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aa2

American Adonis

ONE

PHYSICS IS HARD ENOUGH without Chulo chasing a rat around the lobby with a broom.

Thwack!

“Got you, you little singao!” he said, business end of the broom pressed to the floor.

I looked up from my textbook. “No, you didn’t.”

The ridiculously casual fat rodent scurried off behind him, down the hall. Chulo looked right, then left, spotted him, and gave chase, broom held high above his head like a battle ax. I tried to find my place again, but by the time I did, Chulo was back and standing in front of my box office window.

“I’m going to kill that rata and put his corpse on a pole as a warning to other rata,” Chulo said, panting from the minor exertion.

“I think the other rats would just eat it.”

The front door opened to daylight and the roar of traffic. A middle-aged white guy wearing a suit with no tie entered. The door closed, restoring the dark and quiet, except for the distant sound of a woman moaning. Chulo drifted off, leaned the broom in the corner, and picked up his mop. He pretended not to pay attention as the captain-of-industry type walked the few steps across the lobby to my bulletproof glass–windowed box office.

“Looks like it’s going to rain,” I said for no reason.

“One please,” the beefeater replied, obviously not wanting to make small talk with me.

“Which one?”

“What do you mean?”

“The American or Adonis?” I said, pointing at the sign behind me.

“What’s the difference?”

“Which do you want, straight or gay?”

“Straight, of course.” He looked all indignant.

I punched up a ticket, tore it the long way, and slid it to him in exchange for a five. “Upstairs. There are two shows. Take your pick.” He double-timed his wedding-ring-and-business-suit-wearing ass up the stairs.

Chulo quit pretending to mop and leaned on the wood handle. “Hey, Dwayne, why is it that when you ask them what theater they want, the straight guys don’t know what you are talking about, but the gay guys always do?”

“What are you talking about, Chulo?” I said.

“Well, take that guy.” Chulo walked back up to my window, dragging the mop behind him in a wavy, wet trail. “If he wanted the gay theater, he would have said it straight up, or at least have known which one he wanted when you asked. Instead, he’s like, ‘Gay? How dare you?’”

That whole job was a study in psychology. Or sociology. Or something. God knows what, but something. “Yeah, well, brother, you know how people are.”

“What ‘people,’ hombre? Men. Just men, no women. When have you ever sold a ticket to a señorita?”

“One time this white chick came in with her boyfriend.”

“Okay, one time. Was she a pro?”

“Probably, but that doesn’t make her not a woman.” Man, it was only about 1 p.m., and I had to work to 8:30. Already it was shaping up to be a long, long day.

Chulo went back to swabbing away. The place used to be a fish market until just a couple years before—I think it closed in about ’75—and whenever Chulo mopped the old hardwood, it released a perfume of Pine-Sol and salmon. “Not that women don’t go to pornos in these modern times, hombre,” he said, voice lowered for no reason I could imagine. “They go to the Aster Arts across the street. Have you ever been in there?”

“Can’t say that I have, Chulo.” Well, maybe once, just to check it out. For the architecture.

Chulo pointed at my book sitting on the counter next to the ticket machine. “Hey, what are you reading now?”

“I’m doing my homework.”

“Let me see.”

I held the thick textbook up to the glass.

He leaned forward for a better look. “What is that?”

“Physics. General physics.” I put the book back down.

“Man, you have got to be the only egg-head black guy I’ve ever met. Why are you reading about general physics?”

“I’m going to be an architect.” I had been taking a couple classes a quarter, and it was hard, hard, hard. I hated physics. I never wanted to look at another calculus equation.

“Architect! They don’t let black guys be architects,” he said, leaning his elbow on the mop.

“Whaddya mean?”

“Do you know any black architects?”

“Leave me alone, Chulo.” I flipped open the book on the counter and feigned reading.

