Tag Archives: lobotomies

Chapter 23: The Amnesiac Mind

“Memories, you’re talking about memories!”

Uncle Gilly scowled at his fake niece. Why was she in such a good mood? He didn’t particularly like the sunny demeanor that had entered into his shady home. He wanted to squash the warmth that radiated from her being. Therefore, he launched right into his narrative without ado. Unfortunately, his ploy didn’t work. She went with it, following him with grace right into the story, a most pertinent one about Agnes.

Her body twitched as he began. Gilly almost detected feelers on her little journalist insect head, feelers that vibrated from recognizing an important story.

“Are you an alien?” he asked her.

“Huh?”

“Never mind.” He’d written the definitive text on Aliens Among Us. As of that day, he still hadn’t figured out if it was comedy or truth, or a little of both. He studied Stephanie’s head, hoping to see actual antennae sprout. They didn’t.

He cleared his throat and changed the subject back to its original. “As soon as we moved operations to Albuquerque, I started visiting Agnes,” he said. “She didn’t remember me.”

“You said she’d had a lobotomy,” Stephanie said.

“Yes, it wasn’t a usual lobotomy, but one meant to decrease the severity of her epileptic seizures. Most of her hippocampi, plus some related brain structures. It gave her amnesia. There was a famous case very similar to hers.”

“A person known only by the initials JM.”

“Yes. How…?”

“I read about it at the library. For an article I was doing on Minä lobotomies.”

“You aren’t as ignorant as I thought. But you know those are a different kind of lobotomy altogether.”

“I know. I also know that Minä lobotomies started out as the traditional frontal type before they started using drugs to destroy parts of their brains. What I don’t understand is why you had to make their minds so complex to begin with. If the brain weren’t so complex, nobody would’ve had to go to such great lengths to meet government regulations.”

“The human mind is complex,” he shouted, suddenly feeling very agitated. “Our initial method was to allow the cellular structure to grow and develop naturally around carbon fibers. Nobody’s ever discovered a better way.”

“Who chose not to give Oso’s assistant the lobotomy drugs?”

Gilly felt even more agitated. He ran his hands over his face. Stall, he told himself. Stall. “What?”

“Oso’s assistant. She’s a Minä, isn’t she? And she’s intelligent.”

“No, no, no.” He shook his head. “She’s not a Minä. Definitely not a Minä. She doesn’t have big ears, does she?”

“No. I don’t know. She wears hats. And weird headscarves. Indoors.” She stopped speaking and looked puzzled. “I just know there’s something off about her. Is it possible for a Minä to have an ear-reduction surgery?”

“That’s the most absurd idea I’ve heard all day.”

“Why is your voice shaking? Are you okay, Uncle Gilly?”

“I’m fine. And would you mind getting back to the subject? Agnes.” He sank low in his old brown plush armchair and closed his eyes, listening to the tick-tock of the traditional grandfather clock on the wall. At least the sunny inquisitive female had ceased being inquisitive for a few beats of the clock. “We used to do the crossword together,” he added.

“She could do a crossword puzzle?”

“She had knowledge stored in her brain from before the lobotomy. She knew those answers. I helped her with the rest.”

“Why did your eyes just narrow? Are you angry at something?”

Funny, he hadn’t noticed. Most of his anger, however, came back to rest on Oso. Always Oso. His best friend. His worst enemy. Why did Stephanie have to keep reminding him? It couldn’t be helped, not if Gilly had any say in this story. But Oso’s assistant didn’t have to be a point of discussion. She could be avoided for time immemorial. Or so he wished.

“I have the file.”

“File?”

“Agnes’ file. Oso was educated as a neurologist, you know. He did some extensive interviews with Agnes, after coordinating with the doctor who’d performed her original lobotomy.”

“Was he still practicing? I mean, he’d have been pretty old, right?”

“Yes. He died soon after Oso entered his life.”

She was silent for a moment. “What are you saying?”

“Oso probably gave the old man a heart attack, bringing up a case like Agnes’. She lost her father in a car accident, and with the lobotomy coming so close on its heels, she was prevented from going through a normal grieving process. She was left in periods of permanent peace punctuated by periods of extreme grief. You’ll find all those research notes in the file. After her mother died, she was in the constant care of her stepfather, who, by the way, was the psychiatrist who treated Agnes after the car accident.”

“And she was afraid of him.”

“Yes, but nobody knows why. It could have been simply an attachment to the grief that never resolved itself.”

