Marco in the Park

by Nick Brady

Part 21

It was back to our usual routine, Marco to his classes and me back to my office to sort through the pile of work that had accumulated on my desk while we were on our holiday. While I cannot claim that I had a great passion for my job, I did find the work challenging and rewarding. I liked to remind myself that my bi-weekly 'certificate of appreciation' as I called my paycheck, did bring me a good deal of satisfaction. Marco was back to work at Luigi's on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and counting out his tip envelopes.

By Friday of our second week back, Marco was reporting that his classes were interesting. It is to his credit that he was a conscientious student and wanted to get off to a good start. This semester he had decided to take a watercolor class 'just for fun' and was showing off the things he had purchased for the class as per the teacher's instructions.

"I like Ms. Walters," he told me. "She is nice and seems to know what she's doing." He had spread out the tools for the class on our kitchen table for me to admire.

There was a pad of cold-pressed watercolor paper and another of cheap newsprint. He had a set of colors in tubes, a bottle of water and a white plastic palette for mixing his paints.

"See, it has all these little depressions to put in different colors and then you can mix them together in the flat areas. I got some decent sable brushes. She said we should get the best brushes we can afford because they will last a long time and good ones make the colors flow better. These are really neat," he was scarcely able to conceal his excitement.

"Look here," he was scribbling out lines of color on one of the sheets of paper, curving the brush to vary the width of the line and demonstrating what he had been taught. I wasn't sure I understood what he was talking about, but his enthusiasm was contagious.

"When will you actually start making pictures?" I asked.

"Whenever we feel like we are ready, I guess," he told me. "Some of the people in the class have done a lot of painting already and are there to work on their skills, and some are beginners like me. Ms. Walters said she will try to spend time with us individually."

"Who else is in your class?" I asked.

"There are only 8 people in there so she can spend time with each of us. There is a young black guy, an older man, and the rest are women."

He flipped open the pad of newsprint to show me some sketches.

"She said I need to work on my drawing, so I did these."

On one sheet was a rough sketch of an old barn with some trees and a little pond. On another was a row of horses and riders approaching a wooded area. I thought they were very good, quick and simple but well-drawn. I especially liked the horses.

"These are just some things I remember from our trip," he told me. "She really liked my sketches."

I listened, nodded and smiled.

"We are just getting started and I don't really know what I am going to try first. She was telling us about different techniques. I think maybe the easiest thing for me to start with, is to do some drawings and then wash color over them."

"You like this," I observed.

"Oh yeah, this is fun. It's like playing really."

It was not lost on me that Marco had spent 10 minutes telling me about his classes in composition, calculus and government, and an hour showing me his paints and sketches. He was into this.

The news was all good, but the next week brought problems. Marco came home looking distressed.

"I think my Pell grant is messed up," he told me.

"How is that? I thought that was a done deal," I said.

"I got a call from the admissions office and when I went in to check, the lady told me that my financial situation no longer qualified me for a grant."

"I don't understand."

"I am no longer qualified because now that I am married, we make too much money," he explained.

"Oh crap, I didn't think about that."

Marco grimaced. "I am still OK at TCC because the scholarship there is based on academics, but the Pell grant is toast."

"So now what do we do?" I asked.

Marco shrugged. "I don't know. I'll have to find something else I guess. I think maybe I will call Mr. Blankenship. He's been very helpful."

We decided not to worry about it. Marco was resourceful and I had to hope that we would find a way to pay for his school. If necessary we would just pinch pennies and make it work somehow. Of that I was sure.

We sort of left that sitting like an elephant in the room. We didn't talk about his financial situation but both of us were concerned. In a week or so Marco came home after school and wanted to talk.

"I called Mr. Blankenship a few days ago and he called me back this afternoon," Marco said soberly.

"What did he have to say?" I asked.

"He checked into the Pell grant and agreed that it was probably off the table for me. But he had another idea. I don't think it will work but maybe it's worth a try."

"What was his idea?"

Marco sighed. "There are tribal scholarships available in some cases but the problem is that I can't prove my identity as a Seminole. My mother told me one time that she thought my father was Seminole but I don't even know who he is."

"Does she know? Surely she could remember that." I suggested.

"I don't know what she knows to tell the truth. I tried talk to her about it one time but she just kind of blew me off."

"What if you could identify the man. Is there some way to do that?"

Marco shook his head. "Mr. Blankenship said something about a DNA test, but I really didn't understand it."

