Darkest Fear Page 46

Myron looked at his father. His father kept his eyes on the grass, taking another deep sip. “You never talk about Korea,” Myron said.

“I do,” Dad said.

“Not with me.”

“No, not with you.”

“Why not?”

“It’s what I fought for. So we wouldn’t have to talk about it.”

It didn’t make sense and Myron understood.

“There a reason you raised this particular hypothetical?” Dad asked.

“No.”

Dad nodded. He knew it was a lie, but he wouldn’t push it. They settled back and watched the familiar surroundings.

“Tai chi isn’t so bad,” Myron said. “It’s a martial art. Like tae kwon do. I’ve been thinking of taking it up myself.”

Dad took another sip. Myron sneaked a glance. Something on his father’s face began to quiver. Was Dad indeed getting smaller, more fragile—or was it like the backyard and safety, again the shifting perception of a child turned adult?

“Dad …?”

“Let’s go inside,” his father said, standing. “We stay out much longer, one of us is going to get misty and say, ‘Wanna play catch?’ ”

Myron bit off a laugh and followed him inside. Mom came home not long after that, lugging two bags of food as though they were stone tablets. “Everybody hungry?” she called out.

“Starving,” Dad said. “I’m so hungry I could eat a vegetarian.”

“Very funny, Al.”

“Or even your cooking …”

“Ha-ha,” Mom said.

“… though I’d prefer the vegetarian.”

“Stop it, Al, I’m going to phlegm up, you keep making me laugh like this.” Mom dropped the bags onto the kitchen counter. “See, Myron? It’s a good thing your mother is shallow.”

“Shallow?” Myron asked.

“If I judged a man on brains or sense of humor,” Mom continued, “you’d have never been born.”

“Right-o,” Dad said with a hearty smile. “But one look at your old man in a bathing suit and whammo—all mine.”

“Oh please,” Mom said.

“Yes,” Myron said. “Please.”

They both looked at him. Mom cleared her throat. “So did you two, uh, have a nice talk?”

“We talked,” Dad said. “It was very life-affirming. I see the errors of my ways.”

“I’m being serious.”

“So am I. I see everything differently now.”

She put her arms around his waist and nuzzled him. “So you’ll call Heshy?”

“I’ll call Heshy,” he said.

“Promise.”

“Yes, Ellen, I promise.”

“You’ll go to the Y and do jai alai with him?”

“Tai chi,” Dad corrected.

“What?”

“It’s called tai chi, not jai alai.”

“I thought it was jai alai.”

“Tai chi. Jai alai is the game with the curved rackets down in Florida.”

“That’s shuffleboard, Al.”

“Not shuffleboard. The other thing with the sticks. And the gambling.”

“Tai chi?” Mom said, testing it for sound. “Are you sure?”

“I think so.”

“But you’re not positive?”

“No, I’m not positive,” Dad said. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is called jai alai.”

The name debate continued for a while. Myron didn’t bother correcting them. Never cut in on that strange dance known as marital discourse. They ate the health food. It was indeed nasty. They laughed a lot. His parents must have said “You don’t know what you’re talking about” to each other fifty times; maybe it was a euphemism for “I love you.”

Eventually Myron said good night. Mom kissed his cheek and made herself scarce. Dad walked him to the car. The night was silent save a lone dribbling basketball somewhere on Darby Road or maybe Coddington Terrace. A nice sound. When he hugged his father good-bye, Myron again noticed that his father felt smaller, less substantial. Myron held on a little longer than usual. For the first time he felt like the bigger man, the stronger man, and he suddenly remembered what Dad had said about reversing roles. So he held on in the dark. Time passed. Dad patted his back. Myron kept his eyes closed and held on tighter. Dad stroked his hair and shushed him. Just for a little while. Just until the roles reversed themselves again, returning both of them to where they belonged.

25

Granite Man was waiting outside the Dakota. Myron spotted him from his car. He picked up the cell phone and called Win. “I have company.”

“A rather large gentleman, yes,” Win said. “Two cohorts are parked across the street in a corporate vehicle owned by the Lex family.”

“I’ll leave the cell phone on.”

“They confiscated it last time,” Win said.

“Yes.”

“Likely they’ll do the same.”

“We’ll improvise.”

“Your funeral,” Win said, and hung up.

Myron parked in the lot and approached Granite Man.

“Mrs. Lex would like to see you,” Granite Man said.

“Do you know what she wants?” Myron asked.

Granite Man ignored the question.

“Maybe she saw me flexing on the security tape,” Myron said. “Wanted to get to know me better.”

Granite Man did not laugh. “You ever think about doing this comedy thing professionally?”

“There have been offers.”

“I bet. Get in the car.”

“Okay, but I have a curfew, you know. And I never French-kiss on the first date. Just so we understand each other.”

Granite Man shook his head. “Man, I’d like to waste you.”

They got in the car. Two blue-blazers sat in front. The car ride was silent except for Granite Man and His Magic Cracking Knuckles. The Lex building emerged grudgingly through the dark. Myron traveled through the security travail again. As Win predicted, they confiscated his phone. Granite Man and the two blazers turned left this time instead of right. They escorted him into an elevator. It opened into what appeared to be living quarters.

Susan Lex’s office had been done sort of Renaissance palatial, but the apartment up here—it looked like an apartment anyway—did a one-eighty. Modern and minimalism were the major themes. The walls were painted stark white and had nothing on them. The floors were a pigeon-gray wood. There were black and white bookshelves made of fiberglass, most empty, some with indistinct figurines. The couch was red and shaped like two lips. There was a well-stocked see-through bar constructed out of Lucite. Two metallic swivel stools were painted red on the base, looking about as inviting as rectal thermometers. A fire danced lazily in the fireplace, fake logs casting an unnatural glow over the black mantel. The whole place had a feel and aura about as warm as a cold sore.

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