14

I painfully lifted out of the chair, leaned over, and poured him a tall one. I set the bottle next to my chair. “Eventually I ended up in the Cook County lockup for stealing a car when I was drunk. Really, I didn’t mean to steal the car; I wanted to go home and was too drunk to walk. After I got out of jail, I stayed in Chicago for a little while longer. I decided to move on again after one of Chicago’s finest beat the shit out of me behind a bar, telling me how I had worn out my welcome.”

“I know that one.”

I had a last drag on my smoke, crushed it out, and took a sip of whiskey. “So I tried Detroit. Pretty much the same result: I got put away for five years for swindle. I ran the old ‘hold my bag of money for me’ scheme one too many times. I got out a couple years back and moved to Flint. Flint’s been good. Now I think of myself as retired, and I’ve been on my best behavior. Scout’s honor. Until this little scheme.”

I lit up another smoke. The cigarettes and booze were definitely feeling good. “What about you? Why are you living in this flop?”

He straightened himself out a bit, still leaning against the dresser, legs stretched in front of him on the floor. He took a drink and told me about the army. About Danang. About the guy giving him his first hit of China white. “I could have done something with myself when I got back stateside in ’74. Maybe I could have been a mechanic. All those years in the motor pool must have been worth something. Instead, I went back to Indianapolis, went to sleep in my old bedroom, and only came out to score. Watch TV and shoot up. Ma was no saint, but even if she was, how long would even a saint put up with shit like that? For the record, six months. That’s how long it took before she told me to leave, seven before she called the cops on me to make me leave.”

“Margery called the cops on you?”

He crushed out his cig. “Yup. And when they came and got me, they found my stash right away, and off I went to jail. I got out, though, because the search was fucked. The good news is, due to lack of bail, I got locked up for months.”

“You call that good news?”

“’Cause of that, I got clean.” He swallowed the last of his drink and held his glass out again. I leaned over and poured him some more Reverend Jim, the confessor. “I decided I’d had enough of Indianapolis, so I moved on. I came to Minneapolis for a fresh start. Get a job, get married, buy a house, have kids, that shit. I had plans. That was four years ago. My optimism lasted until about two days after I got here, when I met this vet, Scorpion, at a bar, and we were smoking an A-bomb—”

“What’s that?”

“Marijuana and heroin.”

“You kids these days.” I took a big swallow and refilled.

“The thing is, I didn’t know it was anything but a regular joint. Yup, one hit, and I was back. Since then I’ve been doing odd jobs here, car stereos there. You know, whatever.” He took a drink. “Hey, give me another smoke.”

I threw him the pack, followed by the matches.

He told me how he found out his ma died when one day he tried to call her hoping for some money. “When I found out I had missed my own mother’s funeral, well, that was it. I was going to kill myself. But then, one of those street church girls—Sarah is her name; she doesn’t hang out no more down there—connected me up to this guy who helps vets like me. I had been living on the street, so he got me to the Salvation Army, and they put me up. They helped me over the rough patches, which there were a lot of. I’ve been clean—from junk anyway—for four months now.”

“Looks like that was about to change.”

“Yeah, well, I thought you were dead. I thought I’d fucked up again.”

I took a drink. A siren went by, and I looked out the window as the Gopher marquee across the street lit up for the evening. We sat quietly, sipping our drinks and smoking our squares. I leaned back in the chair, bumping against the wall.

“Why did you come here?” Jack asked.

“To game you. I thought you had money,” I replied.

“You didn’t answer my question. Why did you come back today?” he asked.

“What can I tell ya? Because you’re my son. I tried to scam my own son, and I wanted to see if I could say I was sorry. I wanted to see if we could start again.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me.” He crushed out his smoke.

For the first time, maybe in my life, I wasn’t. “Look, neither of us has anything. But what the hell, we do have each other now, right?”

We stared off at nothing. Then Jack said, “Do you expect me to jump up and hug you now?”

“Not unless you want me to knock you out again.”

“Hey, old man, you didn’t knock me out the first time. I had you dead.”

“True, but I have friends.”

“Friends. Yeah, so for real, who clobbered me with the lamp?”

