Chapter 33 – Paul
Paul arrived at the apartment at ten minutes to seven. He parked next to his father’s truck and saw he was still inside eating. Paul got out of his car, grabbed his computer case, and slid in next to his father. “Had no trouble getting away?”
Saul grabbed another French fry from inside the bag next to him. “I ignored Trouble and left anyway. I got your papers.” He indicated the briefcase on the floor by Paul’s foot.
Paul reached down, opened it, and found the divorce papers, pulling them out. He put them into his computer case and then handed Saul the white envelope.
Saul wiped his hands on a napkin and looked through the pictures. He shook his head. “You’re right. He’s your son.” He handed the pictures back to Paul and then crumbled his food bag into a ball. “Well, I guess it’s about time we went in.”
They went into the apartment building, and Keith answered on their first knock. After introductions, Keith told them that Dan should be there any time. “My three roommates are all out tonight since it’s Friday, so I think we’ll have the place to ourselves.”
“Good,” Paul said. He hadn’t thought about Keith having roommates, but he was glad they were out of the way. He didn’t even like the thought of Keith witnessing what had to be said and hoped he didn’t have to go into too much detail.
They were barely seated around the dining room table when there was a knock. Keith answered it. “Hi, Dan.”
“This mystery guest didn’t back out, did he?” His voice had a slight southern twinge which reminded Paul of the Dan Sutherland he had known twenty years before.
“No, they’re here.” Keith stepped back for Daniel to enter.
Daniel saw Paul and Saul at the table right away and came to them, looking them over. He smiled a slow smile. “I can see we’re related. It’s almost like looking in the mirror.” He slid into the chair across from Paul. “I was starting to think Keith was telling stories.”
“I’m Zachariah Paul Israel. This is my father, Saul Israel.”
“Israel. An interesting name. I’m kind of relieved to see you, though. Since it looks like I take after you so strongly maybe I won’t go bald like Dad and Grandfather.”
“That is unlikely,” Saul said dryly. “There is no record that any Israel man has lost his hair before he died.”
“Dad has been writing a history of our family,” Paul said, watching Daniel carefully.
Daniel focused on Saul. “Really? And where do I fit in? Are we related through the Sutherlands or the Voss’?”
“Neither,” Paul said evenly. He reached into his computer case and pulled out an envelope and the divorce papers. “These are some pictures.” He placed the first one out on the table. “This is my senior picture.”
“Really?” Keith said. He was sitting across from Saul. “That’s the picture I saw that reminded me of you, Dan. In fact it looks more like Dan than you, Paul.”
“This is my wedding picture a year later.” He handed it to Daniel.
Daniel studied it, and then his eyes opened wider. “Wait a minute. You’re trying to tell me that I’m not who I think I am.”
“You’ve got your father’s intelligence, I see,” Saul said.
“But Mother has never mentioned that she was married to you.”
Paul handed him the divorce paper. “If you notice the dates, you must have been conceived maybe three months before this was final. She married Dan a month later. I did not know she was pregnant. If I had there is no way she would have gotten that divorce so easily. You never would have been named after that… that man, and you never would have grown up not knowing who I was. But she hid it from me, probably so she could get her divorce in two months instead of two years.”
Daniel turned to Keith. “You knew all this time and didn’t say a word.”
Keith shook his head. “Believe me, I had no idea. No wonder Beth looked so white when I mentioned you. She’s the one who knew and didn’t tell anyone until Paul came home.”
Daniel looked back at Paul. “Is Beth your wife?”
“No. She’s my friend.”
“I never remarried.”
“I just never have.”
“Unless you have more money and a better social standing than old Dan, you’ll never get Clarissa back.”
“I’ve never wanted her back.”
“She’s still a beautiful woman.”
“A woman like that is like an exquisitely painted vase full of urine,” Saul said. “It may look nice from a distance, but if you get too close it will gag you to death.”
Daniel laughed. “I guess you do know her.”
Keith seemed shocked at both Saul’s comment and Daniel’s reaction.
“So I’m still an only child, I just have a different father.”
“Actually I’ve adopted a son, David Timothy. He’s fifteen.”
“Really? Where is he? I’d like to meet him.”
