sat at my computer, staring at the Apple Web site, wishing I had the
money to buy one of the brand-spanking-new iPads.
This was the machine that
convinced Amazon to switch its model of dealing with publishers. This
was the future of e-books. This was going to save the cookies of
And I couldn’t afford one.
I was so engrossed in reading
the tech specs of the new miracle machine that I realized I wasn’t
alone only when a surge of expensive men’s cologne invaded my nostrils.
“Nice iPad!” It was the voice
of my plumber, Sam.
I spun around in my chair. “What
the devil are you doing, walking in—”
Sam stood grinning. He was
dressed in a perfectly tailored tux. I’d never seen him wear anything
but stained T-shirts, filthy blue jeans, and work boots the size of
Montana. Normally, his hair is a tangled helmet of wolfish fur. Today,
it looked like one of these $200 haircuts Bill Clinton made famous.
“What . . . what happened to
you?” I looked up and down at Sam’s new getup.
“I can explainify, but it’s a
kinda long story.”
I pointed at his spiffy haircut.
Puzzlement shrouded Sam’s face.
“Don’t know that I’d call it nice. I had that swine flu thingie a month
ago, but I ain’t coughed in a week.”
“Coif.” I pronounced it
carefully so it sounded like kwof. “Your haircut.
It looks good on you.”
Sam rolled his eyes. “Lookit,
sometimes I can’t understand a thing you say, but never mind. I just
come by to let you know I won’t be working for you no more.” His eyes
fastened on the iPad on my screen. “Oh, hey, you getting one of them
too? I got mine the day they come out. Igor convinced me.”
This flurry of information left
my head spinning. Sam was quitting the plumbing business? He had an
iPad already? And who the heck was Igor? “You’ve lost me.”
“I ain’t surprised. You never
was too quick on the uptake. Whatcha want me to explainify first?”
“Let’s start with Igor. Is he
your new employee?”
Sam shrugged. “Not exactly new,
but yeah, he works fer me. Mostly he’s my driver, but also my
I pulled back the curtain and
looked outside. My driveway is about thirty yards long, and most of it
was filled with an enormous Hummer limo—the kind my kids and I laugh at
whenever we see one because it’s just too ridiculous.
Pacing back and forth in front
of the Hummer was a large man with a heavy, Slavic face, smoking a
cigarette. A thick bulge under his jacket near his heart told me he was
packing some serious heat.
Somehow, I didn’t laugh. “Um,
wow, Sam, looks like the plumbing business has done pretty well for
you. You’ve got to replace an awful lot of twenty-dollar washers to
lease a Hummer like that.”
“Lease?” Sam said in an
offended tone. “Leasing’s for sissies. I bought it. Cash.”
I stared at him, trying to
figure out how he could afford a beast like that, plus a
bodyguard-driver. Sam’s never been one to fear overcharging, but even
at a thousand bucks per toilet, something still wasn’t adding up.
I leaned back in my chair and
squinted at Sam. “So . . . you said you were quitting working for me?”
He grinned again. “Yup, I’m
retired from plumbing now, all thanks to my barrister. And you,
“Barrister? Me?” For a minute,
I wondered if maybe the swine flu had addled Sam’s brains. It was
entirely possible. Based on past experience, addling his brains could
only be an improvement. And there was no doubt about it—something had
done a pretty good makeover on Sam.
“Yeah, you.” Sam ran a beefy
finger under his collar. “Now I ain’t never been the jealous type, but
I can’t help but notice that you sit here all day getting rich typing,
while honest guys go broke getting their hands dirty.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I ain’t
jealous and I don’t grudge you none of that, even if it ain’t fair. But
I finally decided that there had to be a easier way to make a living
than fixing things and I decided to join ya.” He grinned at me as if
that explainified it.
“Um, right. But what’s this
about a barrister?”
Sam whipped out his iPad. In his
enormous hands, it looked as tiny as an iPhone. “Here, I’ll just
forward you this e-mail. It’ll explainify everything.” He thumped away
at the screen for two full minutes. “Oops, looks like I ain’t got 3G
access here. I guess you’re in a dead zone. You mind letting me into
your WiFi network?”
“You have a 3G iPad?” I
couldn’t help but shout. “That’s impossible! They’re not even out yet.”
Sam shook his head. “Well, I
guess if you buy it in a store, no, they ain’t out yet. But if a feller
has enough money, there’s ways to get one early. Anyways, I can’t send
ya this e-mail unless you tell me your network password.”
“Sorry, I don’t give that out.
Security, you know.”
