The Great Ratski

Short Story by Robert Riche

THE GREAT RATSKI (abridged version of the much hailed and over-rated Jazz Age novel)

When I was very young my father gave me a bit of advice. “Always wear a condom when you’re doing it,” he said. That was all that he said, but it was a bit of advice that has served me well over the years, and I have carried a Trojan in my wallet ever since.
I come from an esteemed Kansas family whose origins go back to frontier days when my great great grandfather, renowned as a bounty hunter, entertained dinner guests dangling Indian scalps he had collected from the massacre at Wounded Knee. So when I moved east to New York a few years ago it was fitting that I should take a position with an esteemed Wall St. brokerage firm where I recall with some amusement how we managed to royally screw our customers.

Accustomed as I was to corn and hay and the discreet charms of a few compliant sheep, renting an apartment in New York city held little appeal. As a result, I took up residence on the North Shore of Long Island in an unassuming gatekeepers house once owned by a Russian diplomat called back to the U.S.S.R. and hung, as I later learned , for bourgeois revisionism.

The cottage was cute and rent to the Supreme Soviet was reasonable. Most interestingly, and unbelievably, it was situated between two multi-billion dollar estates, one of which was inhabited by a third cousin of mine, Magnolia, and the other by the gentleman whose name is given to the title of this memoir. Irving Ratski.

Magnolia was a stunning belle of the gracious old South whom I had kept in touch with over the years as she had very good connections to clubs full of snobs with money whom I spent a lot of time sucking around. One of the snobs was a girl named Gorgon Dicker who may have been suffering from a spinal affliction, since she kept her face turned up parallel to the ceiling whenever she spoke. Which was fine with me because I was usually fooling around below her waist with one of my father’s gift packets.

On the other side of my little shack lived Ratski, a drug dealer connected to the mob who years before when he was a penniless soldier had met Magnolia and gotten to know her quite well on the floor of her parents’ livingroom. He had fallen hopelessly in love with her, and my unexpected presence as a new neighbor offered an opportunity to take up again with her in hopes of persuading her to run off from her husband and child, and settle down with him on a heroin plantation in the jungles of Colombia.

Every weekend Ratski gave wild parties at his massive mansion with the intended object of showing off how rich he had become since his penniless soldier days. Though his habit of slapping male guests on the back with a hearty “How they hangin’, old chum,” did not put him immediately on the fast track for Magnolia’s affections.

It was while he was away in the army and getting shot at that Magnolia decided to keep up her exalted standard of living by marrying a rich Yalee oaf and internationally known polo player by the name of Pug Whifflefinger. Shortly after the wedding a horse that Whifflefinger was whipping kicked him in the groin, resulting in a post-honeymoon passion for fly fishing and singing soprano.

Ratski’s expectations were moving along swimmingly until one day when Magnolia was showing off her ability to drive no-hands while singing “We’re in the Money” she drove his car over a garageman’s wife without stopping. In order to cement his favor with her, Ratski immediately assumed blame for the deed hardly imagining the ugly consequence when the garageman pulled a nine millimeter Baretta and blew him away just as he was executing a swan dive into his swimming pool.

Meanwhile, Magnolia found all of this utterly and terribly boring, and took off for Monaco with the odious Whifflefinger leaving me and a couple of Ratski’s drug trafficking friends to bury him in a hole we dug under one of his tennis courts. The three of us bowed our heads while one of the gangsters offered up a small prayer.

The big houses closed up at the end of that summer and living by myself with only Gorgon Dicker to fool around with I felt lonely. Consequently, I skipped a dinner date with her and took the train back to Kansas and the welcoming charms of the old sheepfold.

My last night in the East I stood on the fourth green of Ratski’s golf course that looked across the water at a light on Magnolia’s dock. I thought to myself how wonderful it all is, America, everybody rowing a boat upstream and seeking wealth and power and new variations of the martini. It had been a wonderful year, (not so good for Ratski), and there would come a time when I would go back to my old Wall St. firm amusing myself once more by screwing clients.