As Babak walked down East Tremont Avenue in the direction of a great commotion, his son Navid's voice reverberated within him. "Work every minute you're getting paid, puertoriqueños," Navid had yelled through his megaphone, standing atop a heap of rubbish gutted from a fire-damaged row house in Castle Hill. Navid, who had only been in charge of the family business—Bronx Bob's Housing Development—for three weeks, had become furious at five of the day-workers on site. "You think you can fuck around on my watch because I'm Babak's boy. Let me tell you it's no more mister nice man." The ten minutes of break time per hour did not appeal to Navid, a much more captious boss than Babak had ever been. Babak had overheard the rant last Friday when he came to drop off the lunch that Atefeh occasionally prepared.
Without the job to fill his time, Babak's daily ritual now involved watching the BBC world news on satellite TV, taking long, wandering lunches, and buying marijuana for Atefeh at the local laundromat in the late afternoon. His old business, too, never fully left his mind: he was always keeping one eye speculating for new land and the other eye on Navid's behavior.
Babak ducked inside Omar's Laundromat. He saw a kid go up and buy a soda. That was how Omar had sold pot to Babak too at the beginning—asking Babak if he wanted that to-go, and then tossing the eighth inside the brown paper bag, next to a cold can of Coke. Now Omar just gave Babak a hug each time he came in, and dropped it in Babak's shirt's front pocket.
"How is Atefeh?" Omar asked, patting Babak's shoulder.
"Because of you, she's ok," Babak responded.
"I've got better stuff coming this afternoon," Omar muttered near his ear. "Come back the usual time."
Outside, the crowd had swelled, and Babak wandered closer to investigate. There was a long line of people leading to the doors of Santiago Brothers Funeral Home. News trucks and limousines came into view. Babak stopped in front of a pizza shop, which had its radio blaring: "...four hundred pound rapper... fatal heart attack... to rest this afternoon... all Big Dane all day..." A woman hanging out in front of the pizza joint wore a black bandana soaked through with sweat, and chugged a plastic packet of grape drink; she smelled vaguely of the drink but also of sawdust. A sign in the distance read "We'll miss you, Big Dane." The name sounded familiar, Big Dane, Big Dane, and Babak wondered if it was someone his son listened to. Maybe it was even one of those American celebrities whose face had for many years stared ominously from a glossy poster in Navid's childhood room.
Because there was no other demand on his time, Babak decided to get in line for what he assumed would be a chance to view the open casket. No one would mind, he thought, as the service seemed open to the general public. Maybe he would recognize Big Dane. If he did, he could tell his son. Lately they hadn't seen eye-to-eye on things. They argued over when to purchase and when to hold, and Navid didn't want his father's advice on how to negotiate with the City Zoning Councils. "Real Persians don't settle," Navid had told him, "they fight until they get what they want." All Babak could say was, "Do real Persians laugh at foolish comments?"
Babak was happy with his choice to join the crowd, even after the first twenty minutes in line, the unveiled sun heating his scalp through his wisps of combed-over hairs. He still liked following the events of the neighborhoods he had helped to build. Even back when he was working eighty-hour weeks, he'd put in his two hours at an annual tree-planting fundraiser in the junior high school courtyard. He had considered himself an honest, earnest man, one who talked the talk, and also walked the walk—an expression that he had taken an early liking to in his American English education.