A/N – This is the first in what (I hope) will be a four part series. Be sure to let me know what you think – just don't sue me because I don't own these characters. (I don't even own the computer I'm writing this on – how sad is that?)
All things appear and disappear because of a concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else." Buddha
E equals MC squared.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
True statements, to be certain. Each one is based on years of calculated and careful scientific research and data collection. And yet to the majority of laymen that hear them – even repeat them when at a loss for a way in which to give an answer that is rather obvious if one is truly paying attention – they are meaningless. These truisms have become so ingrained in the collective consciousness of the general public that it seems they were written for the sole purpose of being spat out at the exact moment that such lowly logic is required.
But are they really so base? So useless and trivial? Is there perhaps a deeper level of trueness to these statements that the human mind – no matter how well-educated – fails to grasp?
On a gray and chilly New York evening, a man – very tall with broad, beefy shoulders, a snub nose that is slightly crooked from having been broken at least twice, and dark salt and pepper hair that lends him an air of distinction – strolls purposefully down a city sidewalk, oblivious to a misty drizzle that has begun to fall. He is not the type of person who could be labeled as conventionally handsome, but there is a swagger in his step and a charming quality to his expression that is worth a second appraising look. At his side is a young boy of seven or eight, big for his age with long hands and feet that indicate a significant growth spurt in his future. His hair is dark and curls close to his head and, though his face is a blank mask that indicates his resignation in following the tall man before him, his eyes are sharp and lively, missing nothing of his surroundings.
The pair are quite obviously father and son – or, possibly more accurately, "before" and "after," as the towering man seems to carry a substantial weight on his rounded shoulders, weight accumulated by time and life and all of the twists and turns that he could not plan for and that took him by surprise. Each surprise – and subsequent disappointment – is etched onto his face in the lines of his eyes and mouth and the graying stubble that peppers his cheeks. The youth's face, in contrast, is smooth and at first glance appears to be free of worry, though one peek into his dark eyes - eyes that see everything and file pertinent information away for later use - reveals a startling surprise: deep within their depths, a discerning eye can recognize an old and tired soul that is at once worried for the future and exhausted by its past.
And so the man and boy walk side by side, each carrying his own burden in silence while the gray New York drizzle falls on and around them, the tiny droplets of water gathering on their shoulders like dust. At a seedy-looking bar with a neon sign that blinks and fizzles like a worn-out bug zapper, the man stops his forward progress and steps inside, the boy at his heels.
The interior of the bar is dark and everything – the tables, chairs, and people – seems to be covered in a haze of smoke. The patrons look up at the sound of the door opening, but if any of them think it inappropriate for an eight-year-old child to be in a bar in a shady part of town on a rainy evening, no one speaks up. Meanwhile, the man pushes between the tables until he reaches one at the very rear that is occupied by a wiry black man with silver hair and dancing elfin features. He is scribbling furiously in a tiny red notebook, a pair of half-spectacles sitting low on his nose.
"Hey-a, Mr. Goren," the black man looks up from his work, eyes rising over the tops of his glasses. He takes in the two forms before him. "This your boy? Spitting image of you, sir. Spitting image."
"My youngest – Bobby," Goren jerks his chin in the direction of the boy.
"Pleasure," Eddie nods to the youth, who nods back politely. "Well, Mr. G. - what's the good word?"
"Don't know, Eddie," the tall man pulls out a chair, turns it around, and seats himself in it backwards. His arms rest across the back and his chin comes to rest on his arms. "You hear anything worth talking about?"
During this exchange, the boy has come to a stop behind his father but does not sit. Instead, he stands silently by like a nervous tin soldier, arms held awkwardly at his sides and fingers twitching idly while he watches the conversation unfold before him. He is clearly uncertain of his role here and not at all comfortable in his surroundings.
"I heard the Yankees are looking sweet this week," Eddie shrugs offhandedly.
"Everybody's heard that, Ed," Goren shakes his head, disinterested. "I need to hear something a little more interesting."
"All right, all right," Eddie smiles good-naturedly and waves a hand as though to erase his previous statement. "Don't let it be said that Uncle Eddie's lost his touch. Try this: I heard from a guy at Belmont that there's a sure thing long shot running in the eighth race tomorrow."
"A sure thing long shot?" Goren repeats in disbelief. His tone is annoyed and behind him, his son tenses in reflex. Goren is obviously not to be contended with when his ire is up.
Eddie, however, is unperturbed. "That's what I said, Mr. G. A sure thing – this guy heard from the trainer directly that this horse can't lose."
"They can all lose, Eddie," Goren tells him condescendingly. "Ten horses flying down a track at forty miles an hour with a welterweight standing on his tiptoes and trying to steer – anything could happen."
"Ain't that the truth," Eddie smiles and nods in agreement. Then his face sobers. "But if he wins, he'll pay big, Mr. G. He'll pay big."
Goren's eyes narrow now and he tilts his head to the left: a thinking pose. His eyes narrow and squint and he summons a puff of air that, when expelled from his chest, accompanies the words: "What's the name?"
