COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Part Two: 15 (Cont'd)
Antwoine came back down the hall toward us. He approached my father, almost menacingly close, but he spoke in a soft, gentle voice. "Mr. Cassidy, you want me to leave, I'll leave. Hell, I'll leave right now, I don't got no problem with that. I don't stay where I'm not wanted. I don't need a job that bad. As long as my parole officer knows I made a serious attempt to get a job, I'm cool."
Dad was staring at the TV, an ad for Depends, a vein twitching under his left eye. I'd seen that face before, usually when he was chewing someone out, and it could scare the shit out of you. He used to make his football players run till someone puked, and if anyone refused to keep going, they got the Face. But he'd used it so many times on me that it had lost its power. Now he pivoted around and turned it on Antwoine, who'd no doubt seen a hell of a lot worse in the joint.
"Did you say parole officer?"
"You heard me right."
"You're a fucking convict?"
"The hell you trying to do to me?" he said, staring at me. "You trying to kill me before the disease does? Look at me, I can't hardly move, and you put me alone in the house with a fucking convict?"
Antwoine didn't even seem to be annoyed. "Like your son says, you ain't got nothing worth stealing, even if I wanted to," he said calmly, through sleepy eyes. "At least give me a little credit, if I wanted to pull off some kinda scam, I wouldn't take a job here."
"You hear that?" Dad puffed, enraged. "You hear that?"
"Plus, if I'm going to stay, we gotta come to agreement on a couple of things, you and me." Antwoine sniffed the air. "I can smell the smokes, and you're going to have to cut that shit out right now. That's the shit that got you here." He reached out one huge hand and tapped the arm of the Barcalounger. A compartment popped open, which I'd never seen before, and a red-and-white pack of Marlboros popped up like a jack-in-the-box. "Thought so. That's where my dad always hid his."
"Hey!" my dad yelled. "I don't believe this!"
"And you're gonna start a workout routine. Your muscles are wasting away. Your problem isn't your lungs, it's your muscles."
"Are you out of your fuckin' mind?" Dad said.
"You got the respirtary disease, you gotta exercise. Can't do anything about the lungs, those are gone, but the muscles we can do something about. We're gonna start with some leg lifts in your chair, get your leg muscles working again, and then we're going to walk for one minute. My old man had the emphysema, and me and my brother—"
"You tell this big—tattooed nigger," Dad said between puffs, "to get his stuff—out of that room—and get the hell out of my house!"
I almost lost it. I'd just had a supremely lousy day, and my temper was short, and for months and months I'd been busting my ass trying to find someone who'd put up with the old guy, replacing each one as he made them leave, a whole long parade, a huge waste of time. And here he was, summarily dismissing the latest who, granted, may not have been an ideal candidate, but was the only one we had. I wanted to let into him, let fly, but I couldn't. I couldn't scream at my father, this pathetic dying old man with end-stage emphysema. So I held it in, at the risk of exploding.
Before I could say anything, Antwoine turned to me. "I believe your son hired me, so he's the only one who can fire me."
I shook my head. "No such luck, Antwoine. You're not getting out of here—not so easy. Why don't you get started?"