“Why do you have the file?”

“I stole it when Tomi Corp went bankrupt that first time—you know, after all our expensive products became useless post government regulation, until the world decided it needed human pets. Oso had begun showing signs of mental illness long before that, and I didn’t want the research lost if he had another fit.”

Stephanie screwed up her face in disbelief. “Mental illness? What do you mean?”

Gillilander lowered his voice to a whisper, though there was no real reason to do so. “He suffered from delusions. He insisted he had visions of the future.”

“He doesn’t have ‘visions,’” Stephanie corrected him. “He has memories of the future. That’s what he says. And he says they started when he was twelve.”

“Physics says that’s impossible. What he experiences is schizophrenia. At least, that’s what Bernadette would have diagnosed him with, if she hadn’t joined him on the dark side. She was never weak except when it came to him.”

Stephanie shuffled around in her chair as though uncomfortable.

“Am I making you uncomfortable, sweetie-pie?”

“Uncle Gilly, stop. Will you just let me see the file?”

“That is why I brought it up.” He used his cane to push himself up. “Stephanie, I shouldn’t have to tell you this file is priceless. It can’t be replaced.”

“Well, I mean, why would you be able to replace it? Isn’t the research subject dead?”

He didn’t bother to respond, but went to his office to fetch the file from the cabinet there, on which it might have appeared he was performing a magic trick to the ignorant observer. He’d hidden his best inventions, as well as any secrets, in a steel file cabinet he’d built as a puzzle box.

Upon returning to the living room area, he handed her the file folder ceremoniously. There were proper and improper methods to passing along information. He locked eyes with her and held on to his side of the folder as she reached for it. She didn’t look away, and she didn’t yank. Good. He let her take the file and watched her as she read through the pages he’d read more times than he could count, looking for absolution or answers.

He didn’t know what answers he’d expected, except the usual ones. Reading about Agnes was like constantly picking off a scab such that the wound never healed.

The session started in the usual way. The patient was brought to the dayroom by the on-duty nurse. I reintroduced myself to the patient. She didn’t cognizantly recognize me. There was a faint glimmer of emotional memory that caused her to relax. Although the patient had lost much of her amygdala during the lobotomy performed to treat the seizures, she was capable of intense emotion. Her limbic system was still intact.

This relaxed state didn’t last for the duration of the hour-length interview, as had been the norm in previous sessions. Three minutes after beginning, the patient’s hands and arms were visibly trembling. It was likely an enhanced physiologic tremor, possibly induced by a medication administered at the care home.

She pointed to my face and then the brown suit jacket I was wearing. She did this several times. Then she grasped the lapel of the suit jacket.

“Papa, where’s my papa? He’s dead, isn’t he?”

Because she had no memory of her stepfather’s death, it wasn’t unusual for her to “suddenly” fall into a bout of incertitude and subsequent grief. I instinctively took her hand, hoping the action would relax the tremors. She slapped the proffered hand away. She displayed other signs of extreme emotional distress: rapid breathing, flushing red in the face, etc.

The patient shook her head and repeated, “No, no, no, no.”

The nurse who had escorted Agnes to the day room requested that I come back another time because Agnes had already had several emotional episodes that day and was fatigued. I deferred to the nurse’s expertise and left.

The following day, Agnes was not brought to me in the dayroom. I was instead escorted to her “work station.” For many years, Agnes had worked for a charity, sorting and bagging items of like kind to package for needy families. This kind of sorting was at the grade school level and well below Agnes’ working intelligence. However, the inability to store memories precluded the patient from performing more complicated work tasks. The work itself was meant as an occupation, which fulfilled a basic need for purpose.

Although she no longer worked in the charity due to anxiety issues, the care home continued to give her similar sorting tasks to fill the day: on that day, sorting plastic Easter eggs. The reason for sorting eggs was unclear; it was January. Focusing on the work was likely meant to prevent disorientation.

The people who ran the home didn’t understand the capability for complex thought in a brain-damaged patient. When Agnes had worked for the charity, she had engaged in a concrete occupation. She needed only to be reminded of the occupation’s purpose. By comparison, the Easter egg sorting didn’t have a concrete purpose.

When I arrived, signs of emotional distress were already evident. The staff weren’t trained to cope with a patient like Agnes, despite her twenty-four year residence. One moment, she was sorting the eggs, the next, she had scattered them to the floor.

