L.S. Cohen: The Impossible Max Langanyorn
Max Langanyorn was 125. When he was younger, around 90, he would say, upon meeting you or anyone else, "I'm Max Langanyorn and I am living my life to the Max. Get it?"
After he reached 115, Max, in truth, wasn't feeling so spry anymore, so he stopped introducing himself by saying he was living to the Max. He thought about saying he was living a little less than the Max. But he didn't think anyone would get it. True, he was still calling Sylvia, his next-door neighbor every few days for a mutually enjoyable romantic "you-know-what—wink, wink" rendezvous. That didn't mean he wanted to get into a relationship. Sylvia agreed relationships were complicated. At Max's age you never know.
Sylvia was 30 years younger, the retired CEO of the 333rd National Bank of Cleveland. She decided one day to call a board meeting between her and Max. She proposed that if living costs went up beyond their individual social security payments they should consider moving in together. Always the financial wizard, she said, "We won't get married because why lose a social security check if we don't have too?" Besides, she didn't need to be married—especially since she wasn't likely to have any children should her birth control pills fail.
Sylvia didn't mind putting up with Max because at 90 he was one of the only men his age who could drive after dark, and more important to Sylvia, he could still "you-know-what—wink, wink." She would brag to her girlfriends that, "Max was a miracle at 90," and when he turned 101, she said, "he was a supernatural wonder." But when Max reached 125 all she could say to her friends was, “What a man! What a man!"
Max, who had worn out two wives and three girlfriends couldn't agree more.
Even at 125 Max could still drive his blue Honda to Costco every Sunday to get his Large Pizza with Pepperoni. Max would eat one slice every night along with a serving of black beans to aid digestion. Max would eat two slices on The Sabbath or "Shabbat" as Jewish people call it. He felt that G-d in all his wisdom created Costco Pizza with eight slices just for those Jews who loved pizza and celebrated Shabbat in their own unorthodox way--which Max did by picking off the Pepperoni every Friday night.
It wasn't until Max picked up his phone to call Sam Shmeggeggi that he realized Sam was dead for more than three months. "Oy,“ Max said out loud to his empty living room. "All my friends have died one after the other, except for the stinkers who beat me in Gin Rummy! Oy, yoy yoy!" That's when Max decided to get a pooch for some loyal male companionship.
Max went to his local animal shelter and found just the right dog. A perfect match. Instant love. He named the little guy Momzer because that word in Yiddish translates to Bastard. Max felt it was a very fitting name since his new found friend was a rescue of unknown parentage. Especially on the father's side.
Besides, Momzer was the only pup that looked like he put his paw in a live electric socket. In fact, his long black hair had a white streak, which by strange coincidence, looked like the bride's hair in the movie, The Bride of Frankenstein. If that wasn't coincidence enough, Max thought that Momzer looked just like his best friend Alfie Shallom, of blessed memory.
Max loved walking Momzer every night and discussing with him world events, politics, climate change and the merits of dill pickles. Kosher of course. True, Momzer couldn't play Gin Rummy, but he was still a great listener. Eventually Max came to love Momzer more than pizza, which is saying quite a lot.
One Sunday, while Max was putting on his dark navy wool and polyester cardigan sweater, and his blue Chicago Cubs baseball cap to drive for his weekly pepperoni pizza, the doorbell rang. Max began to mutter as he went to his apartment door. "Not again! Why is it that somebody always wants to sell me life insurance just when I'm about to leave?" Max slowly opened his door. He was certainly surprised to see a pizza delivery boy, wearing a white shirt and a white apron and one of those silly canoe shaped white paper hats on his head. He looked about 17 and was holding a hot Costco Pizza.
"Are You, Mr. Max Langanyorn?"
So, Max naturally said, "He isn't here."
"This pizza is for Max Langanyorn. Are you him?”
"Yes, but only if you're not really a life insurance salesman."
"Do I look like I'm an insurance salesman?"
"Who ordered it?"
“Mister, I was told to deliver a pizza."
"I didn't order no pizza. But just for the sake of argument, what is the topping?"
