Tommy was sitting in an oversized red leather chair and looking at Dr. Leventhal shuffle folders on his desk. There was a brass nameplate on the desk, and two photos of the doctor’s kids and grandkids in two small gold metal frames.

“Tommy,” Dr. Leventhal said, “your X-rays show some shaded areas on your left lung that…with your history of smoking…” Tommy shifted in his chair. “I want you to go to Lenox Hill Hospital for an MRI of your chest so we can have a better image.”

Dr. Leventhal scribbled something on a pad of white paper, tore the sheet out, then folded it in half and slid it across the mahogany desk toward Tommy, like a magician fanning out a deck of playing cards.

Outside of the doctor’s office, Tommy pulled out a pack of Marlboros, put a cigarette in his mouth, and lit it halfway across Park Avenue.

“Tommy McCarthy,” the nurse yelled. (She was Spanish, maybe 30, wearing green surgical scrubs and a white smock patterned with different colored teddy bears.)

“Yeah, I’m Tommy,” he said as he raised his hand, then got up and walked over to the nurse. “Date of birth?” the nurse asked. “7/12/62,” Tommy said.

“You still have Blue Cross Blue Shield? You still at 131 Beach 120 in Rockaway? Still a foreman for S and G Carpentry and Drywall?”

“Yes,” Tommy said. “Metal implants, no screws, no pins, no….”

The nurse pulled back a beige curtain and handed Tommy a clear plastic bag. “Everything off except your underwear and socks. Gown open to the back.”

Tommy sat on a small, padded bench in his green hospital gown, staring down at the floor, trying not to think about lung cancer.

“Do you want music?” the nurse asked. “You know, headphones. The machine can get pretty noisy.”

“No, I’m good,” Tommy said.

She placed a small rubber ball in Tommy’s hand and gently squeezed his hand closed. “It’s a panic button if you need it. Try not to move. The whole thing will take about 20 minutes.” The gurney started slowly sliding into the opening of the large white plastic machine. Inside, it was dark. Tommy closed his eyes. At first, he felt a whirling sound like an airplane engine right before takeoff, then loud clanking and banging like a hammer on metal.


Amy climbed the old worn stone steps of the 17th Precinct.

“Can I help you?” the desk sergeant asked.

“I’d like to speak to a detective, please.” After a while, a large Spanish man in a pink button-down shirt with white cuffs came out from the back.

“I’m Detective Alvarez,” he said as he swung open the wooden gate. “This way. We can talk in the back.”

They sat down together at an old wooden table. “How can I assist you today, Miss Rosen?” Amy pushed her long blonde hair away from her face. “The whole thing is so gross and disgusting…”

When Amy was done, she had told the detective everything: how this construction worker in the new tower that’s being built on Lexington Avenue looks out from the tenth-floor window every day and masturbates while looking into women’s apartments, including Amy’s. Amy had shown Detective Alvarez some photos of the construction worker on her phone, taken from her bathroom window across the street.


“Pick up, Tommy. Pick up,” Mikey said on the radio.

“Go ahead, Mikey,” Tommy replied.

“Tommy, we got a problem down on dock one. The brickie says his truck is next on the hoist schedule; our truck is on Lexington, waiting. Charlie is going ape shit mo.”

“Copy that,” Tommy said. “En route, now.”

“10-4,” Mikey said.

Tommy ran down Staircase A, two steps at a time. His phone started ringing. “What’s up? This is Tommy,” he said.

“Tommy, it’s Dr. Leventhal. I have your results.” Tommy stopped running. He pulled his hard hat off and held it in his left hand.

“Fortunately, you don’t have lung cancer. Everything looks benign. But Tommy,” the doctor continued, “You should really think about quitting smoking, or at least cutting back.”

“Okay, Doc, I will. I really will.”

Tommy put his hard hat back on and kept going, two steps at a time.


Carl was standing in an empty room on the tenth floor. He unzipped his pants and squirted some sunscreen into the palm of his hand.


“One more, guys?” Cindy, the bartender, asked.

“No, thanks, Cindy,” Tommy said. “We gotta get back to work.”

Tommy pulled his hard hat off the bar. He and Mikey were walking up Broadway when two Jehovah’s Witnesses handed Mikey a pamphlet. Mikey waved one of them away with his hand like he was brushing sawdust off a table saw. “Have a blessed day,” she said. Mikey stopped and spun around. “Don’t tell me what kind of day to have. I’ll have whatever kind a fucking day I want to have.”

“She’s just doing her job,” Tommy said.

“You’d think they get paid to break my balls, mo,” Mikey laughed.

They were walking through the gate and up the hoist deck when Tommy saw George, the cigarette guy, standing next to a rolling suitcase filled with untaxed cartons of cigarettes. “$40 a carton. Two cartons for $70,” George yelled. “Two Marlboro Red,” Tommy said.

Mikey came up behind Tommy and grabbed Tommy’s arm. “You hear, Tommy, you hear?”

“Hear what,” Tommy said.

“Carl, the electrician. The cops busted him jerking off on the tenth floor, mo. Looking out the window into some broad’s apartment, mo.”

“No shit,” Tommy said. “Carl, the electrician.”

“Yup,” said Mikey, laughing. “Cops are bringing him down the hoist right now, mo.”

“What a dick,” Mikey said. “I ride the train in with Carl every morning.”

“Oh, man. He’s fucked,” Tommy said.

“Plain English, mo, plain English,” Mikey said.