“David is at home.”
“With the housekeeper, no doubt.”
“He lives with his adopted mother, Beth Weaver, in Flushing.”
“You’ve adopted a son with a woman that’s just your friend. So you guys are living together.”
“No, Daniel. Beth and I both follow Christ. That means we do not live together, and we do not have sex because we are not married. I live in Virginia.”
“He’s actually Colonel Zachariah Paul Israel,” Saul said proudly. “He’s pretty important to the Army. They send him all over the world, and he has a ton of ribbons.”
“A straight-laced Christian, hard-nosed army officer. You sound like a lot of fun to be around.” Daniel stood and looked around. He grabbed the phone on the wall and dialed a number, sitting back down. “Yeah, Keisha, is Clarissa there? You know it’s me, Sweetheart.” He looked at Paul. “Keisha’s the housekeeper. She’s pretty wild for a woman almost forty, if you know what I mean. Hello, Mother. I just thought you’d like to know who I just met today… Oh, but I’ll think you’ll be interested in this friend. In fact, I think you might know him. His name is Colonel Zachariah Paul Israel… Are you still there, Mother dear?” Daniel suddenly held the phone away from his ear, and a spurt of yelling could be heard.
“Don’t you dare believe a word that monster says, no matter what he tells you. Stay away from him. I can’t believe you’d even let yourself be seen with a… a beast like that.”
Daniel laughed. “So you do know him, Mother. He did show me a wedding picture, but of course that could have been a twin sister you forgot to tell me about. It seems several other facts have slipped your mind. But you must be getting old.”
Daniel held the phone away from his ear again. “You bastard. Leave the past alone.” And then she hung up.
Daniel laughed again and replaced the receiver. “You must have really been rotten to her to be called… what was that? A beast and a monster? I’ve heard her call Dan quite a few things, but she’s never used those particular words.”
“She’s the beast. Zach almost died….”
“Enough!” Paul said sharply. “I refused to play your little game, Daniel. I will not rehash the past. If you want to get to know me, then you will know me as I am now. If not, then we have nothing more to talk about.” He stared at Daniel.
Daniel finally shrugged and looked away. “Hey, don’t be so sensitive. I thought you’d enjoy Clarissa’s reaction to having her big secret exposed.”
“I did not.”
“Well, what kind of stuff do you like? I suppose you don’t even drink, do you?”
“No, I don’t, and you’re not old enough to.”
Daniel laughed. “And you think that makes a difference?”
“Not to you.”
“I know some guys who are Christians, and they drink beer with the rest of us when we go out for pizza.”
“I never said Christians don’t drink. I said I don’t.”
“I don’t like to be out of control. Why do you drink? I don’t imagine that you need it to help loosen your tongue around strangers.”
Daniel laughed. “If everyone else is having one, I’m not going to refuse.”
“Oh, you do it to follow the crowd. To please your friends.”
“You’re a riot. I bet you and David have a whole lot of fun together. Don’t you do anything for excitement?”
“I’ve had enough excitement for a couple months. I never have a chance to get bored because the Army always sends me someplace new.”
“He’s in a special unit. He saves a lot of people’s lives,” Saul said. “He just got back from a special assignment this week.”
“Where’d you go?”
“I’m not allowed to talk about it.”
“What do you do, Daniel? What are you going to school for?” Paul asked, determined to change the subject.
“Electrical and Mechanical engineering. I’m a junior. I started here when I was sixteen.”
“You do have your father’s intelligence. I was starting to wonder if my initial assessment was wrong. You know, Zach was accepted into West Point at seventeen.”
“What do you plan to do with your degree?” Paul asked.
“Figured I’d get into research and development with a company that designs some type of robotic equipment. I’ll probably start looking next summer.”
“How’d you decide on that?” Saul asked.
“It was either that or business administration, which Dad was pushing me to do, but that sounds so boring. Dad thinks engineering is a waste of time. They, both Grandfather and Dad, think I’m coming back to the firm after I’ve had my little fling with college. I’m the last of the line, you know.” Then he laughed. “No, I guess Dad is, and I guess he’s not my Dad. Strange. He cares for me more than Clarissa ever did. It’s weird, though, if you think about it. Didn’t he ever meet you?”
