Paranoia (137 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: 72 (Cont'd)

When it was over, Seth gave me a hug, and then Antwoine gave me a crushing handshake and hug, and I was surprised to see a single tear rolling down the giant's face. I hadn't cried during the whole service; I hadn't cried at all the whole day. I felt anesthetized. Maybe I was past it.

Aunt Irene tottered up to me and held my hand in both of her soft age-spotted hands. Her bright red lipstick had been applied with a shaky hand. Her perfume was so strong I had to hold my breath. "Your father was a good man," she said. She seemed to read something in my face, some skepticism I hadn't meant to show, and she said, "He wasn't a comfortable man with his feelings, I know. He wasn't at ease expressing them. But I know he loved you."

Okay, if you insist, I thought, and I smiled and thanked her. Dad's Kiwanis friend, a hulking guy who was around Dad's age but looked twenty years younger, took my hand and said, "Sorry for your loss." Even Jonesie, the loading dock guy from Wyatt Telecom, showed up with his wife, Esther. They both said they were sorry for my loss.

I was leaving the church, about to get in the limousine to follow the hearse to the graveyard, when I saw a man sitting in the back row of the church. He'd come in some time after the mass had started, but I couldn't make out his face at such a distance, in the dark light of the church's interior.

The man turned around and caught my eye.

It was Goddard.

I couldn't believe it. Astonished, and moved, I walked up to him slowly. I smiled, thanked him for coming. He shook his head, waved away my thanks.

"I thought you were in Tokyo," I said.

"Oh, hell, it's not as if the Asia Pacific division hasn't kept me waiting time and time again."

"I don't ..." I fumbled, incredulous. "You rescheduled your trip?"

"One of the very few things I've learned in life is the importance of getting your priorities straight."

For a moment I was speechless. "I'll be back in tomorrow," I said. "It might be on the later side, because I'll probably have some business to take care of—"

"No," he said. "Take your time. Go slow."

"I'll be fine, really."

"Be good to yourself, Adam. Somehow we'll manage without you for a little while."

"It's not like—not at all like your son, Jock. I mean, my dad was pretty sick with emphysema for a long time, and ... it's really better this way. He wanted to go."

"I know the feeling," he said quietly.

"I mean, we weren't all that close, really." I looked around the dim church interior, the rows of wooden pews, the gold and crimson paint on the walls. A couple of my friends were standing near the door waiting to talk to me. "I probably shouldn't say it, especially in here, you know?" I smiled sadly. "But he was kind of a difficult guy, a tough old bird, which makes it easier, his passing. It's not like I'm totally devastated or anything."

"Oh, no, that makes it even harder, Adam. You'll see. When your feelings are that complicated."

I sighed. "I don't think my feelings for him are—were—all that complicated."

"It hits you later. The wasted opportunities. The things that could have been. But I want you to keep something in mind: Your dad was fortunate to have you."

"I don't think he considered himself—"

"Really. He was a lucky man, your father."

"I don't know about that," I said, and all of a sudden, without warning, the shut-off valve in me gave way, the dam broke, and the tears welled up. I flushed with shame as the tears started streaming down my face, and I blurted out, "I'm sorry, Jock."

He reached both of his hands up and placed them on my shoulders. "If you can't cry, you're not alive," Goddard said. His eyes were moist.

Now I was weeping like a baby, and I was mortified and somehow relieved at the same time. Goddard put his arms around me, clasped me in a big hug as I blubbered like an idiot.

"I want you to know something, son," he said, very quietly. "You're not alone."

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