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spot_05When I found out that my father was still alive after all these years and living at Strawberry Fields, I thought he'd gotten just what he deserved.  Retroburbs are where the old, scared people go to hide.  I'd always pictured the people in them as deranged losers.  Visiting some fantasy world like the disneys or Carlucci's Carthage is one thing, moving to one is another.  Sure, 2038 is messy, but it's a hell of a lot better than nineteen-sixty-whatever.

Now that I'd arrived at 144 Bluejay Way, I realized the place was worse than I had imagined.  Strawberry Fields was pretending to be some long, lost suburb of the late twentieth century, except that it had the sterile monotony of cheap VR.  It was clean, all right, and neat, but it was everywhere the same.  And the scale was wrong. The lots were squeezed together and all the houses had shrunk-- like the dreams of their owners.  They were about the size of a one car garage, modular units tarted up at the factory to look like ranches, with old double-hung storm windows and hardened siding of harvest gold, barn red, forest green.   Of course, there were no real garages; faux Mustangs and VW buses cruised the quiet streets.  Their carbrains were listening for a summons from Barbara Chesley next door at 142, or the Goltzes across the street, who might be headed to Penny Lanes to bowl a few frames, or the hospital to die.

There was a beach chair with blue nylon webbing on the front stoop of 144 Bluejay Way.  A brick walk led to it, dividing two patches of carpet moss, green as a dream.   There were names and addresses printed in huge lightstick letters on all the doors in the neighborhood; no doubt many Strawberry Fielders were easily confused.   The owner of this one was Peter Fancy.  He had been born Peter Fanelli, but had legally taken his stage name not long after his first success as Prince Hal in Henry IV Part I.    I was a Fancy too; the name was one of the few things of my father's I had kept.

I stopped at the door and let it look me over.  "You're Jen," it said.

"Yes."  I waited in vain for it to open or to say something else.  "I'd like to see Mr. Fancy, please."  The old man's house had worse manners than he did.  "He knows I'm coming," I said. "I sent him several messages."  Which he had never answered, but I didn't mention that.

"Just a minute," said the door.  "She'll be right with you."

She?   The idea that he might be with another woman now hadn't occurred to me. I'd lost track of my father a long time ago -- on purpose.   The last time we'd actually visited overnight was when I was twenty.  Mom gave me a ticket to Port Gemini where he was doing the Shakespeare in Space program.  The orbital was great, but staying with him was like being under water.   I think I must have held my breath for the entire week.   After that there were a few, sporadic calls, a couple of awkward dinners -- all at his instigation.   Then twenty-three years of nothing. 

I never hated him, exactly.   When he left, I just decided to show solidarity with mom and be done with him.   If acting was more important than his family, then to hell with Peter Fancy.   Mom was horrified when I told her how I felt.   She cried and claimed the divorce was as much her fault as his.   It was too much for me to handle; I was only eleven years old when they separated.   I needed to be on someone's side and so I had chosen her.  She never did stop trying to talk me into finding him again, even though after a while it only made me mad at her.  For the past few years, she'd been warning me that I'd developed a warped view of men.

But she was a smart woman, my mom -- a winner.  Sure, she'd had troubles, but she'd founded three companies, was a millionaire by twenty-five.  I missed her.

 


 
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