“Another round, gents?”
“Sure, Lola.” I introduced Pop to Lola. They shook hands.
“Nice to meet you, Dan. Good to meet a man with some class.” She gave me the skunk eye. I guess she hadn’t forgiven me for any of a hundred issues in the past. Oh, well. At least she let me come back. Any other bartender would have thrown me in the alley. So Lola was okay by me.
“Thank you, Lola. Nice to meet such an attractive young lady.” He still hung on to her hand. Lola was probably close to a hundred years old.
“Ha! Young, he says. Get that.” She loved it, anyone could see it.
He stroked the back of her hand. She didn’t object.
“Where ya from?” she asked.
Pop went on to tell Lola about Flint and visiting me and all our business.
“Well,” she said, “it’s never too late to find home, is it? And I mean home as in family. What else matters, after all?”
“Indeed,” Pop replied.
We sat, enjoying our drinks in silence. I couldn’t believe it. Never in my dreams would I have imagined being there, right then, next to my pop. I had a lot of mixed feelings about him in the past, mostly hate, blaming him for Ma and Ime being too poor to eat right or have anything. On the other hand, Ma never seemed to lack for vodka or cigarettes. I thought he didn’t love us—didn’t love me—and that was why he left. Turns out it wasn’t that at all.
But now we were home, like Lola said. This would be a new day. Oh, it sounded like Pop didn’t have much money either, but at least we could be in it together.
We came stumbling out of Bootleggers at one o’clock closing, laughing and singing and generally in great spirits. I barely remembered my pop, and now here he was in my life. No doubt, things were looking up for me. Been getting temp work, eating regularly, even got a roof over my head, such as it was. All from being four months off the junk.
The next morning, I dragged my ass out of bed, determined to get some work, since I once again spent all my money. I made Pop promise to stay in. I really didn’t know what would happen to him out there on that block being blind and all. I mean, he looked like he used to be able to take care of himself back when, but a blind guy in that part of town? Not good.
Off I went to Super Temps. Same drill as most days, but at least I got a better job than the day before. Barely better. They dragged me and ten other men out to this one-story building so far out in the suburbs it was nearly in the country. I spent the day on an assembly line. I stood with a huge power screwdriver thing hanging down from the ceiling on a springy cord while beer clocks—the kind that hang in bars—rolled down the conveyer belt. I would take the screwdriver gizmo and zap a screw into one particular hole in the back of the clock. That’s it. My quota was twenty clocks a minute. That’s a clock every…I’m not sure how many seconds, but fast, over and over again. All day. Monkey work at its best. It got so I would try to see if I could screw the screw all the way through the clock, just for fun. I could, and no one seemed to care. At least no one said anything to me, and the pay envelope showed up at the end of the day.
The van dropped me off at Super Temps at five-thirty. It must have rained while I was screwing clocks, with puddles everywhere and the usual piss smell washed away. I dragged my sore arm back to the Rand, and when I got to my room, it was empty.
No Pop. No note. No nothin’.
Where could he have gone? I went back downstairs. The first place I looked was the Best Steak House—maybe he got hungry and went there—but Jad didn’t remember seeing him. I checked Bootleggers. Lola hadn’t seen him either. I checked the Venice. Nothing. Now I was totally freaking out. I looked everywhere. I went to Shinders. The girl with the crew cut hadn’t seen him. I looked in McDonalds. Brady’s Pub. I looked in all the businesses I could get into. I couldn’t go in the movie theaters, but I asked the cashier at the World and the carrot-top usher at the Academy, and they didn’t remember him. I couldn’t go in Moby Dick’s, I was eighty-sixed after a little tussle a few months ago, but I asked the bouncer—who was good enough not to hold any grudges—if he’d seen an old blind guy. He said no. I walked around the block and then extended my circle out to the surrounding blocks. Not a sign. I asked some of the players I knew if they remembered seeing an old blind guy wandering around. Nothing. I decided to check the alley, hoping I wouldn’t find him there since that would not be good news. Again, nothing.