The senator has a conversation with his father in Irish code

I thought I’d throw in an occasional excerpt from my novels.  Here’s something from Senator (coming soon to an ebook vendor near you).  It takes place two days after the senator has discovered the dead body of his mistress (Amanda).  Liz is the senator’s wife; Kathleen is his daughter.

My father lives in a pleasant garden apartment in the pleasant Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury. The apartment complex is not exactly elderly housing, but it has more than its share of old people. “Full of old devils like me,” as my father puts it. “But at least there’s a few normal people here, too.” My father is opposed to housing for the elderly. Actually he’s opposed to the elderly as well. Campaign consultants always recommend getting him out on the road talking to senior citizens’ groups about what a swell guy I am and how the Republicans aren’t really going to steal their Social Security checks. But he’s as bad as Liz about campaigning for me. In the first place, he’s not at all sure that the Republicans won’t steal people’s Social Security checks. In the second place, he hates senior citizens’ groups. “Bunch of boring people sitting around complaining about their kids and their arthritis,” he explained to Harold once. “Or they play stupid games and go on stupid outings like they’re in kindergarten. All they’re doing is taking up space until they die.”

Harold decided that my father would not be an asset to the campaign.

My father is in reasonably good health, considering that he hates doctors and goes to them only under duress. Nevertheless, he has convinced himself that he is not long for this world. “I’m rereading Dickens, Jimmy,” he told me. “When I’m through with Dickens, I have this feeling I’ll be through with everything.”

When I showed up on Sunday night, he was in the middle of Bleak House. “Lawyers, Jimmy. Dickens had them pegged.”

“Scum of the earth,” I agreed. I got out the bottle of bourbon and poured us each a drink. “Only thing worse is politicians. Cheers.”

“Cheers.” He sipped the bourbon. In my middle age I have taken to wondering what I’ll look like when I grow old. My father gives me a foreshadowing: black hair gone gray and thin, ears sticking out more, a road map of broken blood vessels visible beneath the skin. He looks more Irish than he has ever looked, as if his heritage is finally asserting itself as he heads toward the grave. He will probably end up a shriveled leprechaun of a man, hunched over in his favorite chair and bewailing the sorry state of the world.

And beneath all the complaints he will probably be content.

“Tough couple of days, sounds like,” he said.

Which was his way of saying that he had followed everything that had happened over the weekend, and his heart went out to me, and if there was anything he could do, I had only to ask. Except that, as a card-carrying Irishman, he would never dream of saying any of that.

“I’ve had better,” I agreed. I’m a card-carrying Irishman, too.

“How’s Kathleen?” Is my granddaughter taking this all right? You can’t ignore your family, Jimmy. Your family is more important than anything.

“Kathleen is doing okay. She was explaining to me about fractals yesterday. A fractal is a measure of something’s complexity. I thought you’d want to know. She showed me some wild patterns you can create on a computer with them. I don’t know how she does it.” I’m paying attention to her, Dad. You don’t have to worry about that.

“Fractals, huh? I had enough trouble with fractions. And those word problems. Someone’s filling the pool while someone else is emptying it. Could never figure that stuff out.”

“She’s way beyond both of us, I think.” I had set his mind at ease. I had survived; Kathleen had survived; the world would go on.

He took another sip of his drink. “I never met a person who got murdered before,” he said. “At least, not that I know of.”

“You met her?”

“Sure. She came out here to interview me—two, three weeks ago.” I tried not to look as if this news surprised me, but my father could tell. “I would’ve cleared it with you,” he hastened to add, “but you know I don’t like bothering you. You haven’t minded before when I give interviews. And then it just slipped my mind.”

“Oh, no, it’s okay, it’s just that… maybe you’ll have to talk to the police now. I hate to get you involved in all this.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s too bad, though, about her. She seemed very nice.”

“Did you tell her good things about me?”

“Oh, I said you were all right for a Republican. She thought that was very funny.”


We sat in near darkness and continued our visit, although I found it hard to concentrate. Amanda had been here, had probably sat in this chair. What was she looking for? What did she think she could get from my father?

I asked about his health; he complained. He asked about the campaign; I told funny stories. We talked about Dickens, whom I hadn’t glanced at since college. I offered to do any chores that needed doing; he couldn’t think of any. These Sunday evening visits had been going on for so long that they were now like a ritual. They were probably the most important thing in my father’s life, although he wouldn’t dream of telling me that, any more than I would tell him the truth about Amanda.

The book has about 139,000 more words like those.

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