"I don't know how that would work. Can you establish your heritage that way?" I wondered.

Marco shrugged. "I really don't know. He said he would get back to me, but I hate to put him to the trouble. I mean, he is a high school counselor and doesn't even need to be talking to me."

"I think he cares about you Marco. He even came to our wedding, remember? He has taken a personal interest in you."

Marco nodded his head. "He is a cool guy. He has been a friend to me, that's for sure."

"Hey Marco, you are a cool guy too. I think Blankenship sees that you are busting your ass trying to make something out of yourself and just wants to help you do that. You are an easy person to like, you know?"

Marco sat quietly and looked at his picture of the Indian and the swan. "I wonder if I am related to that guy. I don't know what a DNA test can tell me."

I sat and thought. "Who do we know we can trust absolutely? Who do we know will help us if anybody can?"

Marco looked back at me. "Father Hoover?"

I nodded. "That's what I'm thinking. Let's talk to him, OK?"

Marco sat thoughtfully. "Hoover knows everybody. I guess we could ask him. Could you talk to him? I don't really know what to say. I need some help with this."

I had Father Hoover's cell number so I called him on the phone and tried to briefly explain our dilemma. He asked for a couple of days to check on some things and suggested we drop by his office on Saturday for a chat. I thanked him and assured him that we would be there. Marco had listened in on the call and looked very appreciative.

I called Father Hoover on Saturday morning and he sounded upbeat. We drove over to the church to talk with him.

"Come right in gentlemen," he greeted us with a smile.

We sat down in his office wondering what he had discovered. "We appreciate your help. What do you know?" I asked.

He looked at Marco. "I understand that you are trying to identify your father, is that correct?"

"Yes sir," Marco answered simply. "I don't really know who my father is, and my mother says she doesn't know either. It's kind of embarrassing but I really need to know who he is."

"Marco is trying to establish Seminole heritage to perhaps qualify for a scholarship," I added.

Hoover nodded. "I see. Well, I am not an expert in such matters but I do know someone who is. I have a friend who is a detective with the Tulsa police force and have asked him for information. His assistance is a bit off the record so I will not name him, but assure you that his advice is quite valuable."

Marco looked interested. "What did he say?"

Father Hoover leaned back in his chair and cleared his throat. "He tells me that a DNA test can be used to identify your ethnic heritage, including specific tribal blood. He also told me that in order to connect you with a specific individual there has to be a DNA record of that individual to make a comparison."

Marco sat and processed that information. "So to connect me with my father we would have to have a sample of his DNA too?"

"That's correct. Or of a close relative like his brother or sister." Hoover confirmed.

"But if I could get that I would already know who he is." Marco pondered.

"Or a record of that DNA might be found somewhere," Hoover suggested. "Perhaps in police or FBI records."

Marco looked puzzled. "How would I get that?"

Father Hoover smiled. "You can't, Marco. But my detective friend probably can."

Marco looked surprised. "Is that really possible?"

"It is possible, but I caution you not to be too optimistic. That individual's DNA might not be in the records anywhere. But a great many people have DNA on file somewhere – perhaps from military service, perhaps from some sort of criminal activity."

"That's amazing," Marco said. "So what do I do, and is your friend willing to do this for us?"

Father Hoover smiled in a very gentle way. "I explained to my friend, that you are very dear to me and I would be most appreciative of his assistance. He agreed to try to help you – very unofficially of course."

Marco looked at me then back to our priest. "I will do anything you ask. How do I do this?"

Father Hoover picked up a small glass tube from his desk. "It is as simple as rubbing the inside of your cheek with this cotton swab. I will pass this to my friend and he will do the rest."

"That's it? No blood or anything?" Marco asked in amazement.

"That's it," Father Hoover almost laughed. "But you realize that this might not reveal the identity of your father, but it will at least verify your tribal heritage."

Marco sat still for a minute and tears welled up in his eyes. "It's like I'm going to find out who I am for the first time."

Father Hoover pulled a swab from the glass tube and handed it to Marco who rubbed it vigorously on the inside of his cheek then handed it back. Hoover snapped it back inside the tube and laid it on his desk.

"This may take some time, you understand, and I can't promise you anything, but we must have faith that the truth will be found," he advised.

"I do have faith. Thank you sir," Marco replied in a soft voice.

Father Hoover sat up in his chair and laid his hands out flat on his desk. "Very good. I will get back to you when I know something. It is very nice to see both of you." Our conversation was concluded.

