Authors: Vicki Grant
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERS
Copyright Â© 2011 Vicki Grant
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
B negative [electronic resource] / Vicki Grant.
Electronic monograph in PDF format.
Issued also in print format.
I. Title. II. Series: Orca soundings (Online)
PS8613.R367B12 2011AÂ Â Â Â JC813'.6Â Â Â Â C2010-908063-7
First published in the United States, 2011
Library of Congress Control Number:
When Paddy discovers that the man he thought was his father
isn't, he struggles to put his life back together.
Orca Book Publishers is dedicated to preserving the environment and has
printed this book on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela Cover photography by Getty Images
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14Â Â 13Â Â 12Â Â 11Â Â â¢Â Â 4Â Â 3Â Â 2Â Â 1
To Linda Alexander,
for always being positive.
There's a big slab of barbecued steak in front of me. The sun is shining. My girlfriend's here. The little kids are happy.
So why am I so pissed off then?
I don't know.
No. I do know. It's Anthony. (Like that's a surprise. When is it
Can't he shut up?
Does he honestly believe I'm interested in his advice?
Mom married himâwhat? Thirteen years ago? That means he's known me since I was five. You'd think he'd have a clue by now.
But no. Having a clue would require him to actually listen to someone other than himself, and that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.
“If I were you,” he's saying, “I'd forget about doing something practical for the moment. I'd pursue my music. I see real promise in you.” He turns down his chin and looks me right in the eye.
Another person might mistake that for sincerity, but I'm not that easy to fool. I know what he's doing. He's checking his reflection in my pupils. The guy's so full of himself I'm surprised he has room for the steak.
And that reminds me. Isn't he supposed to be a vegan? I distinctly remember him ruining another family dinner over his new diet. He kept nagging us about all the toxins we were shoveling into our mouths. Meanwhile, he was “honoring”
body with raw bean sprouts.
He has a hunk of meat on the end of his fork and is pointing it at me. Blood is dripping onto the table.
“I could have gone into law. That's what my parents wanted me to do, of course. Follow the family tradition. But that just wasn't my thing. Instead I decided to follow”âbig pause hereâ “my heart. I chose the theater. I've never regretted it.”
He tosses back his hair. He loves his hair. Tara says there's no way those blond streaks up front are natural. That used to embarrass me. Now it just makes me laugh. I love picturing him in the black cape with the little pieces of tinfoil all over his head, looking like the total conceited jackass that he is.
Anthony takes a bite and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Follow your heart,” he says again, only this time he's chewing right in my ear.
My mother looks up from her salad and her eyes go watery. This touching little moment has obviously moved her.
I don't get it. She's a smart woman. How can she still believe his crap?
I keep eating away as if there's no problem, but the truth is I'm dangerously close to exploding. Would he just get his frigging hand off me? I'm one second away from telling him to shut his face. I wouldn't mind blowing a few giant holes in his story while I'm at it too.
For instance: He chose “the theater”? Please.
Playing “satisfied homeowner” in a thirty-second tv commercial for a miracle toilet plunger is not the theater. You don't have to be Brad Pitt to say, “Yours for just three payments of $19.95!”
And as for not regretting his decisionâ why would he? Life's good for Anthony Paul Wishart. He sits around the house all day doing nothing.
No, I'm sorry. That's wrong. He doesn't do nothing. He does yoga. He does some serious time in front of the television. And, of course, he does his hair. That's very important. He has to look his best for his “career.”
Just thinking that makes me want to kill him. How can a grown man with two little kids, a wife and a stepson live like that?
Why do I even ask? I know the answer.
My father. That's the answer.
Like, I mean, John Armstrong. My real father. He works hard because he actually feels responsible for someone other than himself. He lives in some crappy little apartment and never goes out or buys himself anything new. All his money goes to child support payments.
Which just happen to be enough to cover the mortgage on the house Anthony hangs around in all day. How convenient.
Mom pays the other expenses by working as a receptionist at Child Welfare International. It's a nonprofit organization so they don't pay much, but it's something. (So much for
acting career. She, at least, had enough pride to go out and get a real job when the bills started piling up.)
I only get a couple of shifts a week at the hardware store, but I pitch in what I can too.
I look across the table at Tara. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of faking nice, but I clearly haven't fooled her. I guess after three years with me she knows what's going through my head. She dips a French fry in ketchup and puts it in her mouth. She's looking at me the whole time. Her eyes are telling me to calm down.
Anthony drops his hand onto his thigh with a big slap. He leans back in his chair and stretches his legs out in front of him. It's only June and they're already seriously tanned.
“So, Paddy, what'll it be? There are lots of great music colleges who'd be lucky to have you, you know. Or perhaps you'd rather just take the band on the road. Given any thought to that? The year I spent touring
with the Colchester County Musical Theater Society was perhaps the most interestingâand excitingâperiod of myâ¦”
I can't listen to this again. He's crazy. He wants me to go to music college now? Who's going to pay for that? Not Anthony, that's for sure. He's just assuming Dad will foot the bill.
As for his other suggestionâ please. Go on the road? Like our lame band would make any money that way. Anthony might have trouble understanding this, but being able to support myself actually matters to me.
I'd love to bring that up right now but I can't. It would get too ugly. I stop chewing and clamp down on the meat in my mouth. It's like biting a bullet to take your mind off the pain. The smear of ketchup on my plate makes me think of blood. I stare at it and try to blank Anthony out. Tara drops her fork. The noise makes me look up. It wasn't an accident. She says, “Sorry. Clumsy me!” but she's got that look in her eyes again. I don't know if I see her shake her head or I just sense it. She picks up her fork and makes a big point of sawing off a piece of meat.
, she's reminding me.
mother paid a lot of money for it. Ignore
Anthony. Don't ruin this for her.
Fine. I start chewing really loud like I'm some cartoon slob. Tara's eyes go all shiny and she has to bite her lip to stop from smiling. I put a big grin on my face and say, “Mmmm. You're some cook, Mom. This is delicious.”
“Aw, thanks, honey,” she says. I can see how happy that makes her. Never hurts to keep the ladies happy.
I look around the table.
Olivia is drawing something on her plate in ketchup. She loves to draw.
Marlon is standing beside Mom with his hands on her face, begging to stay up to watch Power Ponies tonight. Mom's shushing him but she's laughing too. She knows she's going to give in.
Everyone's enjoying themselves. Life is goodâeven if Anthony has started yammering on again about my “brilliant future.”
Tara's right. The guy's a douche bag, but pointing that out would only upset the non-douche-bag members of my family.
I wink at her. She stabs at her salad and puts a giant piece of lettuce in her mouth. She gets bright orange dressing all over her chin. “Aw. Gross,” I say. People forget about Anthony for a second and look at Tara. Everyone laughs.
You'd think Anthony would take this opportunity to shut upâbut no such luck.
“Seriously, Paddy,” he says. “High school's behind you. You can do anything you want with your life now. So what'll it be? Music college or the tour?”
I try to concentrate on dinner, but my brain is suddenly just, like, flooded with rage.
Those are my choices? Says who?
How does he know what I want to do? What does it even matter to him? He's not my father.
Tara's face has gone flat and white. She mouths the word, “Don't.” She can feel the pressure ramping up again even if Anthony can't.
I take a breath. Olivia is braiding Tara's hair now. Marlon's on Mom's lap. Dinner's almost over.
Just hold on.