Paranoia (121 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.

Part Six: 65 (Cont'd)

Now he looked directly at me, and I could see the anguish in his eyes. It felt like a dagger in my gut. My own eyes got moist.

"You go off to work and you build your little kingdom," he said, "and you lose track of what matters." He blinked hard. "I don't want you to lose track, Adam. Not ever."

Goddard looked smaller, and wizened, and a hundred years old. "He was lying on his bed covered in drool and piss like an infant, and I cradled him in my arms just like he was a baby. Do you know what it's like seeing your child in a coffin?" he whispered. I felt goose bumps, and I had to look away from him. "I thought I'd never go back to work. I thought I'd never get over it. Margaret says I never have. For almost two months I stayed home. I couldn't figure out the reason I was alive anymore. Something like this happens and you—you question the value of everything."

He seemed to remember he had a handkerchief in his pocket, and he pulled it out, mopped his face. "Ah, look at me," he said with a deep sigh, and unexpectedly he sort of chuckled. "Look at the old fool. When I was your age I imagined that when I got to be as old as I am now I'd have discovered the meaning of life." He smiled sadly. "And I'm no closer now to knowing the meaning of life than I ever was. Oh, I know what it's not about. By process of elimination. I had to lose a son to learn that. You get your big house and your fancy car, and maybe they put you on the cover of Fortune magazine, and you think you've got it all figured out, right? Until God sends you a little telegram saying, 'Oh, forgot to mention, none of that means a thing. And everyone you love on this earth—they're really just on loan, you see. And you'd better love 'em while you can.' " A tear rolled slowly down his cheek. "To this day I ask myself, did I ever know Elijah? Maybe not. I thought I did. I do know I loved him, more than I ever thought I could love someone. But did I really know my boy? I couldn't tell you." He shook his head slowly, and I could see him begin to take hold of himself. "Your dad's goddamned lucky, whoever he is, so goddamned lucky, and he'll never know it. He's got a son like you, a son who's still with him. I know he's got to be proud of you."

"I'm not so sure of that," I said softly.

"Oh, I am," Goddard said. "Because I know I'd be."

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