“At one time I thought he was my best friend.”
“He stabbed you in the back?” Daniel shrugged. “I’m not surprised. I wonder if he planned that one or she did.”
“I’m not really interested in Dan and Clarissa.”
“You know, Daniel,” Saul said. “You may not be the last of the Sutherland line, but you are the last of the Israel line. I hope you’re worthy of it.”
“Don’t forget about David,” Paul said. “He may not have my last name, but he’s just as much a son.”
Saul studied Paul. “You’re right. David is a worthy son. Maybe someday he’ll decide to take our name.” He smiled. “I can see the marquee now. David Israel in Concert Tonight!”
“You’ll find, Daniel, if you decide to hang around with us much, that your grandfather brags a lot about his family, especially his children and grandchildren.”
“What makes you think David will someday be in concert?”
“He’s an excellent musician. You should hear him play,” Saul said.
Daniel looked at Paul. “Is he really good or is he just bragging.”
“David is good.”
“What kind of music does he play? Which instrument?”
“He plays quite a few instruments, and I’ve heard him play several styles of music. Right now he’s focusing on Christian Contemporary music, similar to what Keith’s father plays.”
Daniel shook his head. “So all you guys are Christians.”
Saul shrugged. “I’m not convinced, yet, but I’ve decided to look into it. Your dad writes some interesting little books about man, sin, God and the Messiah, of course he calls him Jesus.”
“So you’re a fanatic, a Jesus freak.”
Paul shrugged. “Call me what you will. I am a follower of Christ, the son of the living God.”
“Well, I’ve not known too many Jesus freaks, but I’ll hang out. Just don’t expect me to go to church with you. I may listen to some of David’s music. Are you sure you guys never do anything fun?”
“I never said I didn’t do anything fun.”
“We’re going hunting next month. David’s coming. Do you want to come, too?” Saul asked.
“Never been before. Guess I could try it. I’d like to meet this new brother of mine.”
“Let me call Beth. If you have nothing planned I could arrange for you to meet him tomorrow afternoon,” Paul said, remembering Beth’s rush for the printer planned for the morning.
“Yeah, sure. I can go.”
Paul called and talked to Beth and then David. “I’ve told Daniel about you, David, and he wants to meet you. Is it all right if I bring him by tomorrow?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tell David I’ll be up, too, and I’ll want to hear that kinnor again.”
“Did you hear that, David? Grandpa will be coming with me tomorrow.”
“Yes. I will play for him.”
“So do you want to meet Daniel?”
David was silent. Then he asked quietly, “You won’t bring him if I say no?”
“No, I won’t.”
“Then you and… Saul won’t come?”
“We’ll still come.”
David hesitated again. “You can bring him.”
“Good, David. We’ll see you tomorrow around twelve-thirty or one o’clock. Tell your mom. Bye.” He hung up the phone and faced Daniel. “It’s all set. Tell us where to pick you up.”
One of Keith’s roommate’s came in, and they realized it was almost midnight. Paul asked Keith where the best hotel was as he pulled a twenty out of his wallet. “For the phone calls.”
They walked to the cars. Daniel drove away first in his Porsche, and Paul turned to Keith. “Thanks, Keith. You know, some of the things that were said tonight really don’t need to go any further.”
“I know. I won’t say anything. I’ll… I’ll be praying for Daniel. Maybe I can try to do a few things with him, you know, to maybe….”
“Thanks. I realize Dan and Clarissa did a pretty rotten job of raising my son.”
“Rotten?” Saul said, shaking his head. “You sure have a way of understating the situation. I wish David had our blood. I’m glad you’ve decided to keep him.”
“There was never an instant when I thought Daniel would replace David. David is still my first born son.”
“Joel was first.”
“Joel is dead. David now has the position of first born son, and I don’t care if Daniel is older.” Paul saw that Keith was watching and turned to him. “I’m going with Beth and David to Tennessee. I’ll greet your parents for you.”
“Really? I know they’ve been wanting to meet you. I think Dylan wants to talk to you about David.”
“Yes. Of course he hasn’t said anything about it since June when David yelled at him. I’m glad you two have decided to accept David so thoroughly. I’ve heard him speak of Saul as his grandfather. It would have been pretty hard on him if you two had changed the way you felt.”