I laughed. “I’m not telling.” I stubbed out my smoke, took the bottle, and refilled our drinks. “Hey, make you a deal. I won’t pretend I’m blind, and you won’t tell me you’re the prince of Wales.”

He smiled a pained smile. “Yup. Plus, you won’t try to scam me out of money I don’t have, and I won’t kill you.”

“Fair enough. And, as long as you don’t do horse, I’ll hang around for as long as you want.”

He took a drink and looked around. “All right. My stuff’s spilled all over anyway. What about Flint?”

“What about it? Have you ever been to Flint? Total shithole.”

And that was that. We sat on the floor, smoking cigarettes and passing the bottle—just like some skid row Father Knows Best.

THE END

Next up: AMERICAN ADONIS

13

I checked out Jack. He looked a little rough, mostly from my quality hook that likely broke his nose, plus a growing lemon where the lamp did its work. I dragged him up to a sitting position against the dresser and went in the bathroom to get a washrag. I looked at myself in the mirror. Hmm. Yeah, I’d say I had lost that fight. I bled from the back of my head pretty good, my hair and shirt soaked with blood. I’ve had worse—heads are like that, bleeding like mad—but I did look like Halloween. I put some cold water on the washrag, went back to Jack, and wiped the blood off his face. I opened his eyes one at a time, and his pupils looked good. There was no blood coming out of his ears. Good. I got up, rinsed the rag out, went out in the hall to get some ice.

An old wino was in the hall. His eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped when he saw me all bloody. “Aaagggghhh!” I yelled. He ran tripping down the hall and down the stairs to the street, sliding more than running the steps.

I went back to the room and knelt next to my son. I put the compress on his head; the lemon was definitely becoming one to remember. The cold of the compress made him start to come around. He moaned. “Lay still, son,” I said. Suddenly he grabbed my wrist. The kid still had fight in him. Yup, chip off the ol’ block. “Oh, knock it off and hold still.”

He opened his eyes.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“What happened?”

“You were about to kill me, and God smited you. Let that be a lesson: Don’t mess with me. I have powerful friends.”

He shook his head slowly back and forth, opening and closing his eyes, apparently trying to focus. “Why did you come back?”

“Here, hold this.” I moved his hand up to the compress. I got up, grabbed the Jim Beam bottle off the dresser, and poured us each a drink, straight up. “Here ya go.”

“Why’d you come back?” he repeated.

“My luggage was here.”

He leaned forward, grimaced, and took a careful drink. It looked like it stung. “Bullshit. I looked in your luggage. You have that old suit, two shirts, underwear, and a couple of T-shirts.”

I took a drink. It tasted medicinal. “Yeah, and I got the suitcase out of a dumpster just last week.”

He leaned back with his eyes closed, holding the drink in both hands. “So why’d you come back?”

I sat down in the chair. “I don’t know, Jack. Generally, I don’t know why I do anything. I just follow my nose.”

“What’s that mean?”

“It means I don’t know how to tell the truth.”

“Like lying about being blind.”

“Yeah, like lying about being blind.”

He took a drink. That wash of alcohol looked like it hurt less than the last one. We sat for a while, then, “Are you even my father?”

That actually kind of hurt. “Are you serious? We are two peas in a pod.” I grabbed the pack and the matches off the dresser, lit a cigarette, and handed it to Jack. Lit another for myself. ”You know, son, you shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for you.”

Jack took a drag. He opened his eyes and looked at me. “You look like shit,” he said.

“You’re no beauty queen yourself, you know.”

“Your head is gashed open.”

I took a long, healing drag. “Where’d you learn to fight like that?”

“Army. You?”

“Prison.” I got up, pulled a dirty T-shirt from my suitcase, and held it to the back of my head.

“Prison?”

