Nor Bid the Stars Farewell- Part 3

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It wasn’t until a week later that John resumed his search on his father. The week had been busy, but a blessed relief from the past few months. He had returned to work to find that the large contract he had been procuring had actually been accepted and that he would be receiving a large commission. All he needed to do was to shore up a number of loose ends, and it would be complete. He couldn’t do anything until after lunch, so he needed a new distraction.

He sat in his office facing out of the giant wall of glass that stood between him and the one hundred stories of city below. He had always been afraid of heights but loved the view from above the city. When it was silent enough he could barely make out the rumbling of traffic from far below. He sat there in his large, leather desk-chair cupping his warm coffee savoring the sweet aroma and the silence of the hectic city.  Far in the distance, John imagined he could see the white gulls soaring over the coastline. Los Angeles could be an urban jungle, but at least it was his urban jungle. It made him think of his father who had moved out here when he was a young boy.   
      Spinning his chair toward his desk, John tapped on the keyboard to open up the internet. He keyed in the address to the heritage website.  This was his first chance in a week to try to find answers. He entered his father’s name and took a heavy sip of his coffee. After a long minute and another few sips of the warm liquid the results finally showed. He scanned the records and saw the same birth certificate from before. He forgot that he had saved it to his profile. He clicked on his link then clicked again on the birth record for the baby boy connected to his father. The name on the document read “Tom”.  John had never heard the name growing up, so as far as he knew, Mike was the only brother he had.  He silently wished they were still speaking so he could ask if the name was familiar to him. The certificate recorded a birth at the same hospital a few blocks down from his high rise. John wondered if the man, who had to be close to thirty-five by now, still resided close by.

He entered the name Tom plus his last name into a search engine. It produced no results. He returned to the ancestry website and searched again for a Tom with his last name. Still no luck.

If I’ve never heard about him, it’s possible he didn’t know about us either. John was now determined to find this man. He brought up the record and found the last name of the mother. This time he searched for a Tom with the mother’s last name.

Finally, a hit. It was a marriage license to a Cindy in Los Angeles County. He tried that name in a search engine, and it produced a social media page with a phone number.

“Might be an old one, but it’s worth a shot,” he said aloud to no one.

He picked up the receiver on his desk and looked around to see if anyone was watching him. Not that anyone would care after this huge deal he just landed. As he waited for the other end to pick up, John poured one more package of sweetener into his coffee. He hated the taste compared to real sugar. He sipped the beverage and loathed the doctor all the more as the semi-sweet flavor hit his tongue. Finally, after what seemed hours, an engaging voice answered.

“Hello?”

“I’m sorry to bother you ma’am, but is this Cindy?”

“Yeah, who’s calling?”

“My name is John. I apologize for the odd request, but I’m looking for a Tom.”

Click.

Befuddled, John searched his desk to see if the line had disconnected somehow. He hung up the receiver, but when he picked it up again there was a steady dial tone. Shrugging it off, John hung up the phone and decided to leave the situation alone for the moment.  There was another riddle he wanted to solve. That of his father’s missing birth certificate. He was beginning to have suspicions that his father was not who he said he was.

Suddenly, the website flashed an advertisement for a discount on international records. A thought kindled in his mind. His dad had to born somewhere. If John couldn’t find an American record, surely an international one would shed some light. He entered his credit card information and within twenty minutes John was ready to search the international interwebs for a birth record of his father. Fear held him still for a moment before typing in his father’s name in the search bar. He moved his fingers to the enter key to commence the request when his phone rang.

John flinched.

Again it sounded, and this time John answered it.

“Hello?” he asked forgetting to include his name and company business.

“Is this John?”

“Yes.”

“This is Cindy from earlier. I’m sorry. I thought you was another credit collector calling. I hung up, then thought you sounded too nice. You’re not are you?”

“Um… no.  I’m just looking for Tom.” 

“Well him and I split up six years ago. Divorce.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.”

“Would you happen to know how to reach him?”

“What’s your deal with him?”

John wondered if he should tell her the truth.

“Honestly, I have information that might make him my brother.”

“Tom don’t have no brothers. Mom died when he were a baby.”

“This would be from his biological father.”

“Oh, that sorry piece of crap? If you ever see him, you can tell him to screw off. Done enough damage to Tom.”

“Actually, ma’am, my father just passed away.”

“Oh… my bad. Well, he don’t have a working phone number, but I can give you his address.”

“That would be fine.”

She relayed it to him, and after a quick search John was surprised to find it was only fifteen minutes from his office.

“Ma’am, thank you for your time.”

“Yeah, by the way, Tom and his hood ain’t too fond of visitors. Watch your back.”

“Thanks for the advice.”

John’s lunch was only a few hours away, so he didn’t have much time. He rang his secretary.

“Gina, I need to head out for a while. Tell anyone who calls that I’m in a meeting.”

“Yes, sir. When shall I expect you?”

“Probably not until after lunch.”

“Okay, sir.”

