A number of years ago, I happen to witness an interesting event in a bar that I frequented. The Headquarters was a dive, a dump, or whatever else you would call a place so dimly lit, that everything appeared to be grey. This was done to hide the peeling wallpaper saturated with cigarette smoke, rarely swept floors, and torn vinyl bar stools that surrounded an oblong wooden bar that filled most of the front room. The back room was up two steps to the right and housed the one toilet bathroom that never locked but always ran, worsely worn bar stools, and two pinball machines that didn’t work resulting in broken glass.
The owner and bartender was one Joe Baron, an overblown, overstuffed, balding man who, despite his red blotchy puffiness, was cheating on his wife with Christine, a blond-haired, blue-eyed barmaid that was a 10 on everyone’s scale. Joe was loathed by us all and yet envied at the same time. One night, the door swings open, and everyone looks up momentarily to see an older man, wearing a wool overcoat despite the mild spring weather. We watch as he sits and orders two double shots of rye whiskey and downs them quickly, slamming the empty glasses on the bar and then ordering two more.
“Slow down, buddy” Joe says. “What’s the problem?”
“You don’t want to hear it,” the old guy says.
“Sure I do. Just take it easy.”
“Okay,” the old guy says. “I’m gonna tell you something, and show you
something…my son, Johnny, my only son, has a brain tumor.”
With that, everyone within earshot “ohs.”
“I don’t have health insurance, none, and the doctor, his doctor, is demanding
$12,000 to do the surgery. He says I can pay $8,000 of it after
the surgery is completed. But I don’t have twelve thousand dollars.”
“I’m sorry, buddy” Joe says. “I wish I could help you.”
“Maybe you can. Do you know a jeweler?”
“Yeah,” Joe says. “I know a few.”
“Okay” the old guy says. “Look at these.” He reached into his pocket and pulls out a small purple, velvet bag. He loosens the string and pours several of what look like diamonds on to the bar.
“I smuggled them in years ago from Bulgaria, but I’ve got no papers and I’m afraid to bring them to anyone. I can’t afford to get locked up.”
“What do you want me to do?” Joe asked.
“I want you to buy them from me. They are worth easy $20,000. I will sell them to you for $12,000.”
“I don’t know diamonds from cut glass,” Joe says. “How can I buy them?”
“I understand that. You take them to your jeweler friends. If they tell you they are worth $20,000, you bring me $12,000 tomorrow night.”
“Man,” Joe says. Me and my friends could already see the dollars in his eyes.
“Okay,” he says.
“But you have to have the cash here tomorrow for me. My son needs that surgery and I can’t afford to waste time.”
“Okay. It’s a deal.” The two of them shook hands. The old man put the diamonds back into the velvet bag and hands it to Joe. He then shuffled out the door. Joe put the diamonds in his pants pocket. All of us shouted, “are you crazy?”
“What have I got to lose?”