Aidan, my second son, thank God, turned out to be everything my first-born, Brendan, was not. In my own youth, I had been clumsy, shy, and miserable. Brendan wasn’t just clumsy, but lacked my compensatory early passion for sports. I couldn’t play very well, but was out on the ballfield at half past eight every summer morning waiting for others who’d pick me last for their respective teams to wander over. Bren preferred to stay in his bedroom and play nonviolent (that is, fantasy) video games. He seemed to have no interest in sex, whereas my own, at his age, had been as voracious as unrequited. When other fellows at the offices of my adulthood would brag about their boys’ athletic or sexual accomplishments, I would smile obligingly and hope for their cars not to start at afternoon’s end.
But then Aidan came along, eight years after Brendan, when M— accidentally-on-purpose forgot to take her pill! That he was what the San Francisco 49ers running back Ricky Watters once described as 100 percent boy was evident from the time he was able to stand. He was the alpha male in his preschool, and then throughout elementary school, the boy others assumed was tougher than they because he was so gifted at sports. When he became the starting quarterback of his high school football team as a sophomore, M— and I had, in an era before cell phones, to get used to girls phoning him as late as 12:30 on a school night. I felt too vindicated to get as furious as M—. Was I not the source of half this handsome, athletic, much-desired young man’s genes? I tried not to think about M—‘s three hypermasculine brothers.
But then the silver lining revealed itself to be attached to an ugly dark cloud, as the fathers of not just one, but two, of Aidan’s female classmates phoned to advise me that their daughters were carrying his babies, and what did I intend to do about it? I told them I would consult my attorney and get back to them. They must have intuited that I in fact had no attorney, as they paid me unexpected visits on consecutive early evenings, the second just as we were sitting down to supper. Hector, a plumber who didn’t smell like one, reminded me of that handsome Latino stud who used to play a Highway Patrolman on television, whereas Paul, an investment counselor with a gleaming new Porsche, reminded me, unpleasantly, of M—‘s middle brother, the eternal alpha, to whom his older and younger brothers deferred even though I suspect neither even thought about deferring in outside of family get-togethers.
Paul had the firmest handshake in history, and eyes the color of ice cubes, and addressed me as guy, as in, “I’m really not interested in being stonewalled about this, guy. You’re going to pay not only for Brittani’s…procedure, but also whatever psychological counselling she may require afterward.” He seemed impatient to get back behind the wheel of his 911 Turbo S. I could picture Brittani spelling her name with an i at the end and looking sort of like Ursula Andress, the Swiss James Bond starlet who’d inspired some of my most avid masturbation as a teenager.
When I told Hector that I felt we should get a DNA test, like those so popular on the afternoon talk shows, to confirm Aidan’s complicity in his daughter’s pregnancy, he sighed, shook his head, and then leaned so close to me that I could have licked the tip of his nose. “Are you calling my little girl a liar, vato, or a slut?” he asked, with a tone of menacing sadness. “Because if you are, I’m going to break bones you didn’t even realize you had.” I felt as though back in middle school, especially when M— came out to see what was going on, and made no secret of what a dreamboat she found Hector, who was the picture of charm with her. When she contracted her tummy and said, “Well, don’t just stand out here. Come in and have dessert with us,” I sort of wanted to strangle her.
I informed Aidan he was going to have to pay me back, every cent. He smirked at me indulgently, and said, “Whatever, dude,” and I wanted to strangle him too. I figured I’d have to sell my boat to cover the various expenses involved in keeping him a non-parent, but then Brendan, who was out in the Bay Area making a fortune as a developer of video games, got wind of what was going on, insisted that I let him foot the bill, and pay him back when I could.
I’m pretty sure there’s a moral in this somewhere.