All I Needed
Scapegoats. Every year, every week, every day, the media creates one just to earn a couple bucks. So that was how I became known citywide as the “Forgin’ Attorney.” Was it true? That depends. I prefer to acknowledge it as so to avoid trouble, so they had every right to call me that. Of course, the public will gobble up anything that makes anyone else look bad so as to avoid seeing their own flaws. Still, no matter how often it happens, it’s very unsettling to get dirty looks, “hobo appearance” (as Maya had so bluntly put it) aside, every time you were standing in line at Angel Starr’s Take-and-Bake Pizza just to pick up a bite to eat.
I tossed a few bills onto the counter, tipped my beanie to Angel, and took the pizza and meandered over to my car, ignoring the mutterings of her other customers. Sure, it hurt, but there were much more important things to worry about in life. I set the box beside me and turned the key, causing to the rickety old engine to splutter and gasp to life. Pressing my foot to the gas, I backed up and sped off, keeping one hand on the wheel and the other bent back, relaxed. Maya had always called me a reckless driver, but seeing as she had crashed three cars and counting, I didn’t see how she could talk.
Seeing a line of four bright yellow buses, I turned into a large parking lot, where the high pitched squeals of delight from children and the agitated yelling of parents and teachers alike to settle down ruled the air. My half-lidded eyes searched the sea of screaming kids, but not for long: a matching pink top hat and cape were, is, and always shall be not that difficult to conceal or spot.
Our eyes met at exactly the same moment, and she bounded over to the car at top speed, wrenching open the door with unnatural force for a second-grader, and plopped down hard on the passenger seat, almost hurling the cardboard box into the backseat and inducing a large cloud of dust to materialize out of nowhere. “Hi, Daddy! Is it okay if I sit in the front seat today? ‘Cuz Johnny said that he always gets to sit in the front, and everybody else thought it was cool and started talking about it, so Tyler made a bet with me that if I was brave enough to sit in the front seat then he’d give me a dollar, ‘cuz he thinks that ‘girls are too wussy’, though, of course, I’d need your signature to prove it. So, can I? Pretty please?”
I chuckled, and, not being able to understand a word she had just said, I nodded. Sometimes, Trucy could be even more hyperactive than Maya, if that was even possible. “And how was your day?” I asked, though, for the most part, I knew what I was going to get: a stream of unintelligible nonsense spoken at a hundred words a minute. Therefore, I kept my eyes on the road, barely registering what she was saying.
“I’m glad you asked, Daddy! See, during art, we had to do watercolors, and Lucy spilled green paint all over Elijah’s pants so it looked like he peed, and then they got into a fight, and everyone was cheering, and the teacher was trying to pull them apart, kinda like that boxing match we watched yesterday. Say, do we still have any of that popcorn? It had a lot of butter, and wasn’t too greasy, and it had just the right texture, and it wasn’t too dry. Speaking of dry food, what’s for dinner? I hope it isn’t more of that macaroni and cheese stuff we had the other day. Maybe it was just your cooking skills, but it was absolutely horrible. You know, we wouldn’t have to eat junk all the time if you would just listen to me and get me a new mommy. I actually met this nice lady at the grocery store the other week while you were getting bagels. She can cook fine, and she has a job at the local hospital, and she knows how to play poker, and she’s just your type… I think. What is your type, anyway?” She continued nattering on at light speed, then stopped and snapped her fingers. “Oh, yeah, how could I forget? Guess what else happened today, Daddy!”
I smiled and shrugged nonchalantly. “How could I? That’s too broad.” She made puppy eyes and egged me on. “All right, all right.” I said, chuckling. “Hmm… Did the teacher have a heart attack?” Trucy giggled and shook her head.
“Fine… Did the cafeteria have a food fight?” Once again, she smiled and acknowledged me as wrong.
I stroked my chin, running over the newly-grown stubble in mock concentration. “All right, how about this: Johnny bought a unicorn and brought it to school.”
Trucy burst out in a mad fit of hysterical giggles, attempting to cover her mouth with her gloved hands and banging her feet against the carpeted floor. “Daddy, that’s so silly!” she laughed. “No, we had a classroom trial today!”
I slammed on the brakes in an attempt to avoid from crashing into the taxi in front of us. I let out a deep breath I hadn’t realized that I had been holding in. Classroom trials… I had no idea they still did those. “Um, that’s… Great, honey,” I said nervously, trying to ignore a mental image of a wall of angry, jeering faces surrounding a crying nine-year old boy with spiky black hair. “Uh… What did you do wrong?”
Trucy began to pout. “Honestly, Daddy, do you really think that I’m that bad of a troublemaker? Well, excluding the one time with the pudding…” I tried and nearly failed to suppress the gigantic “yes” I was tempted to answer her with, instead choosing to smile to myself as she continued. “No, everyone thought that Ian stole Mason’s cookie, so I defended him! Turned out that Mei did it, and she said she was sorry, and everyone made up, and the teacher even gave me this badge!” she said proudly, pulling her shirt forward and pointing at a hexagonal piece of yellow construction paper pinned onto her lapel.
I chuckled at the irony: first, I lose a badge, then my daughter gains one. The smile quickly dissipated, however, as I thought of a roaring tiger mounted on a pink motorbike driving straight at me. Panicked, I quickly slammed on the gas and shook my head to clear away the image. I pulled into the apartment complex, turning to Trucy. “Would you get the mail, please?” She nodded and zoomed off.
