“Did you make a copy of the keys yet?”
“No. And I don’t really understand why you need them.”
“I’m your father. How can you even ask that?”
“That’s just why I ask. See, none of my other friends’ fathers have keys to their apartments. So whu should I?”
“We are not your friends’ parents. I don’t know why they don’t have their children’s keys. Maybe they can’t be bothered. Maybe they’re too busy golfing and going to their summer home to make sure their children are well-fed.”
“But I Keep telling you, I don’t need any help with food. I learned how to cook in college and, believe it or not, I’ve been buying food ever since, mostly without your aid. And they don’t go golfing, I told you that, not all Americans golf.”
“Forget the food. What if you left the gas on? What if you weren’t answering your phone for 24 hours? Which isn’t that hard to imagine these days, mind you.”
“Let’s stay on topic here. OK, fine, here, make a copy. Now I can forget about 911 since I have you on speed dial. And you won’t need to break the door down causing expensive damage since you have the key. Now I get it.”
Lenny walked through the door to find his father sitting at the dining table, blankly staring at the broken clock on the wall.
“Well, that didn’t take long. I see you’re putting the key to good use.”
“Hmmph. You should get that watch fixed,” his dad replied.
“Thanks, Dad, I’ll take care of it.”
“No, you won’t.” This predictable reply was delivered with eerie calm, the kind Lenny didn’t know how to process.
He stood up and placed his arm on Lenny’s shoulder, weighing him down a bit. “Get that clock fixed,” he mumbled again. Oh, there’s food in the fridge. Your mom made meatloaf. Soup, too.”
“Well, thanks. I guess I’ll just freeze all the stuff I just bought, and throw out the rest.”
His dad let out a rare and strange chuckle. “Fix the clock, Lyonya.” When he left, Lenny rearranged his chairs and sofa, which had been moved. He washed the dishes and organized his groceries in the fridge and on the shelves. He took the clock off the wall and wrapped it in a large plastic bag, placing it in the recycling queue.
Sighing, he closed the cookbook he’d been looking at the previous night and unwrapped the meatloaf. Say what you will, but Mom makes one hell of a meatloaf, he thought.
The phone went off with the new, still unfamiliar ringtone and Lenny, groggily ensconced on the couch, fumbled around for it on the coffee table before finally picking up.
“Lyonya, you brat.” It was his mom’s voice.
“You know what. Why is your father having a diabetic attack?”
“What? Oh my god, what happened?”
“You and your small brain, that’s what happens. How did you get it into your head to feed your dad sweets? I’ve told you a million times he can’t have any, and the low-sugar stuff I buy him is perfectly fine. Still, you make me the bad one and give him what he wants, which is going to kill him. And now look what you’ve done!”
“Mom, I swear, I have no idea what you’re talking about!! He was at my house before but I didn’t feed him anything.”
“Believe it or not his brain is still working, Lyonya, despite the hyperglycemia! And he seems to think that the brownie he ate came from your house.”
“Brownie? Did you say brownie?”
“Yes, you heard me. Don’t play dumb.
Lenny’s thoughts raced as he tried to connect brownies, his dad, and his apartment. Shit. Brownies. The special ones his friend Rick’s girlfriend had baked for his birthday months ago, which he hadn’t bothered to clean out the back of his fridge. Quickly, his anxious mind pieced together the scene that preceded his arrival. His father, the annoying early diabetes, the irresponsible sneaking of sweets away from my mom.
“Mom, I don’t think this is diabetes.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let me ask you, is he unusually hungry?”
“Uh, how did you know? Yes, he’s been eating all the bread. I fed him dinner but he keeps asking for more food. I don’t get it. I asked our friend Kostya, who is a male nurse, but he says it doesn’t sound like a diabetic attack.”
“OK. What else?”
“I don’t know, he’s sick. He’s talking funny.”
“Is he laughing a lot?”
“Yes, he’s been giggling a little, at some very odd things.” Her voice fell to a whisper: “He turned on an animal show and keeps laughing like an imbecile. He’s making sense, though, when I ask him questions. But the idiotic laugh, I don’t know, he never laughs like this when he drinks. And, and, I don’t know, he’s talking all sorts of crazy ideas. Remember the business idea he used to have for those peddy cabs? Well, he says he wants to buy one and just drive it around town. That nothing will make him happier. What gibberish. And other things, even stupider than this.”
“Mom, I know what this is…it’s not diabetes…it’s, uh, a minor food poisoning, that comes in, umm, certain kinds of brownies.”
“How do you know all this, Dr. Knowitall?” she asked suspiciously. Then, with more sincerity and enthusiasm, “Have you given another thought to medical school? Are you secretly studying for the MCAT? Mmmm?” Despite the dire medical emergency on her couch, there was obvious delight now in her voice.
“I, well, you know, I’ve been reading up on nutrition.”
“Nutrition, OK. It’s not medicine, but it’s respectable. As long as you’re not a nurse’s aide, I’m happy.”
“Give him another meal, something hearty. Some more bread. And water. And let him sleep. He’ll be fine.”
“Well, well. OK, Dr. Sinderovich…ooh, I like how that sounds. It sounds great with our name. Doesn’t it?”
“Yes, Mom. Call me in the morning, OK?” Lenny hung up the phone and took his head in his hands. Tomorrow, when his dad was no longer stoned, he’d talk to him, explain that he can’t give him the extra key, that he was taking a principled stance in this case, and he couldn’t compromise. He’d understand. Tomorrow. Then he walked over to the fridge, removed the rest of the meatloaf from the fridge, and scarfed it down cold.