I sat back down and told him about landing in Cheyenne after I left his mother and him. I liked it there. Got a job as a cook in this little diner. That was good, until I got caught for armed robbery knocking over a corner grocery and was sent to state prison in Rawlins for five years. Probably my least favorite prison I’d ever had the dishonor to be incarcerated in. Anyway, I eventually got out, did my parole, and, as soon as that was over, took off for Chicago. I think that would have been about ’65. No, ’66.

“As far as I’m concerned, I hope Wyoming and everything in it goes straight to hell. Chicago, on the other hand, was good for a while. I ran a few games and grifted a few dollars here and there to get by.”

“Then what?” He held out his glass.

12

Upstairs again, I laid works out on the dirty red shag carpeting. I spread it out like a ceremony. I even lit a candle. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I melted the white in a spoon, three times my usual. That should do it, I thought. When it became liquid, I drew it through a piece of cotton into the syringe. Pure muscle memory. I could have shot up in my sleep. I could have done it after I was dead. I wrapped the rubber tube around my upper arm and flicked the crux of my elbow for a vein. Not much left there to use; pretty much all scar tissue. I changed my mind and took the tourniquet off. I wrapped it around my right arm that had much better veins. I got a good one right away. Shooting left-handed was a little tough, and I did not want to miss. No way. I readied the sharp.

The door swung open. “What are you doing? Having a séance?”

I stared at Pop standing in the door.

He stared at me sitting cross-legged on the floor.

He stared at me.

He stared at me.

All that time, all that worry, all that…everything, and he was pulling some sort of con all the while. Fucker! I launched at him like a sidewinder missile. I had his throat in my hands within half a second. I obviously surprised him, but he came back fast with a punch to the ribs. Hard. I doubled over. He pushed me back. Big mistake—it gave me the breathing room to deliver my best haymaker to the jaw, knocking him back. Tough old coot; he came back with two quick jabs that missed and one right hook that connected with my nose, snapping my head back. The old dude knew some boxing all right, but I had the size advantage, so I bull-rushed him, slamming him against the door jamb, his head smacking the frame. That stunned him. I threw him on the floor face first. I straddled him with my knees, took off my tourniquet, and wrapped it around his neck good and tight. He struggled, but in that position, he had no hope. I knew what I was doing. The army was good for teaching you certain things, H and how to kill chief among them. He was a fool for coming back. Now I would take him with me. We could both explain ourselves when we get there.

FOUR

I THOUGHT FOR SURE I WAS A GONER, tube around my neck, on my stomach, face down, needle, dope, and candle scattered on the floor in front of me. I guess I spawned a pretty decent fighter. Not many would have come back from that left I laid on him. I started blacking out.

Suddenly, a loud crash. Yellow ceramic shards, an electrical cord, and broken light bulb bits rained down. Jack collapsed on top of me. I loosened the rubber tube and gasped, happy as could be to feel my lungs fill with that sweet, sweet Rand air. I struggled under my unconscious son, rolling over on my back until I could see from under his armpit.

“Hi, Tabatha.”

“Nice necklace, Dan.”

I pulled the tube from around my throat and tossed it across the room. I half-pushed and half-rolled my way out from under Jack, who was out of it. Tabatha stood in the door.

“Damn, I hope I didn’t kill him.”

“I don’t think so, but either way, you sure saved my hide.”

“Dan, I said to talk with him, not tussle with him.”

“Yeah, well, he had other ideas.” I looked behind her at a scared little college guy holding onto the doorway.

Tabatha looked back at him. “Don’t worry, honey. Floor show’s over.”

I told her to take off before Jack woke up. No reason to get her in a jam. She thought the same and took her little trick away, closing the door behind her.

11

At least it had quit raining. I went next door to Moby Dick’s. It was a weird honky-tonk: one part pimps, one part hookers, one part wino, and worst of all, five parts slumming tourists from the suburbs. What the hell? Did we go to their bars with the ferns and fake antiques out on whatever highway? No. So what were they doing here? It occurred to me that it might be fun to kick someone’s ass, but then I remembered that I was old. So I was content to enjoy a cheeseburger and fries, smoke a few Kools—I couldn’t understand how Jack could smoke menthols—and have roughly a dozen whiskey waters while listening to Bob Seger on the jukebox.