“I don’t want to do this!” she shouted. “Why am I doing this?”

The patient then began pacing and shouting, while striking at the staff who attempted to maintain order and administer a sedative. Agnes paced and shouted for a good five minutes before banging her head repeatedly on the wall.

As I’m a researcher and not a medical doctor, I didn’t interfere until I had to. I pulled her away from the wall. When there is a problem, I fix it. I held her shoulders and looked into her eyes and told her to calm down. She obeyed.

“I want to go to bed,” she said. “It’s too difficult being awake and not knowing if I’ve done something wrong. I can’t remember anything. How am I supposed to know if I did something wrong? What if I hurt my papa?”

“You didn’t hurt your papa,” I told her.

“How do you know?” Her voice had risen to a shriek.

“I was there. He died in a fire.”

“I started the fire, didn’t I?” Her head shook in a rapid succession of denials. “I hated him. I wanted him to die.”

“No, it was an accident, caused by some kids. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I wanted him to die,” she wailed.

“But you didn’t kill him.”

“I don’t know if I can trust you. What if everybody’s lying to me? How am I supposed to know?”

The patient was trembling, and it was my sense that she was building up to another episode. Owing to this likelihood, I gestured to the nurse who had been summoned and told her to administer the sedative while the patient was still calm. Agnes was compliant this time and didn’t strike out. In previous interviews, I judged that the patient was an affable person in general, and that any signs of violent or extreme emotional episodes were brought on by her disorientation.

“I’m going to escort Agnes back to her room,” I said.

Today’s staff was comprised of female assistants and a female head nurse. There were no doctors regularly at the facility. Because I was both a man and a doctor, the staff listened to me. Despite the patient’s slight stature, when she was agitated, she could be difficult to control. More often than not, I deferred to the authority of the head nurse on charge. However, when I chose not to, the head nurse and staff were more than willing to follow my lead.

The fastest route back to Agnes’ room was past the all-inclusive religious chapel. When there was a religious leader of some variety in the chapel, the doors were propped open. More often than not, Agnes would insist on entering the chapel. It was easier to allow her to enter the chapel than to force her to her room, no matter how agitated a state she was in.

Today was no different. As she’d been administered a sedative, I determined that the service in the chapel would not agitate her further.

“Good afternoon, Agnes,” the chaplain said. “We’re just about to begin.”

“Good afternoon,” she said with a smile.

Normally, Agnes was disoriented in social situations due to her inability to know whether she’d met another person. However, the more emotion she attached to an event, the more likely she was to remember it. In the case of the chaplain, she recognized him, if not in the full manner a fully cognizant person would, as a positive element in her life.

I sat on a back pew, waiting for the inevitable to occur.

“You’re always welcome at the front, Mr. Beñat,” the chaplain said.

“I’m here in a research capacity, Reverend,” I said. “But I appreciate your offer.”

On previous visits, I had engaged in lengthy conversations with the chaplain. One area of cognitive study I have never fully explored is the propensity for female attachment to religiosity, as well as feminine affinity for religious leaders. Experientially, this is true, but statistics also bear it out.

Around Reverend Rod Brady, Agnes’ demeanor changed. If I’m allowed for a moment, I’ll be less than scientific in my observations: her eyes lit up, her cheeks glowed, etc. I could not deny that she was generally a content woman, but contentedness is not the same as living life to its fullest. To each his own. In my own life, practicing religion was opposite to living to the fullest.

The service followed its usual pattern of liturgy, communion, and communal prayer, albeit we were the only two in attendance aside from the reverend. There was nothing especially spiritual about the chapel, as it was a dressed-up care home room. It had pews, dust motes, a shabby lectern, flat red carpeting, mauve drapes, and no insignia of any kind that would mark it as belonging to a specific religion. The reverend himself wore a robe with a green sash punctuated on either side by Maltese crosses.

Despite the lack of “church aesthetic,” Agnes threw herself into the process of the liturgy. It has occurred to me that her family may have been religious in her pre-lobotomy childhood. However, when asked about her childhood religious observances, the patient’s eyes glazed over and she refused to answer.

I’ll be honest; I swallowed back yawns during the short homily on failure, shame, and the human attempt to hide these aforementioned from “God.” To interject further, failure has never been something I’ve hidden from anyone. Failure is part of the success of the human actor. That would not be the point of the pastor’s message; moments later, the pastor confirmed my expectation by explaining that humans needed to bring their failures to God, who would then clean and polish them. The acting was squarely placed on God.

