages to communicate this to Fay while she helps him pick up the scattered drawers. They make change together. A relationship ensues. She sells her car. They take off in his.

Things like that happen.

All this time, Izzy is eighty miles away in Rochester, losing two fingertips to a lathe machine at Paragon Revolute. But he is aware of everything. His bald spot itches. His palisade of an eyebrow wrinkles and dips. He knows what’s going on. He knows there is a Fay in store for him when this loser shows his cards.

* * *

Sarvaduhka was no fool. Izzy couldn’t tell him how to drive, nosirree. Zoom, boy, he’d bombed down the autobahn when he was twenty-two. He’d weaved through cabbies in Calcutta and Bombay and skidded along the Nepalese border on two wheels before following the venerable wing of his family into the North American hospitality racket. He knew what was on other drivers’ minds, boy: Dog eat dog.

Show no sign of weakness. The car following him from Minooka to Morris had a grill like a piranha. It was red. Sarvaduhka passed a mile marker and counted the seconds until the red piranha passed the same spot: one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mis… two-and-a-half seconds. “I knew it! Too close! Pup’hula!” he intoned, one of the three or four Sanskrit words by virtue of which he considered himself a savant—Fart!

Izzy snored. Sarvaduhka jammed the accelerator to the floor. The piranha dwindled in the rear view—Sarvaduhka chuckled and rubbed his shakti’s posterior—then roared up to kiss-butt distance again. “Damn!”

Drooling slightly, Izzy plumped his wadded jacket and settled into fetal position. Sarvaduhka squinted into the rear view. A woman driver, definitely. He craned his neck out the side to check her out in the West Coast mirror. Her windshield was tinted. Clever. Bet she hustles poker, too. He speeded up a little, then jabbed the brake pedal. SCREE! The piranha momentarily slowed, then came up even closer. “Mahapup’hula.’ Very big fart!

Izzy stirred. “Rowley Junction,” he muttered. “She dumps him in Rowley Junction. The bum’s making her pay the tab on all his coffees.” He rubbed the sand out of his eyes. “Ducky, we gotta be in Utah by Wednesday. What kind of time we making…?” Then he heard the roa ...

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