Long Lost Page 5

’’Condos are nice,’’ I said, babbling. ’’Low maintenance. You pay that one monthly fee and that\'s it, right?’’

Now she said nothing.

’’So,’’ I said, ’’to put it right out there, what does this mean for us?’’

’’Do you want to move to Scottsdale?’’ she asked.

I hesitated.

She put a hand on my arm. ’’Look at me.’’

I did. And then she said something I never saw coming:

’’We\'re not forever, Myron. We both know that.’’

A group of kids rushed past us. One bumped into me and actually said, ’’Excuse me.’’ A ref blew a whistle. A horn sounded.

’’Mom?’’

Jack, bless his little heart, appeared around the corner. We both snapped out of it and smiled toward him. He did not smile back. Usually, no matter how awful he\'d played, Jack came bounding out like a born-again puppy, offering up smiles and high fives. Part of the kid\'s charm. But not today.

’’Hey, kiddo,’’ I said, because I wasn\'t sure what to say. Lots of times I hear people in similar situations say, ’’Good game,’’ but kids know that it\'s a lie and that they\'re being patronized and that just makes it worse.

Jack ran over to me, wrapped his arms around my waist, buried his face in my chest, started to sob. I felt my heart crack anew. I stood there, cupping the back of his head. Ali was watching my face. I didn\'t like what I saw.

’’Tough day,’’ I said. ’’We all have them. Don\'t let it get to you, okay? You did your best, that\'s all you can do.’’ Then I added something the boy would never understand but was absolutely true: ’’These games aren\'t really that important.’’

Ali put her hands on her son\'s shoulder. He let go of me, turned to her, buried his face again. We stood there like that for a minute, until he calmed down. Then I clapped my hands and forced up a smile.

’’Anyone up for ice cream?’’

Jack rebounded fast. ’’Me!’’

’’Not today,’’ Ali said. ’’We need to pack and get ready.’’

Jack frowned.

’’Maybe another time.’’

I expected Jack to give an ’’awww, Mom,’’ but maybe he heard something in her tone too. He tilted his head and then turned back to me without another word. We knuckled up that was how we said hello and good-bye, the fist-knuckle salute and Jack started for the door.

Ali gestured with her eyes for me to look right. I followed the gesture to Coach Bobby. ’’Don\'t you dare fight him,’’ she said.

’’He challenged me,’’ I said.

’’The bigger man steps away.’’

’’In the movies maybe. In places filled with pixie dust and Easter Bunnies and pretty fairies. But in real life, the man who steps away is considered a big-time wuss.’’

’’Then for me, okay? For Jack. Don\'t go to that bar tonight. Promise me.’’

’’He said if I didn\'t show, he\'d get satisfaction or something.’’

’’He\'s a blowhard. Promise me.’’

She made me meet her eyes.

I hesitated but not for long. ’’Okay, I won\'t show.’’

She turned to walk away. There was no kiss, not even a buss on the cheek.

’’Ali?’’

’’What?’’

The corridor suddenly seemed very empty.

’’Are we breaking up?’’

’’Do you want to live in Scottsdale?’’

’’You want an answer right now?’’

’’No. But I already know the answer. So do you.’’

3

I\'M not sure how much time passed. Probably a minute or two. Then I headed out to my car. The skies were gray. A drizzle coated me. I stopped for a moment, closed my eyes, raised my face to the heavens. I thought about Ali. I thought about Terese in a boutique hotel in Paris.

I lowered my face, took two more steps and that was when I spotted Coach Bobby and his buddies in a Ford Expedition.

Sigh.

All four of them were there: Assistant Coach Pat drove, Coach Bobby was in the passenger seat, the other two slabs of beef sat in the back. I took out my mobile phone and hit the speed-dial button one. Win answered on the first ring.

’’Articulate,’’ Win said.

That\'s how he always answers the phone, even when he can clearly see on the caller ID that it\'s me, and yes, it is annoying.

’’You better circle back,’’ I said.

’’Oh,’’ Win said, his voice kid-on-Christmas-morning happy, ’’goodie, goodie.’’

’’How long will it take?’’

’’I\'m just down the street. I suspected something like this might occur.’’

’’Don\'t shoot anyone,’’ I said.

’’Yes, Mother.’’

My car was parked near the back of the lot. The Expedition followed slowly. The drizzle picked up a bit. I wondered what their plan was something moronically macho, no doubt and decided to just play it as it lays.

Win\'s Jag appeared and waited in the distance. I drive a Ford Taurus, aka The Chick Trawler. Win hates my car. He won\'t sit in it. I took out my keys and hit the remote. The car made that little ding noise and unlocked. I slipped inside. The Expedition made its big move then. It raced forward and stopped directly behind the Taurus, blocking me in. Coach Bobby jumped out first, petting his goatee. His two buddies followed.

I sighed and watched their approach in my rearview mirror.

’’Something I can do for you?’’ I said.

’’Heard your girl chewing you out,’’ he said.

’’Eavesdropping is considered rude, Coach Bobby.’’

’’I figured maybe you\'d change your mind and wouldn\'t show. So I thought we could settle this now. Right here.’’

Coach Bobby leaned his face right into mine.

’’Unless you\'re chicken.’’

I said, ’’Did you have tuna for lunch?’’

Win\'s Jaguar pulled up next to the Expedition. Coach Bobby took a step back and narrowed his eyes. Win got out. The four men looked at him and frowned.

’’Who the hell is he?’’

Win smiled and raised his hand as if he\'d just been introduced on a talk show and wanted to acknowledge the applause of the studio audience. ’’Nice to be here,’’ he said. ’’Thank you very much.’’

’’He\'s a friend,’’ I said. ’’Here to even up the odds.’’

’’Him?’’ Bobby laughed. His chorus joined in. ’’Oh yeah, sure.’’

I got out of the car. Win moved a little closer to the three buddies.

Coach Bobby said, ’’I\'m so gonna kick your ass.’’

I shrugged. ’’Take your best shot.’’


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