The open doorway of the chapel couldn’t block the smell of strange meat coming from the cafeteria. It smelled terrible, but reminded me that I had a dinner date with my son and, furthermore, I was hungry. It was my inclination to hurry the Reverend Rod through the rest of his sermon. The ending was Agnes’ favorite. Finally, Rod pressed a button on an old-fashioned boom box, and canned guitars and violins filled the air space. A man with a soulful voice sang out, “We Fall Down.”

Music stimulates regions across the brain and releases dopamine. It has a powerful affect on the human mind. Agnes’ reaction to the release of dopamine caused by the music was routine. Her shoulders slumped forward and jittered up and down from the force of emotion, and although I couldn’t see her face, I knew from past experience that she had begun crying. A moment later, she was on her feet, walking down the aisle with her peculiar shuffling gait caused by a rigid prosthetic.

Again, I swallowed my yawns and willed the reverend to not belabor the sinner’s prayer he would guide her through.

“I want my shame to go away,” she told the Reverend Rod, her voice breaking with heavy sobs. “Will Jesus make my shame go away?”

“What are you ashamed of? Confess it before the Lord.”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember. That makes me more ashamed.”

“You are a special person, Miss Agnes. God, who sees our hearts, knows and understands. He has already forgiven you.” The reverend fingered a cross around Agnes’ neck. He’d given it to her in the hope she would remember her salvation. “Remember the cross, Agnes, and you will remember Jesus has already wiped away your shame. Now he wants to perfect you as his child, as you come back for regular communion and prayer.”

A sobbing Agnes reached up and hugged the man. “I feel so lost.”

“Touch the cross and God will reassure you.”

That was my cue. I thanked the reverend, and then guided Agnes from the chapel. The cross pendant she wore didn’t help her remember anything. As to whether it gave her reassurance, I can’t say. Judging by her insistence on being “saved” repeatedly, I’d say there was no reassurance either.

“Now that you know what it’s like to be inside an amnesiac’s mind, let’s move on.”

“Don’t you mean, what it’s like to be inside Granddad’s mind? He sounds cold.”

“That’s because on the feelings side, I win hands down. He doesn’t know what it means to feel deeply. Depth of feeling is directionally proportional to IQ.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t know that.” She sounded skeptical.

Gilly sniffed and decided it was time to change the subject. “I used to visit her regularly, too, just as I said. She had an inkling of remembrance for Oso, but not for me. If I can’t leave an impression on a woman with a memory, I don’t know why I’d leave an impression on one without a memory.”

“You sound bitter,” Stephanie said.

“Bitterness or honesty. You decide. Would you like some tea and crackers?”

“Um, sure. Weren’t you going to tell me about your visits with Agnes?”

“After tea.” And he rose once again, but this time to put on the kettle. Stephanie, clearly antsy, followed him.

“My visits aren’t very memorable. Or they weren’t for her. That’s what the anterograde amnesia accomplished.”

She stared at the tea kettle as it sat on the gas ring. “Anterograde?”

“A watched pot never boils.”

“You know that’s not actually true, Uncle Gilly.”

“How do you know? Have you scientifically tested the idea?”

“I am right now.” She laughed.

Gilly wasn’t fond of her being in his kitchen. He needed to gather his thoughts, not think about her tarnishing the space. For a start, he never wore outdoor shoes in the kitchen. And here she was, her outdoor shoes on. To give himself time, he pulled one of his bisque plates from the cupboard and arranged a spiral of saltines on it, carefully, picking up each crumb that fell on the counter.

Stephanie turned her head from the kettle and watched him, her eyes wide with interest. Afterward, he tied up the cracker sleeve with the red twist tie and placed it delicately back in the box, which he placed back in the cupboard, next to the tea fixings. If the crackers weren’t put back properly, they would become stale. His last wife had never done it properly.

Once the kettle, now unwatched, decided to whistle, he made the tea with the same care he’d set out the crackers. They carried the goods back in the living room, where Gilly resumed his story.

“Anterograde amnesia: this means Agnes remembered her earliest memories, but those memories were more and more spotty the closer they approached the surgery. After the surgery, she wasn’t able to store new memories properly. But her muscle memory remained intact, and she didn’t have to relearn to do basic tasks every day. She could remember how to make her bed and tie her shoes, um, shoe, because she did it every morning without thinking about it, just as she took a nap every afternoon and couldn’t possibly forget how to eat or walk. Her body recognized these activities. On the other hand, she could never remember if she’d already eaten, and would wander to the dining room for second dinners and desserts. The staff usually allowed her to have fruit or a little pudding.

