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Courtney Eldridge

Sketch for James Kochalka

“Can I Call You Daddy, Grandpa?”

I thought it might be Knox, but then, just as I opened the door, I had a sickening feeling, and sure enough, there he was:

Close the door, he said. Please, sit down, Theadoara.

What now, Foley? I asked, seeing he had his computer open, waiting for me. Let me guess, I said, you want to watch me, watching someone who looks like me, having sex?

Please sit, Theadora, he said, and seeing as fighting only gets him off, I sat down. Tell me, do you recognize these pictures? he said, and then he starting clicking, flipping some sort of Flash presentation of images. It took me a second, and then I recognized them: I’d printed them out and taped them in our book. They were these pictures of this man in the coolest suits and he was just . . . he was just so cool, I told Cam if I could dress him up like the coolest grandpa in the world, I’d dress him just like that.

Where did you get that? I asked, recognizing them.

It’s online, Theadora, he said. Like so many things. But nicely designed; it’s a very nice presentation, don’t you think? he said, but I couldn’t answer, watching him turn the pages, able to read everything we’d written to each other. It’s yours, no?

I don’t know, I said.

Isn’t that your handwriting, Theadora?

I don’t know, Foley.

You don’t know, he said. Well, let’s see what it says, and maybe that will help. As you see, he said, in the first image, someone has written, “I Want To Be Your French Bulldog,” and here, in the second image, someone has written, “Can I Call You ‘Daddy,; Grandpa?” And here, in the third image, signed and dated, T.D.—.

It was a joke.

Which comment?

Both.

Jokes, he repeated.

Guess they don’t hand out a sense of humor with the badge, huh?

Jut out of curiosity, when was the last time you spoke with your father, Theadora?

Oh, let ’s see . . . that would be . . . none of your business, I said.

It’s a pivotal relationship in a girl’s life, fathers and daughters.

Is that what your daddy always told you, Foley?

Just the same, do you happen to have your notebook on you, Theadora?

What notebook?

That these images are taken from?

No. No, I don’t.

Could you bring it for me?

No, I can’t, actually.

Why’s that?

Because it doesn’t exist anymore.

Spontaneous combustion, maybe?

No, more like I burned it.

You burned it, you say?

Ashes to ashes.

Very interesting, he said, rotating his thumbs.

Note: That’s his tic. I knew he had a nasty tic, and I think I’ve figured it out. See, Foley has this thing he does where he sits with his hands clasped on top of the conference table, in the teacher’s lounge, and what he does is, he twirls his thumbs at the oddest moments. It’s like a second voice, an echo, the way he twirls his thumbs in different tempos and directions, either forward or backward, but only one direction. And that’s what he does

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