“I will never change the way I love David. He is my son. Well, I’ll see you, and thanks again for your help.”
Later, when Saul and Paul were settled into their hotel room, Saul called Sheila. Paul was surprised when Saul started yelling into the phone. He couldn’t remember seeing his father so upset. When he hung up he looked over at Paul. Paul watched his father’s face as his anger dissipated.
Finally Saul leaned back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. “If it weren’t for Holly and Greg I’d divorce her right now and give her half my money just to be rid of her. But Holly needs me. I’ve never had a daughter, and she’s pretty special. It drives me crazy, though, to hear Sheila telling her that she’s stupid, she can’t do anything right, and she’ll never get a husband. I can’t say anything while she’s doing it, or it gets worse. So afterward I find her, talk to her, and tell her that it’s not true and that her mom doesn’t realize what she’s saying when she’s upset.
“I’ve been able to encourage Holly to not eat when she’s upset. I don’t think she realized she was doing it. She plays golf with me. It bores Sheila and Greg so they never come, and Sheila doesn’t mind me going out so much if I’m with one of the kids because then she figures she has a spy. But Holly and I have really gotten to know each other over the summer.” Saul shifted to his side and propped up on his elbow. “But tell me, Zach. How come you never wrote back to her?”
“She only sent me one letter, and I answered it. I never got another one.”
“When did you reply?”
“In May, right after I got it.”
“Well, she never got your letter. I hope it just got lost in the mail.”
“I’ll write again then.”
“I’ll let her know what happened.”
Paul had prepared for bed as his father spoke and now climbed into the other bed. When he was settled he turned to face his father. “So how’s Greg?”
“He’s a mess. He’s hanging out with a pretty rotten bunch of kids, skipping school, and I think he’s smoking pot, but I can’t prove it. I’ve told Sheila we could use hunting trips and shooting practice at the range as incentives to him for him to change his behavior. But she won’t consider anything that has to do with the guns. She even makes sure the cabinet door and the door to the room that the gun cabinet is in is locked. But I did reach a little bit of a compromise with her. I’m taking Greg bow hunting next weekend as long as he doesn’t screw up and get himself grounded before then. He’s already missed out on a couple weekends of practicing because he couldn’t keep his act together, and the trip is the next thing to go.”
“I’m still going to be on leave. Maybe David and I could join you.”
Saul looked away before he spoke. “I’m sorry, Zach. That was part of the compromise. I have to take him alone.”
It was the last thing Paul expected his father to say. They had always gone together and anyone who wanted to tag along was welcome. But always it was the two of them.
“There’s one other thing. Since I’m taking some time off now to go with Greg, I won’t be able to go for the whole trip with you and the boys next month. I can meet you there Friday night though and spend the weekend with you.”
“I thought you already had that time scheduled to take off.”
“I had to switch to get this time for Greg. I’m sorry,” he said again.
Paul wasn’t sure what to say, so he remained silent.
“You understand that Greg needs me right now, don’t you?”
“Yeah, sure. That’s fine. I hope it helps him. Guess I’m just a little distracted with all that’s happened with Daniel, and I didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“It sure was a surprise to find him after all these years.” Saul turned out the light and rolled onto his back.
“You’ve got your biological grandson. Now you can stop harassing me about marriage.”
“I just wish we had been able to raise him. I hope we found him in time to undo any damage those two did.”
We, Dad, he thought. You’re too busy with your new family to care about mine. As soon as he thought it Paul knew it was a selfish thought. His father hadn’t needed to take the time now, but he had.
Paul didn’t understand why it bothered him so much that his father’s new family was encroaching on their friendship, but he knew he had to support his father in this, because it was too late to change anything. Paul knew God hated divorce, but he understood what was driving Saul to it. It was his job as his father’s friend and as a Christian to try to help him deal with his problems so that a divorce could be prevented. He had to back away and accept the changes in their relationship.
But his father had been his best friend for so long that these thoughts pained him. Before he fell asleep he remembered Beth and David and thanked God that He had given him another close friend right when he needed it.
Go to Chapter 34
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.