The Heirloom Garden – Installment 3

The beers arrived and Sam chugged half the bottle before he spoke. “So, how does that make me your father?”

“Two years ago, I developed aplastic anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. My mother was too ill to donate and when the doctors asked her about my dad’s eligibility, she broke down in tears and confessed that he was not my biological father. She told me the story of the one-night stand. She never forgot your name and remembered you were going home to a ranch called the Laguna de Tache in Central California.”

Sam chugged the rest of the beer and ordered another one. “Even if the one night stand were true, there’s no proof that you and I are related.”

“Would you be willing to do a DNA test?”

“What would be the point?” Sam asked. “What value would it be? How do I know this isn’t some kind of scam and you’re just a con artist hustling for some inheritance?”

Lance sipped his beer. A Ry Cooder tune danced across the dusty light. “First of all, I’m okay in my own right. The man who I thought was my father died in 2000 and left everything to my mother. When she passed away last year, I was the sole survivor in the family. Let’s just say that between my substantial inheritance and my executive job at Google, I don’t need the money. What I do need is to find out who my real father is.”

Sam locked on his eyes. This wasn’t something to be taken lightly. The kid was serious. A boatload of memories and possibilities swept across his mind. “What would I have to do get this test done? I’m not big on hospitals and I don’t like travelling very far these days.”

Lance reached into the black satchel he’d been carrying and pulled out a purple box. “Inside of this box is a home testing kit. It contains sterile swabs to do the testing on both of us. We simply wipe the insides of our cheeks, put them back in the container and mail them in. The lab sends back the results in just a few days. The test is 99.999% accurate.”

Sam tapped his fingers on the bar. “So, you mean we could do it right here, then go to the post office together and mail it in?”

“Basically,” Lance said. “But, we have to abstain from caffeine and alcohol for 4 hours before using the swabs.”

“Bring us a couple of glasses of water, will you John?” He had to think about what he was going to do next. Even with all his combat experience on the battlefields and in the boardrooms, he had no model for this.”

“Are you willing?” Lance said.

“Okay, kid,” he said. “What’re your plans this week? If what you say is true, and this being Monday and all, we could have the results back by Friday.”

“Yes we could. I’m at the start of a two-week vacation and I’d planned to spend that time looking for you.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Sam said. “Let’s go back to my place, piss away the booze and then take the test. You can stay in my studio until we get the results. If they’re negative, we’ll part ways with no hard feelings. If they’re positive, well, we’ll cross that bridge by next weekend.”

The Heirloom Garden – Installment 3

The younger man wore a Pendleton shirt tucked into clean, pressed Levis. He wasn’t wearing work boots like Sam, but rather some kind of casual dress shoe that Sam had never seen before. With his slickly combed-back, jet-black hair, he looked like a model out of some men’s magazine that advised guys how to look if they ever got stranded out in the boonies.

“My name is Lance Hargraves,” he said. “And I’ve been trying to find you for the better part of a year.”

“What for? I don’t drift very far from home and I’m not that hard to find.”

“Well.” Lance looked both ways up and down the highway. “It’s kind of a long story. Is there somewhere we can go to talk?”

Sam opened the truck door and Shotgun jumped in. “I was goin’ fishin’,” he said. “You fish?”

“Not really.”

Sam stepped a little closer to him. “Are you some kind of cop?”

“Oh, heavens no,” Lance protested.

“Well then,” Sam had to smile a little. “Do you drink? If you don’t fish or drink, do I need to chamber my .45?”

Lance put up both his hands. “Please,” he insisted. “I mean you no harm. Maybe I’ll have a beer with you and I can tell you my story.”

Sam scratched his cheek. “Tell you what – let’s go up the road to the Schoolhouse,” he said. “It’s an old converted school that one of my friends turned into a bar/restaurant. They should be open by now. Besides, you’ve made me lose my appetite for fishing.”

They pulled into the parking lot of the Schoolhouse Restaurant and Bar at the foot of Jesse Morrow Mountain. Inside, they sat at the old oak bar.

“Hey John, give us a coupla Miller’s.” He looked at Lance. “That okay with you, bub?”

“I can live with it,” Lance responded.

“So what’s the deal?” Sam turned his head to look at Lance. “What do you want from me?”

Lance hesitated as he stared up at the sunshine pouring through the smoky windows. “Well, this is kind of hard,” he said. “I’m trying to find out if you’re my father.”

Sam widened his eyes. He had no kids that he knew of – a lifetime of adventures, but no kids. “I’m sorry Lance, but that would be impossible. I’ve been fixed for a long time.”

“That may be true,” Lance said, “But, it seems you were shooting live rounds when you came back from Viet Nam in 1975.”

“Oh, really, and how do you know that?”

Lance cleared his throat. “When they released you from Saigon, you flew back to San Francisco. On your first night back, you met my mother in a bar in the Tenderloin and you had a one-night stand. You never saw her again and she got married a month later to the man I thought was my father until a year and a half ago.”