The kittens purred and wisped around Vadim’s legs as he bagged out his bundles. An endorphin-releasing routine that kept his business running. Weighing them out, bagging them, vacuum sealing, then his favorite part: labeling them with a sharpie. Vadim knew from a young age he wouldn’t be a suited corpse on the F train reading the paper as the sun rose. Vadim much preferred to sleep until noon.
He treated weed distribution more professionally than most entrepreneurs treated their legal enterprises. For his attention to detail–labeled sacks that didn’t reek, for instance–for his discretion, and for his refusal to palter his customers, Vadim was awarded the contract of dealing to Brooklyn’s Orthodox community.
“Rief de Ukraynisher” was the answer every Hasid gave when asked for a good weed connection. Monday through Friday–and even a few calls Friday night after dark–Vadim placed a skullcap on his graying hair to help him blend in with the clientele. In the trunk of his car, he stored his surplus supply; and in a hidden compartment underneath the gear shift, he loaded dozens of sealed FoodSaver envelopes, filled with different sizes and strains.
Most of his customers were friendly guys. Young yeshiva men in black hats, pooling money to buy a quarter-ounce. Husbands and wives devouring eighths when the kids were finally asleep. Elderly store owners, with still-faltering English, cordially negotiating for better deals. And wedding parties… oy, the wedding parties. Loud, drunk, celebrating young men, offering him whiskey and inviting him in to join the festivities. Some customers were cantankerous. Hasidic youths who somehow got his number bullied him on occasion to sell to them or they’ll call the police. Unforbearing phone terrorists, bombing his cell with calls and texts asking how much longer, and general fools, who made him wait, who gave him bad directions, or those who started asking for favors or other drugs.
“Don’t worry about them,” the diminutive Hasidic lawyer, Duvid Yankev Hirsch–or Dudel–assured him. “Don’t sell to kids, and I will make sure nobody in the community makes trouble for you. You might see things unbecoming of Chasidishe people, but don’t talk about nothing to anyone. If somebody gossips about someone you know, don’t repeat it. As long as you are my friend, nobody will bother you and threats will remain empty.”
Vadim had been selling to Dudel for a year when Dudel had asked whether he could pass Vadim’s number to friends. It was that day Dudel gave him the pep talk about selling to his Hasidic neighbors. Dudel was impressed with Vadim’s work ethic. It had been over ten years ago that Vadim was given the honor. His business went from minor to booming, he had to buy property with tenants to justify his income. Of course, Dudel was still a dear friend and client, who helped keep his income looking legitimate. Vadim roamed Borough Park meeting customers. He’d occasionally stop to refill his secret compartment. Leibel worked at an old folks day care center in Seagate. On his lunch break, Leibel would take a ride with Vadim to East Twenty-third by the water. Together they fed the stray cats and Vadim filled the orders of Leibel and Leibel’s aging patients, who’d been introduced to vaporizing.
“Vadim, I gave your number to my friend Shlomo.”
“Ok, he is good friend of yours?”
“Yeah, and he’ll become a good friend of yours too. He is the personal driver for the Yozlovitzer rebbe; have you heard of him?”
“Well… no. He is important?”
“Most of your clients are his followers. He is revered by Jews worldwide. Anyway, Shlomo and the rest of the entourage are looking for a dealer in Brooklyn. I thought you could help. He’ll call you later on with directions.”
Later that evening Shlomo called. Vadim was asked to bring samples of his current product. He was also asked not to wear anything offensive. Arriving at the destination, an old house being refashioned into a bes-medrash, Vadim was met jovially by Shlomo. They walked to a back room and met the elderly rebbe sitting at his desk, surrounded by his entourage.
“I toked hash for decades,” the rabbi greeted him. “I bought it from the cantor in my shul in Monsey. Unfortunately, he was niftar last year and we’ve been forced to deal with teenagers selling oregano.”
“That is a common problem.”
“I refused to ever meet any of our old dealers. Shlomo’s friend says you practice discretion. Also that you vacuum seal your product so it won’t smell up my vehicles and what not. Two things our former suppliers found trouble with.”
Vadim presented his briefcase to the rebbe.
“I can assure you what I see stays with me, rebbe. All my product comes sealed in FoodSaver bags. A gram for twenty dollars, two-point-three grams for fifty, eighths for sixty, a quarter ounce for one-twenty, and ounces and pounds depending on growers’ prices.”
“Do you put your shittier quality weed in the eighths and quarter-ounces?” the rebbe demanded. “Be honest, I am looking out for this now!”
“No, rebbe, never. I put all the product I have in all sizes for the same price. Although I’ll do quarter ounces for a hundred if you take them regularly.”
“What kind of product do you have now?”
“I have real New York Sour Diesels, AK-47, and Bubblegum Haze.”
“Oy, fahr meine tzures!” the Rabbi moaned. ”Everybody says they have New York Sours, but they never do! How can I be sure?”
“I buy straight from growers. I don’t buy from brokers who rename product. My stuff is grown and shipped to me from the same people I’ve been dealing with for years.”
Vadim revealed three joints and some small samples to pass around. The men removed pipes from their pockets and began tasting the different strains. The old rebbe sparked the joint and passed it to Vadim, who passed it to a fat man standing beside him.
“Puff, puff, pass!” The old rebbe commanded.
The men chattered in Yiddish as they smoked from each other’s devices, never forgetting to pass to the old rebbe. Although Vadim couldn’t understand them, he could tell by their glazed, red eyes that they were impressed. With his own eyes now dark halos, drooping and rouged, the old rebbe turned to Vadim.
“Vadim, you ever get weed from British Columbia?”
“Once in a while, a truck comes in.”
“Let me know when. I want an ounce or two for myself.”
The rebbe and his crew purchased several quarter ounces and was reminded to save Vadim’s number. Vadim got up to go, as the men bickered over who to order munchies from. The rebbe called Vadim over and whispered to him:
“I give you the blessing of a long life and good fortune. Despite the risks of what you do, you choose to be a mensch. I believe Shlomo’s friend was right, you are one of the few honest people left in this community.”
“Thank you, rebbe, I am flattered! Although–” Vadim hesitated, then said more softly, “I am not in your community.”
“No, you are our community. I am sure you’ve been called to deliver on Shabbos. Or to a cuckolding wife and her boyfriend in some motel. I’m sure you’ve seen the worst of us. Yet since this is your livelihood you keep quiet and go about your day. For that I give you a blessing. For all those trembling people out there, you know which ones are liars. You know something even the most pious man could not know of his peers.”
Shlomo walked Vadim to the back door.
“It’s funny, people donate thousands of dollars for an audience with the rebbe. Thousands more for a blessing! And to think, he paid you for the opportunity!” Shlomo laughed.
“How much do you think people would pay to get to smoke with him?”
Vadim drove home, pondering the rebbe’s blessing. He looked at the Hasidic families streaming in and out of Goldberg’s. He never thought about the compromising situations he’d walked in on when he was called to re-up. Even though he was Jewish, it never fazed him when Hasidic clients called on Friday night. Sometimes to underground parties. Each of these people trusting in Vadim not to share their secrets on a laminated affiche, taped to a pole on Thirteenth Avenue. They knew he wouldn’t report who hooked up with whom, or was an atheist, or which of the neighborhood men were friends with Dorothy–the sultry Russian brunette who lived alone one block from the Bobover shul. A mother tugging her harvest of children crossed the street in front of his waiting car. Vadim smiled to himself and chuckled.
“Someday, I’ll know her kids better than she will.”Printable Version