Darkest Fear Page 73

Stan closed his eyes. “I would have found a way,” he said. “I would have gotten another fake ID, given blood under a pseudonym. I was just hoping—”

“I know,” Myron said. “I know all about it.”

Myron called Dr. Karen Singh. “I found a matching donor.”

“What?”

“I can’t explain. But he has to stay anonymous.”

“I explained to you that all the bone marrow donors remain anonymous.”

“No. The bone marrow registry can’t know about this either. We have to find a place that can harvest the marrow without knowing the patient’s identity.”

“Can’t be done.”

“Yeah, it can.”

“No doctor will agree—”

“We can’t play these games, Karen. I have a donor. No one can know who he is. Make it work.”

He could hear her breathing.

“He’ll have to be retested,” she said.

“No problem.”

“And pass a physical.”

“Done.”

“Then okay. Let’s get this started.”

When Emily heard about the donor, she gave Myron a curious look and waited. He didn’t explain. She never asked.

Myron visited the hospital the day before the marrow transplant was to begin. He peeked his head around the doorjamb and saw the boy sleeping. Jeremy was bald from the chemo. His skin had a ghostly glow, like something withering from a lack of sunshine. Myron watched his son sleeping. Then he turned and went home. He didn’t come back.

He returned to work at MB SportsReps and lived his life. He visited his father and mother. He hung out with Win and Esperanza. He landed a few new clients and started rebuilding his business. Big Cyndi handed in her wrestling resignation and took over the front desk. His world was wobbly but back on the axis.

Eighty-four days later—Myron kept count—he got a call from Karen Singh. She asked him to visit her office. When he arrived, she wasted no time.

“It worked,” she said. “Jeremy went home today.”

Myron started to cry. Karen Singh moved around her desk. She sat on the arm of his chair and rubbed his back.

Myron knocked on the half-open door.

“Enter,” Greg said.

Myron did so. Greg Downing was sitting up in a chair. He’d grown a beard during his long hospital stretch.

He smiled at Myron. “Nice to see you.”

“Same here. I like the beard.”

“Gives me that Paul Bunyan touch, don’t you think?”

“I was thinking more along the lines of Sebastian Cabot as Mr. French,” Myron said.

Greg laughed. “Going home on Friday.”

“Great.”

Silence.

“You haven’t visited much,” Greg said.

“Wanted to give you time to heal. And grow that beard in fully.”

Greg tried another laugh, but he sort of choked on it. “My basketball career is over, you know.”

“You’ll get over it.”

“That easy?”

Myron smiled. “Who said anything about easy?”

“Yeah.”

“But there are more important things in life than basketball,” Myron said. “Though sometimes I forget that.”

Greg nodded again. Then he looked down and said, “I heard about you finding the donor. I don’t know how you did it—”

“It’s not important.”

He looked up. “Thank you.”

Myron was not sure what to say to that. So he kept quiet. And that was when Greg shocked him.

“You know, don’t you?”

Myron’s heart stopped.

“That was why you helped,” Greg said. His voice was pure flat-line. “Emily told you the truth.”

The muscles around Myron’s throat tightened. There was a whooshing sound in his head.

“Did you take a blood test?” Greg asked.

Myron managed a nod this time. Greg closed his eyes. Myron swallowed and said, “How long …?”

“I’m not sure anymore,” Greg said. “I guess right away.”

He knows. The words fell on Myron, smacking down like raindrops, beading and rolling off, impenetrable. He’s always known.…

“For a while I fooled myself into believing it wasn’t so,” Greg said. “It’s amazing what the mind can do sometimes. But when Jeremy was six, he had his appendix out. I saw his blood type on a chart. It pretty much confirmed what I’d known all along.”

Myron didn’t know what to say. The realization pushed down on him, swept away the months of blocking like so many children’s toys. The mind can indeed do amazing things. He looked at Greg and it was like seeing something in the proper light for the first time and it changed everything. He thought about fathers again. He thought about real sacrifice. He thought about heroes.

“Jeremy’s a good boy,” Greg said.

“I know,” Myron said.

“You remember my father? Screaming on the sidelines like a lunatic?”

“Yes.”

“I ended up looking just like him. Spitting image of my old man. He was my blood. And he was the cruelest son of a bitch I ever knew,” Greg said. Then he added, “Blood never meant much to me.”

A strange echo filled the room. The background noises faded away and there was just the two of them, staring at one another from across the most bizarre chasm.

Greg moved back to the bed. “I’m tired, Myron.”

“Don’t you think we should talk about this?”

“Yeah,” Greg said. He laid back and shut his eyes a little too tightly. “Maybe later. But right now I’m really tired.”

At the end of the day, Esperanza stepped into Myron’s office, sat down, and said, “I don’t know much about family values or what makes a happy family. I don’t know the best way to raise a kid or what you have to do to make him happy and well adjusted, whatever the hell ‘well adjusted’ means. I don’t know if it’s best to be an only child or have lots of siblings or be raised by two parents or a single parent or a gay couple or a lesbian couple or an overweight albino. But I know one thing.”

Myron looked up at her and waited.

“No child could ever be harmed by having you in his life.”

Esperanza stood and went home.

Stan Gibbs was playing in the yard with his boys when Myron and Win pulled into the driveway. His wife—at least, Myron guessed it was his wife—sat in a lawn chair and watched. A little boy rode Stan like a horsey. They other boy lay on the ground giggling.

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