“If she was hungry because she’d forgotten she’d eaten, why not give her a snack to keep her happy? In general, Agnes was happy. So the big question is this, Stephanie: Why did Oso want to mess with an old woman’s mind?”

“That’s what I’m here to find out. I had no idea he had messed with an old woman’s mind until you brought it up.”

“Funny he hasn’t brought it up yet. Maybe he’s shying away from uncomfortable conversations.”

“Does he do that?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him about it the next time you two have an interview.”

Stephanie popped half a cracker in her mouth, and he cringed a little as he could see the cracker crumbs fall on her lap. As soon as she stood up, they’d fall on the floor. She would probably go so far as to brush off her pants. “Mark and I are going out to dinner with him tonight. I’m not interviewing him for a few days. I need a break. You were going to tell me about your visits with her.”

“He’s a slave driver, always has been.” To which, Stephanie nodded. “There isn’t much to tell. I wrote up my first visit with her. You know I’m a writer. Anytime you need help, I’m here. I think it’s very poetic.” He felt almost abashed as he handed her the sheet of paper.

It wasn’t visiting hour, yet, but Agnes was in the dining room diligently solving her daily crossword puzzle. Today, it was an “Opposite Day” puzzle. That is, if a clue were given as “a person who commits murder,” the answer wouldn’t be “murderer” but “victim” or “protected class,” depending on available spaces. If only all answers were that obvious!

I sat there watching her, and thinking.

Memories. What would it like to be without them?

Science fiction writers called them padding when they were programmed into artificial intelligence created to be human. Agnes was human, and her lack of recall was caused by a combination of the resection of the anterior parts of her hippocampi, parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae, and her PTSD. Before the PTSD, her ability to remember was haphazard. She also frequently lost control of her emotions, not to mention her bladder, which had inspired the neighborhood bullies to torment her.

“Did she really lose control of her bladder?” Stephanie lowered the paper and looked quizzically at Gilly. “I don’t remember anyone saying she had that problem.”

“Poetic license!” he shouted. “It was meant to be a nice zeugma.”

“Isn’t that a type of squash?”

“What? No! Would you just…” He gestured to the paper she was holding.

“Okay, sorry, Uncle Gilly. I just want to get all the facts straight.”

By neighborhood bullies, I mean myself and Oso. I should have worked this out a long time ago. Oso always possessed his own goals. He acknowledged no agenda but his own. As I sat there that day, by Agnes’ side, I didn’t know what my agenda was any longer. Making small talk with an old woman I’d tormented as a child was not part of it, anywise.

“’An animal, person, or group that preys on weaker entities,’” Agnes said aloud. “That’s my last one. Eleven spaces. What could it be?”

The answer came to me in a flash. “Graminivore!” I shouted. “Does that fit?”

Agnes squealed with delight. “It fits! I did it, I finished the crossword!”

The attendant who had obligingly brought me in for a few minutes asked me to check out in the front before leaving. She would be guiding Agnes in an after-lunch walk.

For once, I did as I was told. What did it matter whether I left my name on the check-in and check-out form? I had grown so used to my secret life I had become paranoid. As hideous as the truth was, Oso wouldn’t suspect me of bad behavior. It all went back to the agenda Oso couldn’t see outside of. The man viewed his own agenda as the one big picture, the one great mural to humanity.

Thinking of lobotomies, doctors were unorthodox in Agnes’ days. If Oso was pushed hard enough, wouldn’t he become a lone, uncontrollable rebel, too? Wouldn’t he try out his technology on an unwitting audience who couldn’t get any worse than she was? Where would his honor code lead him: to the den of the black-hat wearing cowboy, or the path of the hero?

“It is poetic,” she acknowledged. “What was this secret life you were leading?”

“My favorite part is ‘her lack of recall was caused by a combination of the resection of the anterior parts of her hippocampi, parahippocampal cortices, entorhinal cortices, piriform cortices, and amygdalae.’ I worked for hours on that line.”

She pinched her lips together, but not in the way of disapproval that other women gave him. Stephanie couldn’t make sense of him, as she hadn’t been prepared for his many talents, the least of which was poetry. “About that secret life you were leading. What were you doing?”