John knew he was using up his collateral from the deal but he needed answers. Passing Gina’s desk he thanked her again. Gina returned with a flirtatious smile. John shook his head.  Messing around at work was not his thing. He had tried to get her moved to another office because she was just too flirty for him. But she flirted with everyone, and she was good at her job, so John eventually dropped the request. Any other man might have gotten into a lot of trouble with that secretary.

He shook off the thought as he turned the ignition to his car. He entered the address into his navigation system. He wasn’t quite sure what he was going to say, but he hoped he would come up with something. Exiting the parking structure, he headed toward the I-5 South.

The entire drive his mind rattled with different ways to begin the conversation, but nothing seemed appropriate. He reached down for his coffee and nearly kicked himself when he grasped only thin air. He needed something to steady his nerves. It didn’t help that the freeway was still at a standstill. He only had two exits ahead of him, but there was no way through the throng of cars. Slowly the mob of automobiles trickled forward. Noxious fumes floated about his car like a dirty fog while aggravated drivers took turns urging those ahead of them with profanity and horns.  John looked at the green digital clock on his dashboard. The fifteen minute drive had already taken thirty-five, and he had one more exit to take. A bright blue motorcycle weaved in and out of traffic making its way to the front of the pack. John watched as it took the exit he needed. Maybe I should trade this old car in for a crotch rocket too, he thought.  Finally, a hole opened up and John took the opportunity to escape the melee. Within minutes John turned his silver Spectra onto the residential street his navigation system had been leading him to.

He slowed to examine the houses. He had obviously stumbled into a rough neighborhood. Most of the houses were crumbling and were surrounded by old, rusted chain-link fences. The windows all had bars on them, but some were still broken despite the extra layer of protection.  He stopped the car in front of his destination. The house was no different from the rest with a rusty fence out front; dirty, crumbling, paneled walls; and a rusty metal awning over the front window. John hesitated to get out. He was still in his business suit. The warning from the woman on the phone resonated in his head. But there was no way around it. He had come this far, he might as well truck on.

Steadily, he moved from the car to the front door and knocked. After a long, terrifying few minutes constantly looking over his shoulder the door creaked open. A daddy long-leg spider ran out of the way as its web was broken.

“Who are you?” a gruff voice said from behind a latch chain.

John hesitated then asked, “What’s your dad’s name?”

“Ain’t got un. And ya got ten seconds to stop me from shooting. Ten…”

“Apologies-”

“Nine…”

“I meant your biological father.”

“Brian. Eight…”

“That’ my dad’s name too.”

“Seven… So? Big deal.  There’s probably thousands of Brians. Six…”

When John shared the last name, the man stopped counting.

“This a joke?”

“No. I promise.”

“How’d you find me?

“Cindy?”

“Figures. Never trust a broad.”

“Listen, do you know anything about him?”

“Why don’t ya ask his sorry ass yourself?”

“Well, he passed away a few weeks ago.”

“Oh. . .” Tom said sounding a little guilty. “Nah. Ma never talked ‘bout ’em.”

“Cindy said your mother died when you were a baby.”

“She don’t know much. Ma died when I was six.”

“Do you remember her saying anything, maybe referring to another country perhaps?” John asked grasping for straws.

“Er… She’d often say something ‘bout never learning Canadian. Whatever that meant.”

“Hmmm… Well I want to thank you for your time. Here’s my card. If you remember anything else, or just, well . . . for whatever.”

“Sure thing.” He reached out to grab the card. Then reached out again. John clasped his hand.”Sure good to know I have a brother.”

“Two actually and a sister.”

“Hmm. Damn.” He released John’s hand and shut the door. John looked down at his watch. It was missing.

“Damn.”

He wasn’t about to go asking for it back. Not in this neighborhood. He left it alone and hurried back to his office before his meeting.

Nor Bid the Stars Farewell- Part 2

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John ambled through his father’s apartment grazing his finger tips over the items scattered about. He had just closed the last box in the apartment, and now he was waiting for the movers to arrive. Dust and ash had accumulated over the years, and with every breath, John took in the stench of stale tobacco. The place disgusted him. Even when he came as a child to visit he had hated touching anything. Now, he couldn’t stop himself.

There was very little he desired, yet he still felt guilt over consigning his father’s possessions. Lingering in the living room, John spotted two items he very much did wish to have. First, the fifty-inch plasma screen. He figured he could sell it and use the money to buy his sons’ Christmas presents. At least the old man would finally contribute to his grandkids lives. He also wanted the old gaming system. He and his brother had bought it for their father as a birthday present many years ago. In retrospect, it was a selfish buy.

John had used it as an escape from his father’s drunken musings. Every weekend he stayed with his father, he was kept up until two or three in the morning listening to his rants and lectures. As a little boy, John did not know how to respond. He was constantly informed of relationship and financial issues all of which he couldn’t care less about. He just sat in the chair, his back to his father, watching cartoons to fade out the words floating with the cigarette smoke over his head. Soon his father realized this and began muting the television forcing John to be a sounding board for all of his father’s anger, pain, and frustrations. By the time John reached high school, he could no longer stomach these sessions. He began to play video games as a way to drown out the droning.

