REASONS ALAN SHORE BECAME AFRAID OF WATER
Settling in to a new job is always awkward, but this one
more than most. Alan was down to one of his last ditch devices:
honesty. He was particularly uncomfortable having to resort to that
one, but with the trial starting in less than a day and all of his
other strategies to change Denny's mind having failed, it was either
that or putting knock-out drops in Denny's drink.
well," Alan started. "People in your firm aren't going to tell you that
because they like you. Plus, you wield a great deal of power. But you
have about as much business being in that courtroom tomorrow as you do
holding a loaded shotgun."
Denny did a double-take. "Do you know who you're talking to?"
I offer this because a) I don't care if I get fired, and b) someone
very dear to me died with Alzheimer's. And when I think I see even the
possibility of symptoms . . ."
"The fact that you may have
Alzheimer's does not entitle you to criticize me," said Denny with all
the easy polish of a six-o'clock news bite.
"These people have waited fourteen months for trial." Perhaps he could
reason with the professional if not the man.
"They want me."
"Because they think you're prepared."
Now Denny flared. "Who do you think you are? I hire you; you're here a
week, and you're trying to tell me
what to do? Nobody—nobody—tells
me what to do!"
Alan caressed Denny's hands. "Dad, you're my father, and you don't even
remember." It was the kind of moment that had brought tears to the eyes
of Lifetime viewers by the thousands.
Denny blinked. "I’m not your father!" He jerked away.
"I had you for a second."
laugh at me; I'm the picture of health." Denny clamped his fingers
together and stared down--his courtroom pose that bellowed, "I'm not
wasting any more of my time with this idiotic argument."
That had been four years ago.
bowling balls--of sweat poured off of Denny's puffed and florid
features as they struggled to move the walnut entertainment center
across Denny's living room. Although not naked, the experience
reconfirmed that seeing Denny in this state was every bit as disturbing
as Alan had anticipated it to be. Memories of estates that had sued
fast-food restaurants, energy pill manufacturers, personal trainers, or
900 number services for the sudden cardiac death of fat old men
overdoing it came to grisly mind, and Alan let fall his end amid an
impressive stream of profanity from the other side of the unit.
sorry, Denny, but perhaps we should get some of your staff to do this.
I'm not as young as I used to be. Or as limber." Missing a beat, Alan
rubbed his sacroiliac region in a poorly timed afterthought of
misdirection. "And your doctor did say--"
Weight shifted so as
to spare his bad hip, Denny leaned against the sofa, flushed, panting
and sweating. "My blood pressure's fine. You heard my nurse."
"Your 'nurse' is a prostitute in a Hello Nurse costume, you do realize?"
knows how to use cuffs. Both kinds. I'm fine. If your back's up to it,
grab your corner." Denny squatted down and felt for a grip.
are we doing this?" Alan tried again. "You have at least a half-dozen
illegal immigrants on the premises who would be happy to do something
else to earn their stay."
Denny's tone was distinctly less
amiable now. "If you don't want to help me, that's your business. Then
get the hell out and call Gregario to take over."
his ground. "I want nothing more than to help you, and you are more
than smart enough to realize that. It's beneath you to suggest
otherwise to a friend just because you're scared of your failing
Denny's face and tone were unreadable. "And you're
smart enough to know that the help I want from a friend has nothing to
do with having the damn living room rearranged. So can you give me
that, or are you going to call someone I pay by the hour to take your
Together, they finished the job in silence…save for Denny's
left open the wrong way around, legs splayed apart, feet dangling off
the exam table, Denny addressed his doctor. "And I'll need a refill on
The doctor kept eyes to his notes. "That's going to
have to wait until your blood pressure comes down. Even with the
addition of a second medication, it's still concerning me. I want you
to avoid strenuous activities--" He paused and acknowledged Alan who
was sitting, legs demurely crossed, in the exam room chair with a full
frontal view of…Denny's everything. "--in either capacity,
under better control."
Denny and Alan offered him wide-eyed stares.
"What does he mean?" Denny asked.
Alan shrugged and offered Denny his pink and white polka dotted boxers.
doctor rubbed his forehead and turned his head even farther away from
Denny's parted legs. "Just take it easy until for now."
"That's all right," Denny muttered "I can get it cheaper off the
streets. Damned Medicare Part D."
"Hillary was going to fix that. If you'd--" Alan again tried to wave
his shorts at him.
start with me!" Denny cautioned. He hopped off the table, landed with a
painful looking limp, then, mercifully, headed towards his clothing.
pressure!" The doctor tossed a last minute warning as he closed the
door behind him. Although, as Denny had dropped his gown before doning
the boxers, to whose blood pressure the doctor was referring to was a
wide open question.
But over time
things, change and people change. Denny and Alan's friendship had
evolved and gone where few men had ever gone before. 1
They could talk about things that mattered. They could talk about
things that were hard.
