‘What’s today?’ asks Moishel.
Moishel’s real name is Larry. However, as a born-again Jew, he decided to change his name to something more in line with his newfound Jewish faith. After little thought and no lack of absurdity, he settled on Moishel, the name of the Hasid plumber his father employed back in the day.
‘Today’s Saturday, dummy,’ scolds Bob in a hostile, yet childlike manner.
Bob’s real name is Ronald, as in Ronald Regan, as in his father, the mostly comatose, barely breathing man lying between the two quarreling men was and still is a zealous Republican. Ronald, a born-again Rastafarian (although he was never a Rastafarian to begin with), named himself after Bob Marley, his most beloved reggae singer of all time.
‘It can’t be Saturday. I’m thinking it’s Tuesday. Doesn’t it smell like a Tuesday?’ Moishel sucks air in through his wide flaring nostrils. ‘I smell cheese.’ A few more sniffs. ‘Yeah definitely cheese. American to be exact.’
‘Smells like Tuesday? Man, you don’t know the first thing about what Tuesday smells like. Cheese? American cheese? You just saying that cause dad is right here and you trying to be all patriotic. But regardless of that, today is Saturday. Saturday smells like apple juice. Smell that, Moish. Take it in. Like an orchard up in here. Fact, man. That’s a fact. Apple juice.’
‘Cheese!’ Moishel screams, pressing his heavily stomached body over the withered old man at the center of the bed.
‘Apple juice!’ Bob screams back, also pressing his heavily stomached body over the withered old man at the center of the bed.
‘Shut the hell up, you morons!’ The old man, their father, a wizened little thing, no hair, big schnoz, mottled face and Ray Ban sunglasses because his eyes are too sensitive to the light and besides you’re never too old to wear Ray Bans, shoots up his arms and smacks each of his blubbering sons against the cheek, a surprisingly adept maneuver considering his near paralyzed state.
‘It’s Sunday, you fuckin’ morons. Sunday. I know that and I only leave this bed to shit and piss if I can even make it to the bathroom on time. Goddamn, how the hell are you idiots the product of my seed. Yes, that’s it. It has to be. I blame it on your mothers. They both must’ve been genetic mutants. Jesus H. Christ, I’m sorry I just fornicated with these women for their beauty and nothing else. Lord Jesus, please take my life already, take me from my idiot sons.’
‘See I told you it was Sunday. Idiot,’ Bob boasts, sticking his tongue out to punctuate his latent rightness.
‘Wrong! I told you it was Sunday. The whole time. You never listen to me,’ Moishel blurts out, leaning his body farther over the bed. Absent-mindedly, he applies his meaty hand against the feeble old man’s body.
‘Get the fuck off of me you stupid piece of shit my goddamn hip you’re crushing it. YOU’RE CRUSHING IT!’
‘Oh man, pops, my bad. I didn’t mean to do that. I swear, I didn’t mean it.’
‘My shitty goddamn hip. Jesus. You idiot. Damn. I should never have gotten that hip replacement. Should’ve never listened to that bastard doctor. Nothing was wrong with my real hips. Nothing goddamn whatsoever.’
‘See dad, told you there was something wrong with Moishel. Something definitely wrong with him. You know what, it’s probably those fake Hasid curls he clipped to his hair. They getting in the way of his brain waves.’ Bob chortles, clutching his stomach and aggressively clapping his father on the shoulder.
‘First of all, they’re called payos. Moron! Second of all, I wouldn’t talk. You wear that stupid Rastafarian hat with the fake dreadlocks. What kind of idiot wears a hat with fake dreadlocks attached to it? It looks like your head is taking a shit! BAhahah, your head’s got diarrhea!’
Even the old man can’t suppress his laughter. For all his two sons combined possess the meager intelligence of a gnat, they can, on occasion, conjure up some pretty funny shit to say.
‘You’re a fake Jew!’
‘You’re a fake Rastafarian!’
‘Doo doo Jew Jew!’
‘Boys,’ the old man yells in interjection, ‘get the fuck out of my room already. I’d rather shit myself than spend another waking minute with you two monsters.’
‘Pops likes me more,’ Moishel says, pulling his matzah ball soup from the microwave.
‘Nuh uh. Dad likes me more. I’m his favorite. Not you. Me. Not you,’ Bob says, stabbing his fork into the Jerk chicken. He raises the thigh to his mouth and tears off a bite. The Jerk spice smears across his lips, chin, cheeks, nose, and somehow his forehead.
‘Likes me more!’ declares Moishel, filling the spoon with broth and flinging it at Bob.
‘Likes me more!’ declares Bob, firing off a chicken bone. ‘Ha, got you in your fat stupid face.’
‘No way! You totally missed me by a mile.’
