Harry's dismal attempt at joking with the bouncer in Spanish had fallen flat. A bored looking dancer gyrated on stage until the M.C. announced in English, "Let's have a big hand for Luscious!" Anemic applause.
"I'm looking for the owner, if the owner's name is Paul. Paul Miller, maybe."
The bouncer looked like he'd been slapped. He glared at Harry, then cold-cocked him.
Harry came to three blocks away, in an Ensenada alleyway, with a dog licking his face. He tried to stand up, but fell against the wall behind him, sliding to his butt. He sat there, collecting himself, willing the feeling to come back to his limbs.
He imagined being back in the hospital in Santa Barbara, sitting by his ninety-eight year-old grandfather's death bed.
"That you Harry?"
"Yeah, Grandpa. How you doing?"
"Not worth a shit. Harry?"
"How old are you now?"
"I'm forty-eight today."
"I promised I'd never speak of what I'm about to tell you . . . "
His grandfather seemed to fade away for a moment. Harry took his hand and squeezed it gently, tears rolling from his eyes.
His grandpa came back.
"Yeah, Grandpa. I'm here."
"You remember Lois, the gal you worked for when you came to visit us that one whole summer in Arkansas?"
Oh, yeah. He remembered Lois. He was fourteen, and she was thirty-eight, but the age difference disappeared that day she took off her clothes.
"Of course, Grandpa. You remember, don't you?" He could tell his grandfather anything, and he'd told her about Lois. At the end of the summer, it was his grandfather who broke the news that Lois and her husband were getting back together.
"Oh yeah, I remember," the old man said. He chuckled, and for a moment, Harry thought that he sounded like the grandpa of old, the guy who still tossed hay bales around in his eighties.
"Harry, you remember the next summer, when you came back, and I told you that Lois and her husband had a baby?"
"Lois called me over to her place when their boy went off to college in Fayetteville. She was really upset about 'her baby boy' leaving the nest. Her husband was off on a trip, and she'd been drinking. That's when she told me."
"Told you what?"
"That the boy, Paul, was yours. She'd been a nurse before she got married, and she knew the boy couldn't be her husband's because of his blood type."
Harry sat stunned. He was forty-eight, and he might have a thirty-three year-old son. A son. Out there somewhere. "Do you think she told the truth, Grandpa?"
"Yeah, I do. Reach in that drawer there, and take my address book with you. Look for a Darlene Miller. She was Lois's younger sister. Probably still lives in Little Rock. She knows too. Call her. She might help you find Paul."
"Yeah, Paul. Your son."
He walked out of the Ensenada alleyway, found his bearings, and began walking back to the strip club. He rehearsed his lines, the lines he'd offer to the bouncer with the hope of avoiding being dumped in another alley, or worse.
"My name is Harry. I once knew a woman named Lois. If your boss is named Paul, and he's thirty-three years old, he may be my son. Please don't hit me again."
He turned the corner, and saw the neon sign for the bar. As he neared the entrance, he gathered himself for what was to come.
He was not a man to waffle on responsibilities.