That’s when I met Tabatha. “Hey, whatcha doin’?” she said.

“Oh, goodness. Look at you.” I said. Not suave, I’ll admit, but honest since she was wearing a leather mini, fishnets, and a tube top over a huge pair of jugs under a red leather jacket. Her bright red hair made her look like Lucille Ball’s trashy sister.

She laughed. “Buy me a drink?”

And the rest was history. We had one drink, and, even though I felt pretty drunk, I also felt really horned up from watching porn all day, so I was an enthusiastic customer. We left, stumbling—okay, I was stumbling—out onto the street, walked a few doors down to, ironically enough, the Rand where she had a room.

So, in sum, I had set out in the morning to get some air and never returned, but only went as far as across the street, never getting more than a hundred yards from Jack’s room.

I definitely enjoyed Tabatha’s company. Not only doing the deed, but also we had a great talk afterward. I told her everything. Why not? In my experience, hookers make much better confessors than priests or bartenders.

*

So on day two of “on the lam from Jack,” here I was at Woolworth. I paid the fat, gap-toothed waitress for my ham sandwich and left.

I spent the best part of the afternoon looking around downtown, away from the players and drunks, among the businessmen in suits and secretaries in skirts. Eventually I found myself sitting outside of Woolworths on a bench in the sun eating popcorn out of a bag. That’s when I made my decision: I’d go face Jack, say I was sorry, get my shit, go back to Flint and my dump of a room, my cat, and my general assistance checks, and likely never hear from my son again. Even though I was his long-lost pa, Jack wouldn’t put up with someone who worked a grift on him. I figured I’d better just get my stuff and head out.

THREE

HE GAVE ME THE JUNK plus a complete set of works since I had thrown mine away four months before. “Okay, Scorpion. Appreciate it.”

“Anything for a fellow vet, Jack.” He meant it sarcastically and laughed.

I came out of the alley by the Venice, hands tucked in my pockets. I walked like a zombie, me and my white.

Scorp didn’t sell crap. I had known Scorpion from way back; he was an evac chopper pilot and in a perfect position in ’Nam to get his hands on anything. That skill carried over when he got back home. What struck me was here was a guy who could have done something with his life. Instead, he stood in the alley behind Moby Dick’s in the middle of the afternoon, selling most anything illegal to people like me.

Funny—who was I to judge anyone? I had lost my blind father. That was a new one. I’d never met anyone who lost their father, especially a blind one. Car keys? A hat? An umbrella? Sure. A blind father? That was an achievement. Best I could hope for was that he had left and gone back to Flint. I wouldn’t have blamed him. Did I really think I could fool anyone with all that bullshit? Lawyer? Come on. Even a blind man could see that I was no lawyer. Even a blind man could spot a dude like me a mile away. I was the loser. A dime-a-dozen loser. I thought I could convince him that the Rand was a five-star hotel? Please. The smell alone gave it away.

Still, my hunch was he hadn’t left; all his stuff was still in my room. Most likely, he decided to get some fresh air, lunch, whatever, and got rolled, and now he was dead in some dumpster. I couldn’t imagine what else it could be.

10

*

The reason I disappeared on Jack was pretty simple: I had to get out of that horrible shithole hotel room. The place smelled like ass. So I left. I hadn’t planned to go anywhere. I really didn’t consider my next move other than getting some fresh air. I went downstairs and stood on the street, next to the door up to the flop, doing nothing, dark sunglasses, white cane in front of me, watching the people walk back and forth. Occasionally I’d stick my cane out and try to trip a passerby. When I successfully hit someone, I’d yell, “Watch out! Can’t you see I’m blind!”