A few seconds later, she came walking back, riffling through an armload of envelopes, muttering “Junk… Junk… Junk…” All of a sudden, she let out a loud whoop and came running back, waving a large manila envelope wildly. “Daddy, Daddy, look! Auntie Maya sent us a bunch of Steel Samurai DVD’s! Seasons one through three! All of them!” As she handed me the envelope excitedly to examine for myself, a white note fell out, scribbled hastily in what looked like a preschooler’s handwriting.
One of these days I’m going to get you hooked on this show.
I couldn’t help smiling as we headed inside. Trucy flipped on the light, revealing a small kitchen and dining table, as well as the doorways to a bedroom, living room, and bathroom. Trucy ran off to see the Evil Magistrate’s plans be foiled for the umpteenth time, while I set about ripping open a bag sitting on the counter labeled “Armando Coffee: Blend 562” and pouring a sizeable amount of beans into a waiting machine.
As I waited for the coffee, I flipped open the newspaper. “GAVIN THE GREAT,” it blared out in large, black capital letters. “Defense Attorney Wins Hundredth Straight Case.” I read on a bit, then glanced up at the clock. Five-thirty. In other words, time to begin dinner preparations. Sighing and rolling up my sleeves to prepare for the inevitable, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.
Half an hour and one nearly burnt cheese pizza later, Trucy and I were seated at the table opposite each other, each with a generous slice and a paper plate in front of us, in addition to a paper cup filled with root beer. Immediately, in a very Fey-ish manner, she put her piece to her lips and began inhaling cheese and tomato sauce. Once she managed to chew that down, she began nibbling on the crust.
Chuckling at Trucy’s antics, I bit into my own slice. For my own cooking, it actually wasn’t too bad, which was a rarer occurrence than I would have liked. I sat back and let my mind wander as I took another bite, chewing it slowly. I blinked, and suddenly, all my closest friends were there, laughing and having a good time. But I blinked again, and they were all gone.
If Maya had been here, she would already have gotten on the phone for burger delivery and asking me to pay. Pearls would have been nudging me to stand closer to her. Of course, they couldn’t do that: ever since the evidence forging rumors had begun to fly, both of the girls had been forbidden to see me. Franziska would be whipping me viciously without provocation, and Miles would be trying to trade Steel Samurai cards with Maya under the table. But since I didn’t have either of their contact information and had no court connections, I couldn’t see them, either. Gumshoe would be begging for money, but he had married Maggey and moved out of state. Larry would be talking to one of his countless girlfriends (and possibly being dumped) over the phone, but he was always changing addresses to hide from the cops. Iris would be lighting up the room as always, but she was still in prison. Godot would be sipping coffee and making illogical metaphors as always, but he had went into hiding in China to start his coffee business ever since he broke out of jail. And the judge? Forget it.
But they were all gone now, no matter how much I wanted them back.
And I began to cry.
I had no idea where it had come from. I hadn’t cried in nearly ten years. It was completely ridiculous. Yet my chest heaved, my face burned. I was shaking all over like a little baby wanting its milk, but I was powerless to stop it, regardless of how much I wanted to. I cried and cried and cried and cried until I couldn’t cry any longer, and even then, I sat there shaking and sniffing. It could have been two minutes, it could have been two hours.
Trucy got up and walked around the table. Through my teary eyes I could see her solemn face, more solemn than an eight-year-old’s should ever be. “Daddy…” she whispered, placing her hand on my back. “I know it’s tough for you right now… It’s the same for me, my old Mommy and Daddy are gone, too. But crying won’t bring them back, and we can get through this together anyway, right? I know your badge was very important to you, and you loved being a lawyer, but I saw an ad for a piano player at the Bort Bowling Club, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be even better at piano playing than lawyering!”
to crack a small smile.
She grinned widely, putting her hands to her hips and puffing herself up. “No problem, Daddy.” Any sadness that still remained instantly melted away. “Now, c’mon, let’s finish up dinner fast, I want to cram in as much Steel Samurai as possible before bedtime.”
She made true on that promise: dinner was over in ten minutes, and, by , she was already halfway through episode 13. “Evil will never triumph, Magistrate!” Will Powers yelled in a deep voice, taking a large swing at Jack Hammer, cheered on by Trucy. “See you in Hell!”
I clapped twice, interrupting her, to signify bedtime- when she didn’t respond, I grabbed and flipped the remote as Jake Marshall had once taught me and switched off the television, causing her to make the biggest puppy eyes yet. I just laughed. “Sorry, Trucy. Bedtime’s sharp, you know that.”
Seeing her tactic fail, she quickly switched to pouting. “But, Daddy,” she whined. “The Steel Samurai and the Evil Magistrate were just beginning to fight! And, besides, I’m a mature, adult lady, I think that I can tolerate staying up until at least nine-thirty,” she said, puffing herself up to her full height indignantly and staring at me intently.
Of course, that last line just made me laugh even harder, she looked pretty ridiculous attempting to stare me down in a purple one-piece pajama endorned with the Gramarye seal. “The Samurai always wins, you know that. And, I highly doubt you’ve reached “Woman” level quite yet. You need lots of sleep to get as beautiful as that. Maybe some milk, too, not just pudding.”
She sighed as we climbed into bed. “Don’t patronize me, Daddy.” she said in a defeated tone. “I could stay up until ten easy, and you know it.”
Ten minutes later she was fast asleep, her head resting on my stomach and her limbs splayed out wildly, snoring loudly as a veritable river of drool flowed from her open mouth.
I chuckled softly. Everyone else may have up and left me, and I may be missing a badge. But Trucy, ever-smiling Trucy, she was always there to laugh and brighten up the room.
And maybe she was all I needed.