Frankie Calumbo was roommates with Max Luftspring for three years in University. They met as Freshman and shared a room together in residence. It was an interesting relationship, Frankie was from a gregarious and large Italian family, and Max was an only child. His parents were lovely people but they were more on the introverted side.

As Max and Frankie got to know one another they discovered that even though they were raised by different types of families, they shared much in common. There was a ton of respect for their elders, they never wanted to do anything that would disgrace the family name, and finally they wanted to make their families proud.

Frankie was studying Mass Communications, he was interested in how the media worked and he thought often about getting involved in the broadcasting business. He thought about becoming a reporter for a television station.

Max was more interested in business. He wanted to grow his family’s business (which was a car dealership) and expand the brand.

As University progressed so did the bond between Frankie and Max. When Frankie met his future wife in third year University, there was nobody happier than Max. Ruthie Lombardi was a doll. She started bringing meals she made over to their off campus apartment, and she was constantly trying to fix Max up with her friends.

When University ended, Frankie had his dream come true when he was offered a job with a local television station. Max continued his education and got his MBA and went home to get involved in the family car dealership.

Both families were very proud of their son’s accomplishments. When Frankie married Ruthie, the Wedding party lasted for an entire weekend and Max had an incredible time. He had been dating a girl named Margaux and she accepted his invitation to go to the Wedding with him. Over the weekend they realized they were meant for each other and exactly a year later they were celebrating their marriage.

Frankie and Max kept in touch on a regular basis and Frankie called one day to ask Max his opinion. A station in Los Angeles offered him a job to be their Investigative Reporter. The job came with a big salary but it was a dirty business. He would be confronting scammers and dealing with the under belly of society. Max wasn’t sure what to say, but he reassured his friend that if he took the position or not things would work out for him. He was a mensch and good things always happened for decent, good, people. Frankie didn’t respond right away. ‘’Yeah, the problem is Ruthie. She doesn’t like a big city, I just don’t know when I’m going to get another opportunity like this. I am so confused. Thanks for the support. I just know I won’t take the job it if Ruthie isn’t all in.’’

Three days later, Max received a copy of a Media Release sent to him by Frankie ‘’KLAA IS PROUD TO ANNOUNCE THAT FRANKIE CALUMBO HAS JOINED THE STATION AS OUR NEW INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER.’’ The release went on to say that Frankie would be on the job starting at the beginning of the week.

Max immediately called Margaux and they sent congratulatory flower to Max and Ruthie. Ruthie called as soon as they arrived and thanked Margaux profusely, she invited her to visit LA anytime and told her she was apprehensive about the move but wanted to be a supportive wife.’’

In the interim the car business was thriving and Max was enjoying every second of growing the business and watching the revenues steadily climb. He was careful about who was being hired for his new dealerships and he constantly was coming up with different promotions. When Margaux announced she was pregnant it was the happiest day of his life. His parents were beyond thrilled.

Everything was moving along nicely until the news announced the potential spread of a terrible virus called Corona which was changed to Covid-19.

Europe was getting hit hard and nobody thought it would be as bad in North America but indicators were saying they were wrong, it could be worse.

Frankie ran into trouble for the first time in his life while in LA. He was asked to do a story about homeless people who were dying of drug overdoses. He and a small crew started doing undercover work and digging into the situation and he discovered there was a clone of Fentanyl that was making the rounds. It was low price and it was a killer.

Frankie discovered that the drug was being distributed by the ‘’Stomp and Kill East Side West Side Warriors’’ and he went to the Police. He showed them the evidence and then ran it by his News Director. It was featured on the eleven o’clock news and all the other media outlets in LA jumped on the story. Frankie was reveling in the positive feedback till he got an email from someone named Silo that said he was a dead man. Once again he went to the Police, they took a report but they didn’t seem very concerned, which was very different from how Frankie felt.

When he got home Ruthie was very nervous. Someone had come by their house and broken the windshield on her car and cut all the tires. The Police came by and promised Frankie they would keep an eye on things, but that was of little consolation to his wife. She announced that the next morning she was flying back to Florida and when he took a different type of job, she’d be back.

Max’s Dad had a great meeting with his son and told him about a standing offer he had from Cars, Cars, More Cars, North America. They were a huge conglomerate who bought local car dealerships and converted them to their brand. They had been on the phone to find out if they’d be interested in selling their dealerships. Max now had four open and they were doing terrific business. The offer from Cars, Cars, More Cars, North America was three million dollars cash.

