10-01-2011, 09:04 PM
Sorry for the delay, but I've been preoccupied with painting my room and getting my brakes fixed.
At the Luxor Deli Cafe, Criss and Syd sat talking about their lives, past and present, while sipping on foamy cappucinos. It was early and the place was all but deserted, so they could converse without the worry of being interrupted by Criss' overzealous fans. Syd had listened in stunned disbelief to Criss' retelling of his colorful career as a magician and escape artist, still unable to connect him with the scrawny kid he remembered from East Meadow, Long Island. Criss' simple inquiry, "So, what's your story?", jolted him back to his senses. Syd drew a deep breath and began to open up. From the heaviness of it, Criss could tell it wasn't going to be too pleasant.
"Well, my real mom died when I was, oh, eight or nine," Syd began. "You remember how I had been when I was a kid--weak, sick, had a ton of allergies."
Criss nodded. Sydney Krupermann had spent more time with the school nurse than he did in class, it seemed, whether it was for some allergic reaction or after an attack by school bullies. It was a wonder he made it through an entire school year without expiring.
"She was always taking me to the doctor for some reason or other, even on those rare days when I felt fine," Syd went on. "Well, about a week or two after Mom's funeral, Dad took me to some specialist to find out just what it was that was making me sick all the time. You know what he found out?"
"I didn't have any allergies--none whatsoever!"
Criss was taken aback. "You didn't?"
"Nope. It turned out I wasn' the one who was sick--it was Mom. You ever hear of Munchausen syndrome?"
"It's a form of mental illness where the person makes himself or herself sick on purpose so they could be the center of attention. Sometimes they make their kids sick for the same reason. Mom had been faking my illnesses all the time, just to get attention from all the doctors and nurses. She even went so far as to spike my food with drugs to make me sick so she would have an excuse to take me to the hospital! It's a wonder I'm still alive," Syd sniffed.
"True that," Criss said, "but how'd they find out about it? Your mom's syndrome, I mean."
"It was that last checkup after the funeral that clinched it," Syd explained. "That specialist Dad took me to knew about it, so he managed to figure it out. Smart guy."
"That's pretty sad."
Syd nodded. "It is. Took me two years to recover after that, but I was still pretty weak, though. I was still picked on, but at least I was a bit healthier, healthy enough to run away at least." He drained his coffee mug in one swallow. "Dad remarried when I was ten--wonderful woman, a nutritionist if you can believe my luck. She teaches yoga to boot. Anyway, she was the one who got me into the healthy lifestyle, first by signing me up for sports, then body building." Syd smiled. "Man, I can't tell you how much I'm indebted to her--she literally saved my life, dude! By the time I was sixteen, I was bulking up enough to make varsity. Anyway, the rest is history--I joined the Marines after high school, then went to college to study physical fitness, then I started opening my own chain of health stores. This is my first one out here in the Southwest, by the way."
"Why not out in LA?" Criss asked. "They go for the healthy lifestyle out there big time."
Syd shook his head. "Too much competition," he replied. "I got to go where it's needed most. And with all those mile-long buffets you got out here in Sin City, I figured you folks could use a little help," he chuckled.
Criss held up his hands. "Hey, man, I keep a sensible diet," he protested. "And I even got my own gym at Serenity."
"That's my crib, out in Henderson, about forty miles from here. Nice place, if you wanna come and visit."
"Well, it's tempting, but I'm not going to be here very long. I got to get back to the main office in New York in a few days. Business, you know, plus the wife and kids."
"Oh, you're married?"
"Twenty-six years," Syd replied proudly, "with two teenage boys. Matter of fact, my oldest son, Quay, is going to NYU this year. He's gonna be a dietician or something. Anyway, his interest is food safety, especially food contamination."
"Yeah. I think it had something to do with Mom--my real mom--trying to poison me when I was a kid." Syd shrugged. "Who knows? He just might be called in to some sort of CSI situation--wife slipping some arsenic in her husband's meatloaf to get the insurance money, something like that."
Criss laughed at that. "You know, my niece, Dimi, is going to UNLV this year. Don't know what she's going to major in, though. Business, probably."
"University of Nevada, Las Vegas."
Now it was Syd's turn to laugh. "Going to college in Las Vegas! Boy, I bet they got an interesting curriculum! What do they got there? Blackjack 101? Introductory roulette? Booking odds in math class?"
"Ha, ha, Syd, very funny," Criss sneered. "Actually, I don't know a lot about it, but I know they have a great business college there."
"Not surprising, with all the billions of dollars passing through here," Syd retorted.
"Yeah, well, it's still a business," Criss said with a shrug. "Speaking of which," he added, rising from his chair, "I got my own to attend to."
Syd also rose. "Yeah, I gotta get back to mine, too," he said. He extended a beefy hand. "It's been nice talking to you, Christopher."
Criss took Syd's hand and shook it. "Back at you, Syd, and call me Criss. Hey, swing by the production office sometime before you leave--I'm pretty sure JD and Costa would like to see you again."
"Might just do that," Syd said. "See ya."
"See ya, Syd."
The two men parted ways, Syd to his new store, Criss to the office, each amazed at the changes in the other's life after so many years. The scrawny kid who annoyed everyone with card tricks becomes the biggest draw in Vegas, and the sickly waif bullied throughout grade school beefs up to Mr. Universe proportions. True, a lot can happen in over four decades, but still!