Nov. 27th, 2011


Nov. 27th, 2011 01:00 pm
gotham_knocking: (typewriter)
For most people, a phone ringing at 3 am is always going to be bad. Not for a reporter. Oh, it might be bad news for someone. But a reporter it might be a big story. A scoop. Maybe even someone calling from Oslo to tell you that you've won a Nobel Prize for Journalism. (Hey, he can dream.) So he really didn't think there was a reason to be worried. At first.

"Yeah, what's up?"


"Who's there?" The voice is familiar. But not an editor. Or a snitch.

"It's Aunt Arlene." And suddenly, Alex know what everyone else felt when the phone rings at 3 am.


His father had a heart attack. Not a major one, but not the first one either (someone his parents didn't bother telling him when they still lived in Gotham). Aunt Arlene was given the job of calling him and his brother and any other relatives who needed to know. And also the job of suggesting that Alex should come and visit his dad.

By 10 am, he'd made a stop at the newspaper's travel agent, booked two tickets, told his editor he'd be on a leave for a week or so, and rushed home to pack. The same procedures he and Rapunzel followed their last trip to Florida were in play. Haircut right before leaving, haircut right after landing, and lots of hats. She wasn't sure what she would do with herself, since she wasn't sure how much she needed to sit at the hospital. Alex assured her he needed her there, but both knew that her parents weren't his. And he was not ready to admit out loud he was working out things.

The flight took them to Fort Lauderdale and from there he drove the rental car straight to what his aunt insisted was the best hospital in the area. (He realized after that the directions the clerk gave were impossibly good, and wondered if someone was watching over him for once.) He had to admit that after years of seeing the decay of most Gotham hospitals, St. Bonaventura looked like a place he would want to be sick in. At the same time, he hated hospitals. Raps noticed, tried to calm him, but it was clear that one too many times seeing urban violence left him uneasy.

So did having to see his dad in this way. He was relieved to find Martin Knox only a bit paler than usual. And just as grumpy. "Well, well, look who decided to visit." Not a hint of a smile for Alex. Though a big one for Raps. (He had to hand it to Raps, that she actually made a good impression on Martin when they met. All her years of being a queen? Or just her smile?) Things hadn't changed. And when Alex asked about how things were going, the reply he got was, "how do you think they're going, you clod? I had a heart attack, They want me to stay here for a week. The food is lousy. They don't let me sleep. In short, it's all going so damned well."

When Alex found a doctor - a resident who looked too young to even play doctor - he learned that the concern was about future incidents. And that the hospital wanted more of Martin Knox's medical history. "You are asking the wrong man, Dr. Gelbart. I didn't know about his first heart attack till 3 am. I haven't heard anything about his health since they moved here. Ask my mother. Or maybe my brother." Neither of him he saw just yet.

His mother didn't arrive for another two hours. And seemed strangely detached. As if it were someone else's husband who was in that bed. At least Estelle was glad to see Alex and Rapunzel. But it was unsettling enough that Alex almost offered to stay in a hotel and "not be in the way."

Instead, they stayed in the guest room as they did before. But the vibe was wrong, and Alex talked at length with Raps about it. Or as much as he ever could about his own feelings. She knew that some men were lucky to even admit they had feelings in the first place. She didn't press, but she suspected that this was rougher than he could ever admit.

Two days later, Eliot arrived from Chicago. And Alex met his brother for the first time in eight years. Or was it nine? Eliot still took after Martin, taller and thinner and blonder and very little of Estelle's round Jewish face. But his hair was leaving fast, and Alex tried not to be smug about it. This reunion was even more uncomfortable than the one with Martin. They had so little in common, so little connection. They chatted about Eliot's wife and kids, about Rapunzel and their careers as eye doctor and reporter. They tried to smile, or to assure each other Dad would be find. But they had become strangers more than ever. Even the childhood nicknames of "Ellie and Allie," the names five year old Alex gave himself and his thirteen year brother, the names that stuck for a long time, were gone.

For the next few days, there were just awkward moments at the hospital as Dr. Gelbart, and the older and apparently capable cardiologist Dr. Plummer, came and went and told everyone that Martin needed to lose weight and eat better and that he could go home in a week. Martin seemed inclined to ignore the doctors in favor of a book of crossword puzzles and old movies. Estelle looked like she would do something to help, but never said what. And Alex and Raps would occasionally escape for a drive or a walk or dinner or a trip to anywhere but here.

Eliot left after four days, giving limp handshakes to his father and brother, a meek hug to Estelle. Martin finally got discharged, and came home to a health care aide that he was sure would bankrupt him or Medicare. Alex felt like it was time to go. But not before he talked to his mother.


Some conversations are shocks. Not because there is something you weren't expecting to hear. But because you never realized till you heard them that you already knew. The distance between Estelle and Martin since Alex arrived was something that had always been there. And Alex never noticed till now. And Estelle, trusting that a son old enough to be in love and in a stable relationship, a son pass 40 now, could handle the truth: the love was gone, and the marriage was just habit. Alex understood. And saw that he'd known this since he moved into his first crappy apartment after high school.

He could barely stand to look his mother in the eye. Not because he didn't understand. But because his parents lived a lie. Funny how all his years as a reporter changed how he saw the world. How he saw even the people who raises him. He could deal with failure, anger, regret, sadness. But they should have told him.

And he should have seen it sooner.

After two very long weeks, Alex and Raps were on the flight home, tanned and eager to get back to the Gotham winter. And as Raps sat back, hooked into the plane's sound system and reading a magazine, he realized that she - and the people he'd met at the Bar, even the ones he never saw anymore - were more of a family to him now. That stung, but it was oddly freeing to know it.


gotham_knocking: (Default)

November 2011


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