Max went home to his wife and discussed the situation and while he was reticent to sell, she convinced him that it was a good deal. Having a baby coming would allow them to spend more time together, and eventually he could open another business. She pointed out that it would give his parents financial security for the rest of their lives.

Max called his Dad and told him to call Cars, Cars, and tell them they had a deal. Everything closed quickly. Max wanted to share the news with his best friend and called Frankie to tell him what had happened. ‘’Dude, we have reasons to celebrate. Margaux is pregnant and we’ve sold our car business. I think we’re going to come to LA for a few days so we can all reconnect and enjoy some time together. When would it be a good time for you and Ruthie. Margaux tried to call her, but she didn’t get any response.’’

When Frankie talked he sounded sad and very unhappy ‘’Ruthie couldn’t handle LA life so she’s back in Miami with her parents. I did an investigative story and things turned rough. There is a gang involved and they’ve threatened my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m happy for you dude, but I am having some problems. I thought good things were supposed to happen for mensches. Anyways I’ve gotta go. Congrats on the baby and best ot Margaux.’’

Max Luftspring knew what he had to do. He told his wife that he was going to LA by himself for a few days as Frankie needed him, and she should try and get in touch with Ruthie. She was in Miami and might need a shoulder to lean on.

The next day Max booked a flight to the West Coast and was at LAX at Nine that night. He called Frankie who finally took his call on the eighth ring. ‘’Dude, I appreciate you calling but I don’t think I can deal with all the shit going on. I made a huge mistake coming out here. I have lost my wife and my life is being threatened. I don’t see many ways out. You’ve been a great friend, no you’ve been a great brother, but I can’t get you involved in my troubles, so I have to do what is right. Please check in on my parents for me. Look after Ruthie. Maybe if you have a boy you’ll name him after me.’’

Max was stunned ‘’You Fucking Stupid Bastard !!! No long term solutions for short term problems, who the fuck are you! Where are you right now? ‘’

There was a short pause, ‘’I’m sitting in my living room, having a shot of Cognac.’’ Before he could say another word Max interrupted him. ‘’Good I’ll be there shortly, give me your address.’’

Eight minutes later, Max was ringing the bell. A disheveled Frankie opened the door. ‘’Fuck man, the last time you looked this shitty was when you partied all night with the Denucci sisters. Now go take a Fucking shower and lets talk about all this shit.’’

Frankie hugged his friend and dutifully went and took a long, hot shower. When he came out, he was shaved and looking more like himself again. ‘’Dude, If I ever fuckin’ hear you talk like that again in this lifetime, I will punch the fucking shit out of you. Do you hear me. Your parents, your wife, me, my baby, you’d let us all down because you have become a chicken shit? You are in a bad spot, Fuck You lets change it. First thing, it is time to leave the station. Your life is worth more than a headline story. Secondly, we are going in business together, and you and Ruthie are going to live a good life together, you both deserve it.’’ Max then picked up the bottle of Cognac, took it to the dining room and found a glass and poured himself a shot.

There was a stunned look on Frankie’s face ‘’Man, I have so many questions, What kind of business?’’ Max looked at him and smiled. I am going to be the Executive Producer, and you are going to be the Host and we are going to do Podcasts. We can make some serious money and have fun. We can choose topics and then with your Journalism skills and my business background we can monetize them and be ahead of the curve.’’

Frankie all of a sudden had his smile back. ‘’Ruthie was so right, LA is not for me and I’ve missed hanging with you. I’m all in, one hundred percent lets do it.’’

The guys talked for another hour and decided to go to bed early. Frankie asked Max if he would help him write his letter of resignation and go with him to the station in the morning to deliver it. He would contact his landlord and let him know he was ending the lease. He had an early exit clause written in when he accepted the job with KLAA. They would leave the next day and Frankie was once again animated and excited.

As they were heading up the stairs, Max tapped Frankie on the shoulder ‘’Don’t you think you should go back down and get that gun on the end table somewhere safe.’’ Frankie was embarrassed and went and got it. ‘’Yup, I’ll put it in the gun safe where it belongs.’’

The friends said their goodnights and Max went into the guest bedroom and flopped onto the bed. In the Jewish faith it was written that if you save one life, it is as if you’ve saved the world. Max felt for the first time in his life that he had saved the world and it would be something he would be proud of forever. In the end Frankie had done him a huge favour because it was a reminder that there were a lot of things far more valuable than money, and close friendship was one of them.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.

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