That kept me busy for a while. When it started to rain, I decided to go to the Bridgeman’s Restaurant across the street for an early lunch. I stuck my cane out and walked right into six lanes of traffic. Tap, tap, tap, cars swerving. One guy slammed on his brakes just in time and honked. I whacked the hood of his car with my cane and yelled, “Can’t you see? I can’t!” Ha! I bet he messed himself.

I sat at the counter of the Bridgeman’s, happy to be out of the Rand. Chicken fried steak, mm-mmm. And coffee. Lots of coffee. I sat in the window looking out at the pouring rain. Maybe the rain would wash away the piss smell you can’t seem to get away from on Hennepin Avenue. Didn’t Jack say we were in the “classiest part of town”? He must have thought I was a complete idiot. Even a blind man could see Hennepin was a seedy skid row. And the hotel! “Five star,” he said. The boy would never make it on his wits. Maybe if I had been there for him. When I was his age, I ran card games in the back of the NCO’s club at a little base in England during the war. Made a lot of moolah.

Anyway, I sat around Bridgeman’s for about two hours doing nothing, drinking up all their coffee, and smoking Jack’s Kools. Then it was time to go. So they told me. I went outside, rain pouring down, still tapping along. I figured I might as well keep at it; the blind thing could be useful. Across the street, a few doors from the Rand, was a porno place, the American and Adonis Theater. Great name for a porno theater: “The American.” What the hell? It was only one thirty, and I needed to get dry and kill some time. Again, tap, tap, tap, right out into the street, straight across six lanes of midday traffic. Brakes squealing, cars swerving on the wet pavement, pedestrians freaking out on both sides of the avenue, and me doing everything I could to keep a straight face. Just before I got to the other side, a car slid to a stop right in front of me, the driver’s eyes as big as hubcaps. I kept tapping and walked right into the side of his car. I yelled, “Asshole! What are you doing driving on the sidewalk?”

I tapped my way into the entrance of the so-called theater. It was a storefront with the windows painted over advertising “XXX.” You don’t need to know more than that. Inside a Mexican mopped the floor, and a black guy smoking a cigarette sold tickets behind supposedly bulletproof glass. He also sold Rush, condoms, cock rings, rolling papers, pipes, and other basic needs. Regular one-stop shopping for that shitty block.

Standing ramrod straight, cane in front of me, I said, “Is this the Academy Theater?” to the guy behind the glass.

“No, man. This is the American and Adonis Theater. The Academy is around the corner.”

“The American and Adonis Theater? I’ve never heard of that one. What are you showing?”

“Upstairs, that’s the American, we have a double feature of Hot Lunch and Take It Off. Downstairs—that’s the Adonis, the gay theater—we have Hot Rod and The Boys of Company B.” He was a funny guy; he wore an Izod shirt and had a textbook open on the counter. I’d never seen a black guy in an Izod shirt.

“Really! Sounds much better than the kung fu film playing at the Academy. Which one has the better plot? I’m blind, you know.”

“Yeah, I gathered that. How do you enjoy movies when you’re blind?”

“Easy. If it has a good plot, I have no problem following the story.”

“Well, Pops, let me tell you, these don’t have a plot.”

“No plot?”

“No plot.”

I dramatically scratched my chin. “That’s okay. I can always masturbate. Give me one.”

He looked at me long and hard, and then he crushed out his cigarette. “Which one?”

“Which what?”

“Which theater?”

“What were the choices again?”

He sighed. “Gay or straight, Pops. Your pick.”

“Hmm. What do you suggest?”

“Come on, don’t bullshit me.” He stared at me. I kept a straight face, both hands on my white cane. “Well, I suggest straight because even if you’re bisexual, you’ll get enough cock in those two pictures to keep you happy.”

I paid my five bucks and tapped my way upstairs to the smelly would-be “auditorium.” And that’s where I stayed all afternoon. The films were okay, too, but the plots were indeed a little thin.

Four o’clock came and went. Five, and then six. Still, I didn’t go back to the Rand. I guess once again I followed my nose, and my nose said to lay low.

I just couldn’t face him.