"Hari Kari," Eddie replies smoothly, eyes glittering with the prospect of a deal.
"You're kidding?" Goren isn't amused and his son's fingers resume their nervous twitching behind him.
"No sir," Eddie shakes his head sadly. "But like I say, it's a sure thing."
"Odds?" Goren wants to know, tone resigned now instead of annoyed.
"Seventy to one," Eddie tells him.
"How many in the field?"
Goren resumes his thinking pose and cracks his knuckles while he contemplates the bet. He glances back towards his son, then – not to ask him anything but rather as if to indicate to him that he should pay attention, that this is one way to be a real man when he's all grown up. The boy's face remains blank, however, the eyes almost judgmental in their observation of the man before him. It is as though the son - at the tender age of eight - knows more than the father and, seeing this, the elder Goren looks away in disgust.
"Make itthree hundred," Goren fumbles in his pocket for the cash and Eddie makes some scribbling notations in the red notebook.
"You won't regret it, Mr. G," Eddie assures him.
"I hope not," Goren rises to his feet and returns the chair to its original position. To the boy, he barks, "Let's go, Bobby."
Like a well-trained spaniel, the boy follows silently behind his father as they weave back between the tables and chairs and out the door. The drizzle has ceased but the evening air is still damp and chills both figures to the bone.
They turn to proceed back up the street when a voice stops them, an authoritative tone that catches the attention of Mr. Goren so that the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
"You there!" the voice calls and the pair turns to see a rather short but sturdy police officer walking towards them. Beneath his hat, the boy notices that his hair is a dark brownish shade of red – "an Irish mick," his father would say in disgust (and probably will on the way home).
"Is there a problem, officer?" Mr. Goren asks in his most polite tone, though neither young Bobby nor the officer miss the thread of disrespect that runs through it like an electrical current.
"You just came out of a bar with an eight-year-old kid in tow and you're asking me what the problem is?" the cop chuckles slightly as though he can't believe the question.
"Oh, that," Mr. Goren fakes a high-pitched laugh and waves a hand as though to dispel the trouble at once. "The kid had to use the bathroom, see? He wouldn't have made it another block. Didn't want him to have an accident."
"You mean you didn't want to miss placing a bet with Uncle Eddie," the cop corrects him knowingly. His words are unhurried and he doesn't sound angry, but rather as though he's participating in a well-rehearsed scene from a play.
"Now officer…" Mr. Goren starts in again, his tone sliding and winding like a serpent.
"Save it," the policeman cuts him off. He stands toe to toe with Mr. Goren – the sheer height of the latter rendering the picture slightly ridiculous as he looks up to meet the darker man's eyes – and his voice is firm and even: "Now listen here: I know exactly what goes on in that bar and I'm not out to bust you for it tonight. I'm not even going to bust you for taking a minor in to an establishment that he's under age to be in. But I am going to give you a piece of advice and that is this: whatever business dealings you conduct on this street in the future, you leave your boy at home. He has no place here and he'll be better off in the future for not being involved in this racket. You understand?"
"Of course, officer," Mr. Goren nods demurely, but his spine has tensed beneath his overcoat and resentment drips from him while he bites off the polite words. "Thank you."
To Bobby, the officer says, "This is no place for you, son. You be a good boy, now."
"Now go home," the officer commands Mr. Goren with a pat on the head for young Bobby. Thoroughly chastised, the man and boy set off once more in the direction of home.
"Stupid Irish mick," Mr. Goren mutters predictably when they are out of earshot. He will continue to mutter in angry tones until they reach their destination.
Young Bobby says nothing, his mind lingering on the scene he has just witnessed, though he isn't replaying the conversation over in his head or even watching his father strain to control his temper. Instead, Bobby's mind is focused on single images that are now burned into his memory – the crisp way the officer's uniform fit him with the perfectly pressed pants just sweeping across his instep, the gleam of the badge on his chest, and the confident way in which he strode down the sidewalk. Police officers were strong and brave and this one had gone toe to toe with his father without blinking. Bobby had been struck by those meaty hands enough times to know to be afraid but the officer hadn't backed down. He had a job to do and he had done it without hesitation.
And in the years to come, young Bobby Goren would recall that night sometimes – he would come to think of it as the first time that he saw how ethically people could behave in times when their authority might allow them to overstep their bounds. He would remember the way his father had backed down and the admiration that he held for that police officer who had patted him on the head and told him to be a good boy. And he would think back on that night as the first time he considered joining the police force.
What he wouldn't remember, however, was the name that he had read on that red-haired officer's badge. For all of the observational skills he had possessed as a young boy and that he honed later as a police detective, it had never occurred to him to remember the name of the man who had changed his life, for he hadn't even realized at the time that his life had been changed. And so he would never remember that the little gold name plate emblazoned on the officer's chest read: J. Eames.
And so a cycle begins. A butterfly flaps its wings in South America and kicks off a snowstorm in Michigan. Nothing is random; everything is connected.
Still don't believe this to be true? How about another example?