“No problem,” Sam said. “I know
all about them security problems. Which reminds me, will you help me
out when that feller from Dodge calls? I give him yer name as a
“Dodge?” I said, trying to
remember who made Hummers. I didn’t think it was Dodge or any other
part of Chrysler. As usual, Sam wasn’t making any sense.
“It’s part of my cuperation,”
“Well, I’m glad you’ve
recuperated, but I don’t see what that has to do with Dodge or anything
gave me a pitying look. “Look, just cause you ain’t got the sense God
gave a banana slug don’t mean you can’t help out a friend. Will you put
in a good word fer me when the feller calls?”
“I . . . whatever. Send me the
e-mail and I’ll let you know.”
grinned and thumped me so
hard on my shoulder, I thought he might have dislocated it. “Thanks!
I’ll just mosey on my way, then. When I get out of this 3G dead zone,
I’ll send you that e-mail. It’ll explainify everything.”
watched him stump out the door
and down the walk. Igor snapped to attention, saluted Sam, and scurried
to open the door of the Hummer. A minute later, they were gone.
I checked my e-mail every ten
seconds until Sam’s e-mail came through.
The subject line said:
Fwd: BARRISTER STEPHENN OLIVER
FAROUK REQUESTS YOUR ATTENTTION
My stomach felt like somebody
had poured hot lead in it. Please, please, please no.
I scanned the contents of the forwarded letter:
For your kind attention,
REQUEST FOR MUTUALLY BENEFITTING
I humbly crave your indulgence
in sending you this mail, if the contents does not meet with your
personal and business ethics, I appologise in advance.
I am BARRISTER STEPHENN OLIVER
FAROUK ( attorney at law). I represent Ali Ishmaeli Hazzani estates.
Ali Ishmaeli Hazzani was the chief security advicer of the then
military leader of this country (Nigeria) in the person of Late General
Rabu Zuhedi who died on the 13th of June 2003. With the advent of a new
democratic dispensation in the country under the leadership of Gen.
Alwaani Israhim (Rtd), my client has come under severe persecutions due
to the sensitive position he held in the last military regime,
presently he is under house arrest restricted only to the confines of
I dialed Sam’s cell phone.
He answered right away. “So did
that e-mail explainify things?”
“Sam, please tell me you didn’t
fall for one of those Nigerian scams. Tell me you didn’t quit your
business, buy a Hummer, and hire a bodyguard because you thought you’re
going to get fifty million dollars. Tell me—”
Sam cut me off. “No, I ain’t
done none of those things. What kinda ninny do you take me for?”
“Then . . . why’d you send me
this e-mail?” I asked.
“Did ya read all the way to the
“Um . . . no.” I continued
scanning the e-mail. There was the usual nonsense about $33.6 million
(USD) in a vault in the Central Bank of Nigeria, about to be
confisticated by the government unless claimed by a suitable US
partner. Finally, I reached the final sentence:
Should this proposition be of
interest to you, you can reach me through my e-mail address so that I
can explainify the rudiments of this endevour.
Cold sweat sprang out on my
back. “Sam? Did you write this letter?”
“Edited it. I figgered it was a
good letter, but it wasn’t quite grammatified right, and if a feller
like you could make buckets of cash fer doing nothing but typing, then
I could too.”
“Sam, you’re in a boatload of
trouble.” A lightning bolt of inspiration hit me. “And by the way, how
do you spell Dodge?”
Static crackled over the line
but Sam’s voice rode right over the top of it. “If you can’t figger
that out, maybe you ain’t the right feller to help me out. Maybe you
been scamming me all this time, holding yerself out to be a bigshot
“By any chance, do you spell it
D-O-J? As in Department of Justice?”
Sam sighed with relief. “I guess
you ain’t as dumb as you look. So you’ll put in a good word fer me with
the feller from Dodge? He says if I cuperate with him, he can maybe get
me off light.”
“I’ll tell him the truth. I’ll
tell him you’re a complete idiot and you had no idea what you were
“Yer a friend. And a decent
feller, I don’t care what everyone else says about you, which is
* * *
The next day, a package arrived
via uniformed courier.
My daughter signed for it and
brough it into my office. “This is weird,” she said. “It has your name
spelled wrong, and there’s no return address. Think it might be a
I shrugged my shoulders and was
rewarded with a surge of pain where Sam had thumped me. “I’ll risk it.”
I unwrapped the package. Inside
was a brand-new iPad, the 3G version still not available in stores.
My daughter squealed when she
saw it. “Daddy, I can’t believe it! I Who do you think sent this to
I massaged my aching shoulder.
“I guess we’ll never explainify it.”