Paranoia (134 of 170)

—of —
by Joseph Finder
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Macmillan: Paranoia

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

Part Seven: 71 (Cont'd)

It's funny: after that first time I broke out crying at my dad's hospital bed, something in me shut down. I didn't cry again, not for a long while. I felt like an arm that's gone to sleep, gone all limp and prickly after having been lain on all night.

On the drive out to the funeral home I called Alana at work and got her voice mail, a message saying she was "out of the office" but would be checking her messages frequently. I remembered she was in Palo Alto. I called her cell, and she answered on the first ring.

"This is Alana." I loved her voice: it was velvety smooth with a hint of huskiness.

"It's Adam."

"Hey, jerk."

"What'd I do?"

"Aren't you supposed to call a girl up the morning after you sleep with her, to make her feel less guilty about putting out?"

"God, Alana, I—"

"Some guys even send flowers," she went on, businesslike. "Not that this has ever happened to me personally, but I've read about it in Cosmo."

She was right, of course: I hadn't called her, which was truly rude. But what was I supposed to tell her, the truth? That I hadn't called her because I was frozen like some insect in amber and I didn't know what to do? That I couldn't believe how lucky I was to find a woman like her—she was an itch I couldn't stop scratching—and yet I felt like a complete and total evil fraud? Yeah, I thought, you've read in Cosmo about how men are users, baby, but you have no idea.

"How's Palo Alto?"

"Pretty, but you're not changing the subject so easily."

"Alana," I said, "listen. I wanted to tell you—I got some bad news. My dad just died."

"Oh, Adam. Oh, I'm so sorry. Oh God. I wish I were there."

"Me, too."

"What can I do?"

"Don't worry about it, nothing."

"Do you know ... when the funeral's going to be?"

"Couple of days."

"I'll be out here till Thursday. Adam, I'm so sorry."

I called Seth next, who said pretty much the same thing: "Oh, man, buddy, I'm so sorry. What can I do?" People always say that, and it's nice, but you do begin to wonder, what is there to do, right? It wasn't like I wanted a casserole. I didn't know what I wanted.

"Nothing, really."

"Come on, I can get out of work at the law firm. No worries."

"No, it's okay, thanks, man."

"There going to be a funeral and everything?"

"Yeah, probably. I'll let you know."

"Take care, buddy, huh?"

Then the cell phone rang in my hand. Meacham didn't say hello or anything. His first words were, "Where the fuck have you been?"

"My father just died. About an hour ago."

A long silence. "Jesus," he said. Then he added stiffly, as if it were an afterthought: "Sorry to hear it."

"Yep," I said.

"Timing really sucks."

"Yep," I said, my anger flaring up. "I told him to wait." Then I pressed END.

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