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The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell

Author:Ian Caldwell [Caldwell, Ian]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-440-33495-8
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: 2012-08-21T04:00:00+00:00


Paul falls asleep quickly, to judge from his breathing. I wish I could do the same, but my mind is too crowded for that. I wonder what my father would’ve thought, knowing we’d found the portmaster’s diary after all these years. It might’ve lightened the loneliness I always supposed he felt, working so long at something that meant so little to so few. I think it would’ve changed things for him, knowing his son had finally come around.

“Why’d you come late?” I’d asked him one night, after he showed up at halftime during the last basketball game I ever played.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It took me longer than I expected.”

He was walking in front of me back to the car, preparing to drive us home. I fixed my eyes on the patch of hair he always forgot to comb, the one he couldn’t see in the mirror. It was mid-November, but he’d come to the game in a spring jacket, so absorbed at the office that he’d picked the wrong one from the coatrack.

“What did?” I prodded. “Work?”

Work was the euphemism I used, avoiding the title that was such an embarrassment to me around my friends.

“Not work,” he said quietly. “Traffic.”

On the way back, he kept the speedometer just two or three miles per hour above the speed limit, the way he always did. The tiny disobedience of it, the way he refused to be bound by rules, but could never really break them, grated on me more and more after getting my driver’s permit.

“You played well, I thought,” he said, looking over at me in the passenger’s seat. “You made both of the foul shots I saw.”

“I was oh-for-five in the first half. I told Coach Ames I didn’t want to play anymore.”

That he didn’t pause told me he’d seen it coming.

“You quit? Why?”

“The smart take from the strong,” I said, knowing it would be the next thing out of his mouth. “But the tall take from the short.”

He seemed to blame himself after that, as if basketball had been the final straw between us. Two weeks later, when I returned from school, the hoop and backboard in our driveway had been taken down and given to a local charity. My mother said she wasn’t sure why he’d done it. Because he thought it would make things better, was all she could say.

With that in mind, I try to imagine the greatest gift I could’ve given my father. And as sleep descends on me, the answer seems strangely clear: my faith in his idols. That was what he wanted all along—to feel that we were united by something permanent, to know that as long as he and I believed in the same things, we would never be apart. What a job I did, making sure that never happened. The Hypnerotomachia was no different from piano lessons and basketball and the way he parted his hair: his mistake. Then, just as he must’ve known would happen, the moment I lost faith in that book, we were more and more apart, even sitting around the same dinner table.



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