Often, even without the benefit of alcohol.
one of those answers that could either win the day or bury us." Alan's
tone shifted subtly. "Let's talk about you, Denny. You certainly knew
what you were doing when you fired Nancy Wilding for being fat. What's
going on? Were you retaliating because she rejected your sexual
Denny scoffed. "If I had a nickel for every girl who turned me down--"
He did a well-rehearsed double-take. "Actually, I do."
corner of Alan's mouth quirked not so much in recognition of the
predictable joke, but for the predictability of Denny's use of
intentional pathos to deflect a conversation that he didn't want to
have. "What is it then? Is it another way to be the center of
"I should be on that case. I should be in that courtroom with you and
Patrice Kelley, not in my office kidnapping hookers."
Pathos and deflection or not, this nerve was too raw and too real--too
honest--for any friend to ignore.
"Denny--" Alan started to reach out to him.
"Don't. Just don't."
For a long moment they both sat in silence. Alan was the first to
"You need to let Lorraine make this case go away."
as the words left his mouth, Alan knew that they were wrong, but like
Pandora's miscalculation, there was no way to stuff them back from
whence they came.
He could see the entire scenario playing out
in his mind with Denny front and center stage in the spotlight with
everyone gathered around nervously enraptured, periodically coming
crawling to him to beg-- Alan had just now--and he knew with the
certainty of long experience that that was exactly what Denny had
intended with his own, personal one-ring circus.
"I'll do what I want." It was Denny's final summation tone.
Alan had lost this particular fight enough times that at least he
realized that from here on by expressing more resistance to the
decision, he could only make things worse.
That had been less than two months ago.
door clicked open, and Alan strolled in with his sleepover carpetbag in
one hand and an umbrella in the other. Already changed into his
Victorian nightshirt and night-cap he looked like "'Twas the Night
Before Christmas" meets Mary Poppins.
"Look what came today," Denny called out.
Playing the odds, Alan's gaze shot to Denny's fly.
Well, yes, but these are what I meant." Denny shoved a ream of papers
into Alan's hand. "Our health questionnaire, physical exam and fitness
test appointments for the Coast Guard Reserve. Good thing my blood
pressure's down. You don't think they'll test how fast I can get the
barrel up, do you? My reassembly time isn't like it was in my army
"I think that's only required for Tailhook parties. Fitness test, you
say?" Alan blinked at him over the top of the papers.
climbing, swimming, lifting, you know, for rescuing damsels in
distress. Or I suppose it's more likely to be dashing lads in
distress…" Denny's gaze grew unfocused.
Alan just stared blankly.
Denny snapped his head back and his eyes narrowed. "You don't think
that I can pass it."
fumbled, initially nonplussed as only Denny or Lorraine--or women of
her general physical description-- could leave him. "I have no opinion
on that, but I do know that there are other equally important ways to
serve without subjecting yourself to cardiac strain and the very real
risk of permanent injury or sudden death. After sixty years of
resplendent public service--both in and out of the military--why not
lean back and…wallow in the afterglow?" Alan beamed smarmy
flayed a palm out with a grandiose flourish.
not who Denny Crane is. If you don't want, you don't have to enlist
with me. Nobody's trying to tell you what to do--except the military,
and you're not even in it yet--so do whatever the hell you want."
"I'm not going to let you go without me. That would accomplish the
opposite of my interest in the matter. You know that."
do." Denny gave him a grudging grin. "Friends don't let friends go to
sea alone. And we're best friends." The smile widened a bit and became
real. "I want to do this with you, Alan. Serving together: that's most
of the fun."
Alan nearly held his breath. If he didn't screw it up, he just might
win this one. Thanks to Denny.
it was Denny who broke the stalemate with his sigh. "I know what you're
saying, and it's not that I don't understand or agree with you. I'm the
one living in this body with all its creaks and pops and aches. I know
better than you how far on the other side of the hill I am. I'm not
saying your fears are wrong; I'm saying we don't have the same goal.
"I'm not afraid of dying. Everybody dies. I'm afraid of dying no longer
clapped him on the shoulder. "Give me the damn papers, and stop
treating me like a child. I'm old enough to be your father. Might well
be for all we know," he tried.
It didn't earn a laugh.
Noncommittally, Alan passed over one sheaf.
up and finish yours," Denny called as he stalked out to the living room
with his. "We need to practice mouth-to-mouth. Might as well get
started tonight. Nothing on TV; it's Tuesday."
Alan sat down
with a Number 2 pencil and started filling in the health question
bubble sheet. He'd already decided what his new and exciting phobia
would be when he got to that section. He just had to remember where
Denny kept his mask, fins, and snorkel.
"Few" being a relative term with a meaning varying up to current
estimates of 30% of the male population, depending upon how one chooses
to interpret that sentence.
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