A Father's Dilemma
by Norman Goodwin

When the Pizza arrived, it was overcooked, but nobody else seemed to notice. After six grueling years, Bill's son Bobby had finally graduated from the University of Chicago. Family members from three states had flown in and there seemed to be an endless supply of beer, food, and laughter. 

The place was Bobby's favorite grill and pub, Club 225 that was popular with the twenty-something crowd, and just as the clock on the wall read midnight, the young people came in. 

This was no place for middle-aged people, so after giving Bobby a hug, Bill and his new girlfriend, Dawn said goodnight and headed for the door. 

It was a beautiful October evening. The full moon was brilliant, its only companions the twinkling stars strategically placed in their constellations. Together, they illuminated the parking lot more than the incandescent lamps overhead. 

Bill liked these unseasonably cool nights, even if his arthritic knees didn't. 

"It was great to finally meet Bobby, "Dawn said. "You raised a wonderful young man."

"Yeah, I'm proud of him," Bill said. "I'm just glad he finally graduated."

"Well, considering the car accident he had it's amazing that he finished at all," Dawn slipped her arm through his, as they strolled to the parking lot. "I just wonder if you've made up your mind about that test."

"I'm still undecided about that."

 

"What would it prove now? Since Bobby's an adult, he has to consent to it, right?"

 

"Right."

 

"What does that say about his mother? Don't' you think it might change your relationship with Bobby?"

 

"I never really thought about it like that."

 

"Not to be critical, but why didn't you find out when he was little?" 

 

"You have to understand that Bobby's mother and I got along pretty well in those days, and I had no reason to suspect her. I just thought that he looked like her side of the family. I guess I was pretty naïve in those days."

 

They sat in the car for a few minutes with the engine running, jazz softly playing on the radio. As Bill steered the car on the street, toward the expressway, he tried to change the subject. He talked about the weather, sports, and anything he could think of to escape the unpleasant memories. 

At first, Bill ignored the flashing police lights that came from an oncoming car, but then there was a second, then a third; then four more; no sirens, just lights.

"What the hell's going on?" Bill said.

"Something terrible must have happened," Dawn said.

Then Bill's phone vibrated. It was a text message that read: "225 being robbed. They won't let us out. I'm OK."

"It's Bobby. They're robbing the place!"

"What?"

 

"That's where all the cops were going! Let's go back."

 Bill made a U-turn toward the flashing lights.

 

When they arrived at the scene, there were two or three ambulances and a truck that looked like a mobile command vehicle

 

The entrance to the parking lot was blocked by a police car; its driver directing traffic away from the club.  Bill parked across the street, as close as the police would allow. He got out and paced back and forth as a crowd gathered on the corner. 

 

Somewhere overhead, the thump, thump, thump of a news helicopter's blades beat heavily against the night air. 

 

Collapsing onto the curb, in exasperation, Bill said a silent prayer and saw Bobby in his mind, not as a man, but as a boy; the strong confident little kid that he used to be; the smart athletic charismatic kid who was always the leader of the pack. Bill remembered him as a Little Leaguer, the perennial all-star; the one that the coaches couldn't do without. He missed those days.

 

Bill squeezed Dawn's hand and said another prayer. He prayed that God would protect his son and send him home safely. He asked for another chance to see him again and asked for forgiveness for his anger toward his ex-wife. It was at that moment that he realized he didn't care if he was the biological father of Bobby. He just wanted his son back. 
 

Then, there was a commotion across the street as the crowd began to cheer. A long line of people filed out of the club holding their hands up. The robbers decide to give up. 

As police sorted out the good guys from the bad, Bill frantically searched and found the son that he was blessed with, the one he almost lost. To hell with that DNA test.