Max smiled his fabulous false teeth smile and said, "Sold." As Max reached into his pocket for his wallet he began to wonder if Sylvia had sent it over as a peace offering since last night she accused him of losing the TV remote—for the two hundred-thousandth time—until of course, she found it on her lap!
"Please come in and set the pizza on the kitchen counter." Max took off his cardigan and cap he turned around and said "What a coincidence! I was just about ready to drive over to Costco and get a Pepperoni Pizza. And by the way, since when did Costco start delivering pizza?"
The pizza delivery boy said, "Max, Costco doesn't deliver pizzas."
"Then why are you delivering me a pizza they don't deliver?"
“Not to scare you so much that you should have a heart attack and die, but... I have to tell you the truth."
"Ah ha! I knew it! You really are a life insurance salesman in disguise?"
"No. Max, I'm dressed this way because I'm the Angel of Death"
"Impossible! You're supposed to be dressed in a black robe with a hoody and carrying one of those extra-long tree branch cutters, not a pizza!"
"Sorry Max, for the occasion of your death I'm a pizza delivery boy."
"Times must be tough to have to fool an old guy like me."
"Look these days you got to do what you got to do."
"You sure know how to sneak up on a guy."
"It comes with the territory."
"Well, now that you're here I can only say what the hell took you so long!" His voice getting louder with every word.
"Max, you don't have to yell."
"Look kid, my foot's been killing me for years, my hands are stiff with arthritis, I've shrunk so much I can't see above the steering wheel, and my "you-know-what, wink, wink," doesn't get as happy as it used to. Now you say don't yell at you for making me wait 125 years! Do you know how much laundry I've done?"
"Max, I'm here to gather you up and take your soul to your place in the World-to-come."
"You mean I'm going to Heaven?"
"Well, you ain't going to Costco."
"You mean now?"
"Wait a minute. I'm not going anywhere with you unless you let me eat one last piece of pizza before I go."
"And I want to take Momzer with me to Heaven."
"That's a problemo! The pizza I can do, but the dog has to stay."
"He'll be heartbroken without me, and that's a real problemo, Sonny!"
"He's just a dog."
"He's not just a dog. He's my best friend. My confidant. He knows all my secrets. I can't leave him here! He'll tell Sylvia that I take Cialis."
"Look my dear Max, when it's Momzer's turn he will go to a special heavenly place for doggies. Not to worry."
"I'm not goin' no place unless Momzer goes with me. We've known each other for 27 years! He can't hear. He can't see and he's got terrible constipation. True, he made a doo-doo a couple of times in the house, but that's when he got into my pizza, especially the one from Billy's West down the street. You should have seen that pizza. It was their Colossal Supreme with Everything. Talk about heartburn. Talk about the mess Momzer made. Look, this guy never peed on the carpet once in 27 years!"
"Max, please listen to reason."
"No. I don't care who you are. Momzer goes where I go, or I won't budge!"
"Hold on. Just hold on, will you?"
The Angel of Death, who was still dressed as a pizza delivery boy, took out his cell phone and hit a red button and said, "It's me. Max won't go without his dog. Ok. I'll see what he says." The Angel of Death looked into Max's eyes as convincingly as an insurance salesman. "We're willing to let you eat two extra pieces of pizza before you go."
"What about Momzer?"
"And if you say yes, within the next thirty-seconds, we'll throw in three more pieces absolutely free. Yes! Free!"
"We'll even throw in the shipping, no extra charge."
“Shipping? You're going to charge me shipping! No deal without Momzer."
The Angel of Death called heaven again, this time saying, "No dice. He still wants to go with his dog."
"O.K." said The Angel of Death," I'll tell him."
"Final offer, you can have the whole pizza."
Max shook his head no.
"He still won't budge! What should I do now? I know, I know it's getting late. Now after all these years you're telling me the customer's always right! Since when are we Costco? O.K. O.K. stop yelling. Max, Heaven says you can take Momzer."
The dog looked up at the Angel of Death and began wagging his tail like a propeller. Then Max said to Momzer, "Come on boy, let's go home."