Service Society
Chapter 19: The Waltz and Other Dances

Copyright© 2011 by Lazlo Zalezac

Dexter managed to get his office moved to the new office space, Sunday, while the kids were visiting their mother. He was pleased with the progress he had made in establishing his website as a real business. He sat behind the cheap desk ... a really cheap desk ... thinking that it wouldn't last a year. The difference was two hundred dollars for a desk versus a two thousand dollars for a desk.

He doubted the website would last five years. It was one of those temporary businesses: like pagers, CB radios, and local video stores. They thrived for a couple years and then died when the market changed. There was nothing wrong with that kind of business, as long as one recognized it for what it was. Invest too much in it, too late in the business cycle, and you'd never recover your investment. He wasn't going to make that kind of mistake.

He set up the computer and checked the e-mails. A dozen had arrived since he had grabbed the computer earlier that morning. Most of the e-mails had similar comments about the last article. One of the e-mails had a threatening tone, suggesting that he drop the website and retire someplace, before things got out of hand.

Dexter shook his head as he muttered, "Nothing like telling the truth, to upset people."

It puzzled him how people took things so seriously, that they were willing to make threats to stop them. He was just publishing hints on how to get control over the work relation between employee and company. He put the e-mail into the folder marked 'threats'. It wasn't the first of its kind and he didn't think it would be the last.

There was another e-mail that demanded his attention. It was from a guy who said that he lost his job as a result of following the advice on his webpage. He was threatening to sue the website. Dexter replied that every page carried the warning that individuals might lose their jobs if they did the things suggested in the webpage. He added that the individual would stand a much better chance of winning a lawsuit against the company that had fired him. He then dragged the e-mail into the 'lawsuit threats' folder.

He wondered how long it would be before someone actually filed a lawsuit against him. He doubted that it would be more than a year. He jotted a note to call his lawyer and find out what more he could do to protect himself.

He checked his watch. It was almost time for him to go pick up the kids from the hospital. He wondered how often they would visit him, if he were the one who was ill. It wasn't a very pleasant thought.

He mumbled, "I could die, and no one would miss me."

He took the time before leaving to set up Eric's computer. He put the printer on a small table between the two desks. He stood back and looked over the office feeling pleased with it. The walls were bare, but it looked like a real business. He still found it hard to believe that he was now a businessman.

He drove over to the hospital and went to the cafeteria. After a quick glance around the large room, he bought a cup of their foul coffee and settled down to wait for the kids. He realized that he should have brought something to read. He'd fix that before coming the next time.

The cafeteria was sparsely populated with hospital staff and visitors. Outside of the clothes worn by the people, it wasn't easy to tell the difference between the two groups. The hospital staff looked bored and tired. The visitors looked worried and tired. He watched the various groups trying to guess a little about their background. All in all, it was a depressing room.

He hadn't taken more than two sips of his beverage when the kids showed up. It startled him when Will and Sarah sat down at the table. He was almost glad that he wouldn't have to finish the coffee.

They looked at each other as if trying to decide who would initiate a conversation. Will finally gestured to his sister.

Sarah said, "We need to talk."

"Those are frightening words," Dexter said lightly, leaving the 'particularly coming from a woman', unsaid.

Will said, "We're serious."

"Okay, so talk," Dexter said.

He looked at the cup of coffee, thinking he was going to have to drink the whole thing at this rate.

"Who are you?" Will asked after a long uneasy pause.

That was not exactly the question Dexter was expecting. He sat for for a second, considering how to answer it, and realized there wasn't a good answer.

He said, "I'm a guy trying to make his way through life in a large uncaring world. I am drifting without purpose or direction.

"I used to think I had a purpose. I was trying to support a family, but a text message stole that from me. I woke to realize that in pursuing my ambition to provide the most that I could for my family that I had actually lost that family. In essence, I failed in the one thing I was trying to achieve. So now, I'm nothing but an angry, bitter old man."

Dexter wiped a tear from his cheek. He was silent for a moment, and then added, "That's what I am. I don't know who I am, anymore."

The two kids were staring at him wide-eyed. It was not the kind of answer they were expecting.

"Are you satisfied?" Dexter asked tiredly.

"I don't know," Will answered uncertainly.

He had been expecting an answer along the lines that he was their father.

"That's sad," Sarah said.

"Yes, it is," Dexter said.

He took a sip of his coffee. Compared to the bile in his stomach the coffee was sweet.

"I kind of expected you to say that you were our father," Will said.

"Am I? Do you think I'm your father?" Dexter asked.

"Yes," Will said.

Dexter rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands.

He said, "You're wrong. I'm your sperm donor. I haven't been your father for at least ten years. Fathers do things with their kids. They spend time with them. They support them when they do things. They listen to their problems and try to help. They guide their children into life. That's what fathers do.

"I haven't done any of that."

To hear their father call himself their sperm donor, was emotionally devastating to the kids. They didn't know how to react. The problem was, that they could see that he was right. He hadn't been a father to them.

"What about us?" Sarah asked meekly.

"That is 'the eight hundred pound gorilla' in the room," Dexter said with a sigh.

"We'd still like an answer," Will said.

Dexter said, "I'll continue to support you as best that I can. I've got money set aside to put you both through college if that is what you want."

"What if we don't want to go to college?" Will asked.

"The money for your college would make a hell of a good down payment on a house," Dexter said.

Sarah asked, "Don't you want to be our father?"

Dexter answered, "Sure, I do. But let's be honest about the situation. I don't live with you, and you don't have room in your lives for me. I know that, and you know that.

"I spent three months in that house, trying to establish some kind of rapport with the two of you. Will has his computer games that occupy all of his time. You have have your circle of friends who you are in constant contact with. Where do I fit into that picture?"

Will licked his lips. It was a very good question, and the only answer he could find was that his father didn't fit into the picture. He looked down at the table top.

Dexter said, "I'm not in the picture. I know that ... and, as much as it hurts, I've accepted it."

The three of them sat around the table not saying anything. For the most part, there wasn't much more that could be said. Dexter felt drained. Emotion did not come easily for him. Will continued to stare at the table top. Sarah was sniffling.

"I want to go home," Sarah said.

"Okay. We can leave for the hotel, now," Dexter said.

"No! I want to go home!" Sarah said forcefully.

Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears.

Dexter said, "Okay."

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