Now, he stood before the console having not touched it in years and the same apprehensions and dread filled him as when he was a small child. 8 years old was too young to be put through that. He knew it at the time, but now that he had his own kids the thought of what his father had created inside him made him sick. He hated his father for it. And he hated his father for making him do this now. All John wanted was to escape to some place unknown, some other state perhaps.

Suddenly, he remembered the message from last week. The woman from Florida had given an entire family history but John hadn’t recognized any of the names. With no immediate connection, he put it out of his mind. There were too many lose ends to tie up. But now he was finished. A loud horn blared outside signaling this truth to him. Soon large men poured into the small residence carrying out every box and piece of furniture. Within minutes of their arrival, the place was empty. They had even placed the plasma screen and game console into his sedan for him.

John was now free of his father.

Free of his drunken ruminations.

Free of his manipulations.

Free of guilt.

Free.

As he sat in his car, John gave one final glance toward his father’s door then peeled out on the loose gravel and headed toward home. But now his curiosity sagged on him. The woman from Florida and her question ran through his mind. If he was to find the answers now was his time. The thought festered in him throughout the ride home. By the time he arrived, he had no other thought than to pick the scab of intrigue. His wife and sons were out for the day leaving him to research on his own.

Before getting to work, John brewed a strong pot of coffee. The sweet scent poured throughout the house and revived his nostrils from the stench of his father’s apartment. He took a sip and keyed in the words to an ancestry research site. Within seconds, hits returned from his father’s name. Anxiety slowly began to build. Seeing his father’s name in a database made the whole ordeal seem more real somehow. John clicked on the first link, and it opened to reveal a copy of his father’s death certificate. A slight pang of guilt and horror gripped his stomach. He could see in the scanned copy his own signature testifying to its authenticity.  He added it to the portfolio of documents associated with his father.

The next link brought up his marriage certificate to his mother. It was dated eight months prior to his own birth date and in the state of Nevada. A laugh burst forth from him. Their marriage had begun with a shotgun wedding. He added this document to his father’s list as well. John took another sip from his mug savoring the warm flavor of the brown liquid. These files were interesting, but they weren’t what he was looking for. He wanted some connection to the woman in Florida. He thought about trying his grandfather’s name.

The only link associated with this man was a death certificate. Odd. Only one link? The document read that his grandfather had passed away in California. That matched his father’s story about the awful move from Florida to California. But there was nothing else? No birth certificate? No marriage certificate? John was shocked. Why was there so little information about his grandfather? He decided to try someone else. He couldn’t remember the name of his grandmother, so he used his aunt instead.

Her name brought up only a couple of links. The first was a marriage certificate to her only husband from the state of Nevada. The second was her death certificate dated seven years ago. He remembered that day like it was yesterday. She had died from years of incessant alcohol abuse. When her liver failed, her skin grew more sallow until she eventually passed on. The event had prompted his father to give up drinking for fear of his life. That lasted a week.

Nothing more was had from this search.

John was becoming frustrated. He took another sip. His father’s name had brought up the most hits, so he decided to return there. Entering his father’s name again, he saw another marriage certificate link. This was to his older brother’s mother. It was dated June of 1981. Roughly nine months before his brother was born. A pattern was emerging. John shook his head at the absurdity. Apparently, his father couldn’t keep it in his pants and felt obligated to get married. Another sip of coffee.

Then John saw another interesting link. This one was dated January of 1982, a mere seven months after his father’s first wedding. It was a birth certificate of a baby boy. The baby was born in the same county in California that John lived in, and it had his father’s name as the father. The woman’s name he did not recognize.  Could this possibly be for another brother he did not know about? He was beginning to learn a lot about his father he didn’t know. He saved the link.

Suddenly, John had a thought. He wanted to find his father’s birth certificate so he could remember his grandmother’s name. He scrolled through the list of links but none of them opened to his birth certificate. He saw there were twenty-three pages and decided to narrow down his search. Before he could, he needed more coffee. He left the table to find the coffee pot. He poured the dark liquid into his cup and filled the room once again with the sweet aroma. It reignited his senses. John took a warm sip. Then returning to the computer, he filtered his search by selecting only birth certificates. An error message appeared on screen. What? He tried again and still nothing returned. He saw a link on the site that asked to expand the search to include birth certificates, residency cards, and immigration files. What an odd collection of documents, he thought to himself. He decided he had no other option and clicked on it. This time the search reported one document. An immigration card dated 1959. Why would my dad at the age of one have an immigration card? He was born in Florida. Before John could find the answers to his question, the front door burst open and his two sons sprinted towards him.

“Daddy!” they yelled in unison.

John picked up both of his boys and gave them giant hugs. Then he shut his computer deciding to continue his investigation later.

Continue on to Part 3

“Nor Bid the Stars Farewell”

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