Driving to the Loop to bring his tax stuff to Schapiro, his accountant for nearly forty years, Milton Kuperman, at the lengthy stoplight at Thorndale and Sheridan, had the appalling thought that his death, which couldn't be all that far off, would matter to no one, not a soul. A widower, Kuperman would be eighty in August. His only child, his daughter Rivian, lived in Los Angeles, and saw him once a year; and that, when you got right down to it, was generally less than a visit and more like someone checking in dutifully to pay her respects.
Kuperman was also without grandchildren. Married to a successful patent attorney and unable to have children of their own, Rivian and her husband many years ago adopted a child from Chile, a boy they named Eric — Eric Cohen — who hadn't, as his daughter used to say, "worked out". By this she meant that, from his adolescence until now, a man in his later twenties, Eric was a drug addict, in and out of one clinic, sanatorium, hospital and half-way house after another.
Richard Cohen, his son-in-law, was a more powerful money-maker than Kuperman, and so the inheritance that he planned to leave his daughter — somewhere in the range of three million dollars — didn't figure to change their life much; it would probably present nothing more than a complicated tax problem. At odd, perverse moments, Kuperman thought of leaving his money to his adopted grandson, whom he barely knew. Let him smoke it or shoot it up, inhale it or stuff it up his nose, who knew what. At least someone would get some pleasure out of the rewards of Kuperman's lifetime of work.
Kuperman had spent the better part of his life in the auction business. He had found a niche, as his son-in-law had put it. He bought up the inventories of failed businesses — known as close-outs in the trade — and sold them, along with other items he had acquired, at auction. A good part of his success was owing to his always keeping very liquid; an even larger part had to do with his talent for knowing what goods he could move. "You make your money in buying, not selling," he used regularly to tell his nephew Stuart Siegel, his wife's sister Florence's son, who worked for him. "Buy right and the rest will take care of itself." Whether it be throw pillows, costume jewellery, outdated ties, or whoopee cushions, if Kuperman could get it for the right price, and he usually could, he could turn a profit.
"What's the point, Milt?" said Schapiro. "What're you still knocking yourself out for? You've got more money than you can possibly use. What do you need the aggravation for?"
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