“Oh, I was selling some of our secrets to the competition. Nothing major.” By the look on her stoic, unsurprised face, he guessed she’d already heard Oso’s side of the story.

Without a beat, she said, “Did Granddad find out?”

“Eventually.”

“What did he do?”

“Stole Cameron.”

“He mentioned that the other day. But you told me your divorce with her was amicable. You said…”

“I know what I said. It was amicable. They both got what they deserved. And I came to despise her. Sometimes amicable means good riddance.”

She scratched her head, causing her hair to spill from its twist. She looked flustered. “All right. I don’t know what to do with this, Uncle Gilly. It’s one thing to use relevant documents as images in the book, but it’s another to use your story verbatim. You aren’t the coauthor.”

“Maybe,” said Gilly, “I’ll add it to my own book. It isn’t as if I haven’t written any. You are a novice compared to me.”

“I never considered myself anything but a novice, barely able to stand up in your shadow.” It sounded silly enough, but a careful inspection of her features assured him she wasn’t mocking him. “You’re one of the most intelligent men alive.”

The irritation Gilly felt at being called one of the most intelligent men alive he hid in a casual shrug. She should have been able to place him as one of the most intelligent men to have ever lived, but never mind. She was average. She was, perhaps, as Oso’s granddaughter, above-average. But not by much.

“Be that as it may, sometimes the best and brightest are just as petty as the rest of you ordinary folk. Remember that. Like Oso stealing Cameron. In any case, my selling company secrets, which were my ideas, anyway, ended up helping us because it sent them down rabbit trails.”

“So, are you saying you did it on purpose to help Tomi Corp?”

“Let’s get one thing straight right now. Everything I do is for myself. Oso believes in teams. I believe in a team of one—me.”

“Okay.”

“Which means I kept the best secrets from the competition because that would benefit me more in the long run. Nobody else knew we were on the cusp of creating meshes, part human, part android. Beautiful, intelligent creatures who could envision the future and still be controlled in their instinctual behavior through infrasound.”

“Like the blue whales in those old Minä ads.”

Gilly wanted to growl out his frustration. He remembered those ridiculous ads, during an era when “instinctual” Minäs were being marketed to the public. They were shown riding on the backs of blue whales, smiling and chanting some nonsense in bastardized Hindi. “No, those instinctual Minäs were not like blue whales. They were never capable of making infrasound. They simply heeded the calls of the sounds. They were like intelligent pigeons wired with infrasound sensitive neural fibers.”

“Were the instinctual Minäs different? I thought all Minäs were built the same way.”

“Grown. They’re not built; they’re grown on scaffolding. And, yes, every generation had the ability to pick up on infrasound. But the company had to find a way to make them useful again, and some dumb ass engineer from floor three designed a special line of spiritual adviser androids, with hyper ventromedial prefrontal cortexes. Stupidest idea ever. Poor creatures. The combination of their big ears and their heightened intuition made them constantly panicked. They intuited aliens and ghosts everywhere.”

“Where are they now?”

“They had to be put down. Disengaged, in other words.”

History was a strange mess of events. Wistfulness filled Gilly’s core. In a way, he supposed, the world had simply righted itself and discovered a natural pattern to live with the Minäs who were still among them. But it had become so dull. Nobody cared any longer. Minäs were reflections; that was all. They had become the ultimate humans. More human than the humans. Greater stupidity; greater ability to mime; loyal to a fault; listless and degenerate when on their own. And Tomi Corp, having learned its lesson, now only produced mindless robots programmed to do the grunt work humans did, which had destroyed the economy as men had once known it.

He scrutinized the eager face opposite to him. She was a lovely girl, big eyes that shone with anticipation. She made him tired. “I’m done,” he informed her. “I had my say.”

Her eyes opened wide—would they tremble; would they cry? Not today. “For good?”

“I don’t know. I’ll think about it. Meanwhile—” He rummaged through his cardigan and pants pockets and pulled out a wad of money. “Go buy me a green chile cheeseburger from Lotaburger. Buy whatever you want for yourself, but take your food and go. I’m done.”

“Sure, Uncle Gilly. As I said, I’m going out with Granddad and Mark tonight. I’ll wait to eat with them.”

“A dinner date,” he said, and could not keep the snide tone out of his voice.

“Granddad promised us a dinner with the chef who made our food at the game.”

“The game?”

“We went to a professional game with Granddad at Del Oso.”

“Ah, of course you did. How nice for you.”


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