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Believe this and the succeeding pages or not, but four years ago, my wise and generous father – one of the truly wise men on this earth – made me a gift of my life, and in a most unusual way. He did for his son something I almost worship him for, something this book will try to explain, though I've only begun to appreciate the extent of it. I'd always thought him rather dull, too, a sullen, selfish, unimaginative man who snoozed his way through his leisure hours and bowed and scraped through the working ones. Well, he may have done the latter, but you'll see if you’re with me to the end that my first twenty years must have been spent in a sophomoric state, because I didn't know him at all.
Anyhow, to begin, it was at breakfast one morning when the New York City weather was finally reasonably warm and during our discussion of the near future that my old man offered the opinion that to take my IQ to college and a four-year round of tedium would be a waste of my time and his money.
In other words, dear old Dad was telling me not to go to college.
I was rendered speechless for a few minutes while he sat behind a cold stare and waited for me (never at a loss for words), to say something. I put my fork down and swallowed the food in my mouth. Work came to mind first, then deep suspicion, though the idea of ending my formal education then and there was certainly attractive, then the thought I’d awakened with, the result of a dream, I guess: that we should replace the crusty old woman who did the cooking and cleaning for us with someone easier on the eyes with whom I might amuse myself during the day.
Another bite of breakfast and back to the point and on the other hand, I frowned and silently debated the pros and cons of being steered away from admission to (co-eds at) the University of Miami and four years of guaranteed fun in the sun. Anyway, by the time I tossed that around my father was ready to leave for work, and getting right down to business on the way to the door, said, “I want you to shelve the catalogues you've been collecting, go out and buy a good all-purpose suitcase, some attractive, durable, casual clothes suitable for warm weather, and get yourself in the right frame of mind by tonight to discuss an exciting plan I have for you.”
He opened the door and set his homburg on his head. “Plan to travel light,” he said, “in a warm climate.”
“Hey, terrific, but can't you wait up?”
He adjusted the sitting angle of the grey, felt hat to insure proper passage of the executive to the desk, and said, “If I was president of the bank, I could, as you say, wait up, but regretfully, I’m not. We’ll talk about it this evening, James, so don’t make plans.”
Damn! I’d never known the old stuffed shirt to be mysterious, and this was a hell of a time to start, with my future at stake. I mean, I wasn’t exactly sure a crashing bore like him could be trusted with anything beyond the bank’s best interest(s). It was dreadful to think he’d found a job for me in some warm climate, maybe in a branch of the bank as a cash-counter or something. Jesus! The location would have to be damned exotic before I'd go for a dull deal like that.
Damn, but I was worried. “Can you tell me on the phone?” I persisted.
“We'll eat at seven, in the study. Be there and I'll tell you.”
I shifted my bare feet, drew the old bathrobe tight, folded my arms over my chest and nodded as the door closed behind him. What the hell did my father ever study in the study besides the market quotations? Why didn't he call some joker at the bank and report in sick? Why didn't he throw frigging caution to the wind for a change and knock off for the day? Jesus, spare me that kind of mindless dedication.
The apartment door reopened. “Oh and James, you'd better kiss what’s-her-name good-bye. After today, you may not have time.”
I wish I could have seen my face, especially when the door closed and left me sitting there with the unreasonable suggestion crowding out everything else in my head. What's-her-name happened to be my new girlfriend, Stephanie, a sweet dish with one working parent and an apartment to herself during the daylight hours, my favorite time to make love because I can see what I'm getting, not to mention, who's giving.
So, my big mouth was hanging open and the rest of the day wasn’t much better considering the mental cold spoon my father had put on it, though I could make up some interesting scenes, and promise that if I remember anything of interest as I go along with the telling, I'll do that.
But I don't like to prolong the suspense and will take you straight to the evening.
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