‘Then what’s that black spot on your face. You wipe your ass with your cheek again!’
‘Wait wait wait,’ Moishel utters all of a sudden, ‘turn the TV up. Alice Hutchinson is on!’
‘Oh man, Alice is on. I love Alice. She’s my favoritest NY 1 reporter ever in the world.’
Bob lowers his throwing arm and reaches to turn the volume up, mindlessly smearing the volume knob with chicken grease.
Equally silent and motionless Moishel and Bob are enraptured by Alice Hutchinson. In an aroused response to the sudden appearance of the short, stocky, red haired NY 1 reporter, Moishel rams his finger up his nose and Bob sandwiches his hands between his butt and the chair. Each is vibrating with absolute, unrestricted joy.
‘Fort Greene is now one of Brooklyn’s hippest and trendiest neighborhoods,’ Alice says against a backdrop of an elegant row of brownstones. ‘Over the years the neighborhood has changed from violent and crime-ridden neighborhood to popular cultural and culinary destination. This historically African-American neighborhood was at times home to some of America’s most famous cultural icons, from Walt Whitman and Richard Wright to Chris Rock, Spike Lee and Roise Perez. In fact, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, located right behind me, even played an important role as a stop along the Underground Railroad.’
‘But the positive changes have been accompanied by some potential negative ones as well. Gentrification has led to a measurable increase in rent for both residents and businesses. Research shows that rent for two bedroom apartments is, on average, in excess of two thousand dollars a month. Older residents of the neighborhood lament the increase in rent prices, some of whom I spoke with earlier, telling me that even as short as ten years ago, rent was cheap and affordable. However, with new luxury developments in the area sprouting up, boasting modern elegant names like The Empyrean and Beam, it does not seem like rent prices are set to drop anytime soon.’
‘Oh my god,’ Moishel says flinging his head over to face a fully engrossed Bob, ‘are you thinking what I’m thinking?’
‘How much you’d like to smear cream cheese and berries all over Alice Hutchinson’s body?’
‘No, you putrid asshole.’ Moishel claps the palm of his hand against his forehead. ‘Dad’s building in Fort Greene. You know, the one we just so happen to be the supers of and will one day inherit when dad dies?’
‘Don’t talk about dad dying!” shrieks Bob in horror of the nightmarish thought of his father passing on from this world and into the next, which, ever since he was a kid, he’s always imagined to look like Coney Island.
‘I’m not talking about pops dying, dummie. I’m talking about money. Raking it in like leaves on a fall day. Moolah, Bob. Dinero. You heard Alice. All these yuppies and hipsters, or whatever she was calling them. They are paying like thousands of dollars a month to live in Fort Greene. It’s this gerniferfrication thing she was talking about. Rich people with loot willing to pay whatever it takes to be hip and cool.’
‘What are you talking about Moishel? You’re drooling like a maniac. You see, I told you that being Jewish is like that rabies disease. All it makes you think about is matzah balls and money.’
‘And what’s wrong with money, Bob? What do you think bought you that fancy watch of yours? And that stupid Halie Selassie gold necklace? And those idiotic sneakers you’re wearing.’
‘It’s not the same,’ Bob rushes to say in defense of his recent purchases of awesomeness. ‘Besides, I just like spending it, not making it. That’s what dad is for. He’s the real estate genius around here. Not you, and definitely not me.’
‘Well, it’s about time we change that my dimwitted half-brother.’ A sinister smile stretches across Moishel’s face. To the best of his overweight ability, he jumps out of his seat and leaps across the kitchen, nearly stepping on the cat, Ms. Posnell. He presses the button to open the garage and leaves through the back door.
‘What are you doing?’ Bob asks in a simultaneous state of anxiety and merriment. ‘How do you plan on making any money off of dad’s building in Fort Greene?’
‘The name,’ Moishel reveals, his voice fading as he disappears out of the house. ‘It’s all in the name.’
Back in the kitchen a half hour later and Moishel is triumphantly displaying his most brilliant achievement to date: an irregularly shaped piece of wood upon which he carved three words.
‘The Hyp Replacement?’ asks Bob, scratching his head.
‘The Hyp Replacement,’ repeats Moishel, grinning widely, nodding his head knowingly. ‘The new and improved name of dad’s building in Fort Greene. You heard Anne, talking about those luxury new buildings with fancy names that get to charge those high rents. Well, Bob, welcome to The Hyp Replacement.’
‘But you saying hip. Why’d you write it like that?’
‘Man, you know nothing about marketing. Hyp, Bob. H-Y-P. It’s Old English for hip. We’re in the big leagues now. No more messin’ around.’
Bob angles his ass up and lets one rip. ‘Then let’s get ready to rumble,’ he says, cracking himself up. Moishel can’t help but join in.