Eventually I got hungry. I decided to skip the cane bit and folded it up, tucked it under my arm, and headed out. The same guy was in the box office when I left. He was eating a burger, and it looked good.

“Young man, where’d you get that burger?”

“Moby Dick’s. Hey, aren’t you the blind guy?”

“Yeah, used to be. Isn’t that something? People used to say flogging your Polish made you blind, but they got it backward.”

9

She came over to me. I sat up on the edge of the bed and wrapped my arms around her waist, my head resting between her breasts. I blew, making fart noises on her boobs. She giggled and pushed my head away. “Sweetheart, I have to get going, and you can’t stay here. If you want me tonight, you know where to find me.” She started getting dressed. “But you’re still going to have to talk to him.” She tossed my pants at me.

“It wasn’t my goal to break the kid’s heart.”

“I know, Dan, I know.”

I really didn’t have a goal anymore. My original plan went to shit, and I needed to think, to regroup. Instead, like always, I just started following my nose. That’s what I call it when I live moment to moment, not thinking ahead. Living on instinct—story of my whole fucking life.

We got dressed and walked out of the room together. Jack’s room was right down the hall. All I had to do was walk a few steps, pound on the door, and tell him the whole story. If he was home, that is, and not at his “law firm.” Instead, I walked out to the street with Tabatha.

It was Friday and a beautiful late morning. I considered going around the corner to that little Italian restaurant we went to my first night, but then I figured it would be best to get away from the block and lie low so I could think about my next move. I said good-bye to Tabatha and walked a couple blocks to a Woolworths with a lunch counter in the basement. I sat down at the counter and ordered a ham sandwich and chips and a cup of coffee from a big waitress with a missing front tooth. The stool was hard plastic and really uncomfortable. I lit up a square.

Damn! I had forgotten my cane in the hooker’s room. That changed the equation—now either I had to forget about my stuff back in Jack’s room and go back to Flint, or I had to go back to that shitty hotel and come clean with Jack. For sure, the jig was up. Unless I got another cane, which, I guess, would have been possible.

Thing is, Jack was no innocent here. He wrote me about how he was some hotshot lawyer, how rich he was, all that crap. I came to town thinking he would help out his father—his old, blind father—with a few bucks. Turns out, he was a junkie or whatever, living in a flop. He ain’t got shit. No money, no car, no nothing. I had more money than him. Ha! What a joke.

But who was I to criticize? Served me right for running a little game on my long-lost son. I deserved to get bitten on the ass. What had I ever done for him? Or his mother, for that matter.

I had met Jack’s mother, Margery, in Indianapolis after the war. A solid hometown girl, and she tried to be a good wife. May God rest her soul. We did okay together for a while. We had a nice place, I got a real job as a car salesman, and twenty-eight years ago, we had Jack. That wasn’t enough for me, though. Margery wouldn’t put up with my catting around for one second, and things got a little rocky. Then I got in a jam: I was into a bookie for twenty large, and my life expectancy in Indianapolis wasn’t very long. So, add it all up, it was time to go, and I packed a rucksack and jumped a freight. Left behind Margery, little eight-year-old Jack, my sales job, and one angry bookie. I ended up in Cheyenne, where the train stopped. Again, just following my nose.

As I ate my ham sandwich, I wondered what Jack was doing right then. I bet going nuts. Lies aside, Jack was a sweet kid. He really doted over me. And, deep inside, I was happy to see my son again. It felt great talking with him, even if it was mostly bullshit. I mean, all these years I figured he probably hated me, but instead he welcomed me with open arms. Wow, who’d have thought? I had given my ex-wife’s cow-of-a-sister my contact info in case Margery remembered me in her will. A guy can hope, right? Then a couple months later, Jack’s letter comes. Apparently Margery’s sister told him I asked him to write me. I didn’t remember saying anything of the kind; I guess she took it on herself to put together a little reunion. Jack’s letter was all “lawyer this,” “mansion that,” and I hatched my little scheme.

Ah hell.