A is for Alibi Page 44

We began to walk—he on the beach side, me scuffling my bare feet through the shallows. He tucked his hands in his back pockets. "Sorry if I was a pissant before," he said lightly, "I've been in a bad mood with my boat out of the water. I was never meant to be on land.”

"You sure snapped out of it quick enough," I remarked.

"Because you said 'fuck.' I always get tickled when women say that. Especially you. It was the last thing I expected to come out of your mouth.”

"What do you do down here?" I asked. "Fish?”

"Some. Mostly sail. Read. Drink beer. Hang out.”

"I'd go nuts.”

Greg shrugged. "I started out nuts so I'm getting sane.”

"Not really 'nuts,"' I said.

"Not certifiable, no.”

"What kind then?”

"Don't make me tell that stuff," he said mildly. "I get bored with myself. Ask me something else. Three questions. Like magic wishes.”

"If I have to limit myself to three questions, I might as well go home," I said, but basically I was willing to play the game. I looked over at him. He was looking less like his father and more like himself. "What do you remember from the period just before he died?”

"You asked me that before.”

"Yeah, and that's just about the time you turned all surly on me. I'll tell you why I'm asking. Maybe that will help. I'd like to reconstruct the events just before his death. Maybe as far back as the last six months before he was killed. I mean, maybe he was involved in some kind of legal hassle—a personal feud. Maybe he fought with a neighbor over a property line. Somebody did it, and there had to be a sequence of events.

"I wouldn't know about that stuff," he said. "I can tell you just family events, but the other I wouldn't know.”

"That's okay.”

"We came down here that fall. That's one of the reasons I came back.”

I wanted to prompt him with another question but I was afraid he'd count it as one of my three so I kept my mouth shut. He went on.

"I was seventeen. God, I was such a jerk and I thought my father was so impossibly perfect. I didn't know what he expected of me but I figured I'd never measure up, so I was a pissant. He was supercritical and he hurt my feelings a lot, but I'd just stonewall him. Half the time I hung on his every word and the rest of the time I hated his guts. So when he died, I lost the chance to square myself with him. I mean, for all time, you know? That's it. I've got no way to take care of any old business with him, so I'm stuck. I figured if I was stuck in time, I might as well be stuck in place, too, so that's why I came here. We were out on the beach once and he had to go back to the car for something and I remember watching him walk. Just looking at him. He had his head bent and he was probably thinking about anything but me. I felt like I should call him back, really tell him how much I loved him, but of course I didn't. So that's the way I remember him. That whole business really screwed me up.”

"It was just the two of you?”

"What? No, the whole family. Except Diane. She got sick and stayed with Mom. It was Labor Day weekend. We drove to Palm Springs, first, just for the day, and then came on down here.”

"How'd you feel about Colin?”

"Okay I guess, but I didn't see why the whole family had to revolve around him. The kid had a handicap and I felt bad about that, but I didn't want my life to focus on his infirmity, you know? I mean, Jesus, I would have had to develop a terminal disease to compete with him. This is me at seventeen, you understand. Now I'm a little more compassionate, but back then, I couldn't cope with that stuff. I didn't see why I should. Dad and I were never bosom buddies, but I needed time with him too. I used to have these fantasies of what it would be like. I'd really tell him something important and he'd really listen to me. Instead, all we talked about was bullshit just bullshit. So six weeks later he's dead.”

He glanced at me and then shook his head, smiling sheepishly.

"Shakespeare should have done a play about this stuff," he said. "I could have done the monologue.”

"So he never talked to you about his personal life?”

"That's number three, you know," he remarked. "You sneaked in that little question about whether it was just Dad and me down here. But the answer is no. He never talked to me about anything. I told you I couldn't be much help. Let's knock it off for a while, okay?”

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