Gone for Good Page 73

“Hey, that’s right.” Squares wriggled his eyebrows. “Damn, I’m good.”

I smiled.

“We owe it to her, Will. To her memory.”

He had a point. It came back to closure. I needed answers. Maybe someone at the funeral could supply some—and maybe the funeral in and of itself, the act of burying my faux beloved, would help the healing process. I couldn’t imagine it, but I was willing to give anything a shot.

“And there’s still Carly to consider.” Squares pointed out the window. “Saving kids. That’s what we’re all about, isn’t it?”

I turned to him. “Yeah,” I said. And then: “And speaking of children.”

I waited. I could not see his eyes—he often, like the old Corey Hart song, wore his sunglasses at night—but his grip on the steering wheel tightened.


His tone was clipped. “We’re talking about you and Sheila here.”

“That’s the past. Whatever we learn, it won’t change that.”

“Let’s concentrate on one thing at a time, okay?”

“Not okay,” I said. “This friendship thing. It’s supposed to be a two-way street.”

He shook his head. He started the van and drove. We fell into silence. I kept my eyes on his pockmarked, unshaven face. The tattoo seemed to darken. He was biting his lower lip.

After some time he said, “I never told Wanda.”

“About having a child?”

“A son,” Squares said softly.

“Where is he now?”

He took one hand off the wheel and scratched at something on his face. The hand, I noticed, had a quake to it. “He was six feet under before he was four years old.”

I closed my eyes.

“His name was Michael. I wanted nothing to do with him. I only saw him twice. I left him alone with his mother, a seventeen-year-old drug addict you wouldn’t trust to watch a dog. When he was three years old, she got stoned and drove straight into a semi. Killed them both. I still don’t know if it was suicide or not.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said weakly.

“Michael would be twenty-one now.”

I fumbled for something to say. Nothing was working, but I tried anyway. “That was a long time ago,” I said. “You were just a kid.”

“Don’t try to rationalize, Will.”

“I’m not. I just mean”—I had no idea how to put it—“if I had a child, I’d ask you to be the godfather. I’d make you the guardian if anything happened to me. I wouldn’t do that out of friendship or loyalty. I’d do that to be selfish. For the sake of my kid.”

He kept driving. “There are some things you can never forgive.”

“You didn’t kill him, Squares.”

“Sure, right, I’m totally blameless.”

We hit a red light. He flipped on the radio. Talk station. One of those radio infomercials selling a miracle diet drug. He snapped it off. He leaned forward and rested his forearms on the top of the steering wheel.

“I see the kids out here. I try to rescue them. I keep thinking that if I save enough, I don’t know, maybe it will change things for Michael. Maybe I can somehow save him.” The sunglasses came off. His voice grew harder. “But what I know is—what I’ve always known—is that no matter what I do, I’m not worth saving.”

I shook my head. I tried to think of something comforting or enlightening or at least distracting, but nothing broke through the filter. Every line I came up with sounded hackneyed and canned. Like most tragedies, it explained so much and yet told you nothing about the man.

In the end, all I said was “You’re wrong.”

He put the sunglasses back on and faced the road. I could see him shutting down.

I decided to push it. “You talk about going to this funeral because we owe Sheila something. But what about Wanda?”



“I don’t think I want to talk about this anymore.”


The early morning flight to Boise was uneventful. We took off from LaGuardia, which could be a lousier airport but not without a serious act of God. I got my customary seat in economy class, the one behind a tiny old lady who insists on reclining her seat against my knees for the duration of the flight. Studying her gray follicles and pallid scalp—her head was practically in my lap—helped distract me.

Squares sat on my right. He was reading an article on himself in Yoga Journal. Every once in a while he would nod at something he read about himself and say, “True, too true, I am that.” He did that to annoy me. That was why he was my best friend.

I was able to keep the block up until we saw the WELCOME TO MASON, IDAHO sign. Squares had rented a Buick Skylark. We got lost twice on the trip. Even here, out in the supposed sticks, the strip malls dominated. There were all the customary mega-stores—the Chef Central, the Home Depot, the Old Navy—the country uniting in bloated monotony.

The chapel was small and white and totally un-spectacular. I spotted Edna Rogers. She stood outside by herself, smoking a cigarette. Squares pulled to a stop. I felt my stomach tighten. I stepped out of the car. The grass was burnt brown. Edna Rogers looked our way. With her eyes still on me, she let loose a long breath of smoke.

I started toward her. Squares stayed by my side. I felt hollow, far away. Sheila’s funeral. We were here to bury Sheila. The thought spun like the horizontal on an old TV set.

Edna Rogers kept puffing on the cigarette, her eyes hard and dry. “I didn’t know if you’d make it,” she said to me.

“I’m here.”

“Have you learned anything about Carly?”

“No,” I said, which was not really true. “How about you?”

She shook her head. “The police aren’t looking too hard. They say there is no record of Sheila having a child. I don’t even think they believe she exists.”

The rest was a fast-forward blur. Squares interrupted and offered his condolences. Other mourners approached. They were mostly men in business suits. Listening in, I realized that most worked with Sheila’s father at a plant that made garage-door openers. That struck me as odd, but at the time I didn’t know why. I shook more hands and forgot every name. Sheila’s father was a tall, handsome man. He greeted me with a bear hug and moved toward his co-workers. Sheila had a brother and a sister, both younger, both surly and distracted.

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