Chapter 51: Dad
With Mom and Anthony’s help, Jane worked on Dad for over four hours. She didn’t seem very optimistic when she finished. Although she would never say it, I could tell that she did not believe that Dad would last the night.
Not the joyous new beginning we had hoped for. We spent the rest of the day unloading supplies from the trucks and settling into our new home. Invariably the death vigil began. Mom, along with Theo, stayed in the conference room with Dad throughout the night. Once unthinkable, Mom and Theo now sat together, at peace with each other finally.
The next day, the first day of our new life, Chris found me in the warehouse manager’s office. I studied a large aerial poster of the warehouse complex and the surrounding area.
“Dad wants you,” he said softly.
I sighed. I knew this had been coming. All morning, Dad called in each member of the family one by one. I paused long enough to hug my big brother, who fought to hold back his tears. The sun of high noon poured in through the hallway windows. How appropriate. Slowly, as if part of a funeral march, I made my way toward the conference room.
Penri sat alone outside the door. His broken leg propped up on a chair. I couldn’t help but notice he avoided my gaze when he opened the door for me.
Theo and Mom were in the room with Dad. Theo sat quietly next to my father. On Theo’s lap instead of his customary machete sat a long slender knife. Yeah, no need to make a bigger hole than necessary. Mom stood and stared out the window. She cried silent tears.
Penri had been right; I thought miserably. It was the good people, the seemingly harmless yet frightened people who were the greatest danger. Driven by desperation and fear, such people could commit acts of violence completely at odds with who they really were.
Dad looked old as he lay on the conference table propped up by pillows. He attempted to smile when our eyes met. He waved me over with his good arm. Pale and drawn, he appeared more dead than alive.
I leaned in close and asked, “How are you feeling, Dad?”
“Like I’ve been shot,” he whispered and this time managed to smile.
“Bel-- Annabel, I want you to know I love you very much.”
“I know Dad.” I returned his smile. “I love you, too.”
Dad coughed several times and for a moment, I feared he was choking. “Just in case, you know -- if I don’t make it -- I want you to take care of things. Be the leader for me.”
“Dad,” I moaned.
“It’s you, Anna. I know in my heart it’s true. You’re the one who can keep everyone safe.”
“But, Dad. Major Penri, Mom --”
“No, Anna. We took a vote. You’re the new leader.” Dad raised his hand and touched me on my head. “I hereby declare you to be the Mayor of the city of Angel Hair.” He choked. Coughing and sputtering, he could not continue. Finally, he said, “Well, I thought it was funny.”
“Dad, I can’t. I can’t do it on my own.”
“No, you’re wrong,” he rasped. “You won’t be alone. You will have Theo and the others. They need a new beginning. A new way of thinking. I know it’s you. Trust me.”
Dad’s eyes searched mine while he sought reassurance of his wish. “Sure, Dad,” I whispered.
“One more thing,” he said, his voice growing fainter. “Please don’t let it be Theo.” He closed his eyes and said, “Now let me see him.”
Theo stood up, stood next to me and leaned in to hear my father. “This job’s not yours,” Dad hoarsed. “You’ve done enough. Save it for Penri. I leave you my greatest treasures. Take care of them well. Son.” Dad closed his eyes. “Leave me. Go live your lives.” He coughed several times, and fell silent.
I walked over to Mom and gently led her from the room. Major Penri still sat on his chair, but he had changed. He sat ramrod straight and slowly dragged his bayonet across a whetstone. He drew the blade across the stone almost lovingly.
Tears ran down my cheeks. I said, “He’s ready for you now.”
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