I had been silent since our priest began speaking directly with Marco, but shook his hand as we left the office. "Thank you very much for your help sir. This means a great deal to both of us."

He clapped his hands on our shoulders as he walked us out. "I love you both and I hope this turns out to be helpful."

Marco was very quiet on the way back home. We went into the apartment and sat down on the sofa where Marco stared at his painting of the Indian.

Finally he said, "I can't believe that there are people who will try so hard to help me. There is nothing in this for Father Hoover or Mr. Blankenship, but they are going to a lot of trouble for me."

"They love you Marco. Is it so hard to believe that there are people who love you?" I asked him quietly.

He shook his head and blinked at the tears that formed in his eyes. "Well, it's a new idea for me. I guess it's a God thing, like you are, you know?"

I took his hand in mine. "You have become a person of faith Marco. Is it so hard for you to believe that you are worthy of love?"

Marco sighed and seemed to relax as he leaned back in the sofa. He kept his eyes on the Indian. "You know, I bet we are related," he said. "Sometimes I think he talks to me."

"The man in the picture?"

Marco nodded. "Yeah, I think he is listening. Sometimes I sit and look at him when I am trying to figure something out, and when I think of something it's kind of like he is telling me things. That's pretty weird isn't it."

I wasn't sure how to respond. "I don't know. Maybe it's a spirit kind of thing."

Marco looked very serious. "Well, God can do anything. I mean he can speak through anything he wants, even a painting, right?"

I sighed. "I am no expert on such things. I think you are a very spiritual person Marco. If that works for you then I can't argue with it. Yeah, I guess God can do anything he wants."

Marco kept his eyes on the painting. "I pray about things sometimes. Did you know that? I mean I don't get fancy about it or anything, but I think about things and hope for things sometimes. It feels like I'm praying."

I kept my mouth shut. I had a lot to learn from Marco, about a lot of things.

Life went on of course. I went to work, Marco went to school and waited tables at Luigi's. We came home and fixed dinner and spent as much time together as we could. Marco began to bring home some things from his watercolor class that looked very nice. I could see that he had real talent and we talked about what he saw in his paintings. We put the DNA thing aside next to the elephant in the room.

Then a month later Marco got a call from Father Hoover.

"He wants us to come and talk to him again on Saturday morning," he told me.

"Does he know anything?" I asked.

"I don't know but he sounded happy," Marco said.

Saturday morning we were sitting in Father Hoover's office, not knowing what to expect.

He got right to the point. "I have a report from my friend," he told us, holding up several sheets of white paper.

"Not to keep you in suspense, I will tell you the gist of it. You are Seminole, Marco. You are at least one quarter Seminole, perhaps more. There are some other elements in your heritage but you are Seminole," he paused and looked at Marco. "And I think we can identify your father."

Marco was wide eyed. "You know who my father is, really?"

"He is either your father or his twin brother. The DNA is quite specific according to our friend on the police force."

"Who is he?" Marco was on the edge of his seat.

Father Hoover hesitated. "His DNA record exists because he is in prison, Marco. He is incarcerated here in Oklahoma."

"Who, who is he?" Marco repeated.

Father Hoover sat back and spoke quietly. "What I am going to tell you is something that is very privileged information Marco. It is something that I should not know and should not share with you or with anybody. You must not reveal the source of this information or you might create a serious problem for our friend. Do you understand what I am telling you?"

Marco nodded solemnly. "I understand sir. I know how to keep confidences."

Father Hoover smiled. "Yes Marco, I expect that you do."

He leaned forward and told us, "Your father's name is Billy Cusco and he is incarcerated at the Dick Conner Correctional Facility in Hominy. Since he has no twin brother of record he is almost certainly your father."

Marco was simply stunned. He opened his mouth but nothing came out.

Then he said quietly, "My father's name is Billy Cusco. I know who my father is and his name is Billy Cusco."

Father Hoover nodded. "Yes, that appears to be correct. And he is most certainly of Seminole extraction. Your mother was correct in that regard."

Marco sat back and looked at me. His face was blank, his eyes were dry. He was stunned. He looked at me and slowly shook his head from side to side.

"He is in prison, Marco," I felt the need to remind him.

"But he is alive. He is real. He is a real person and I know his name," Marco said as if to explain this to me.

Marco looked quickly back at Father Hoover. "Can I go see him? Can I meet him? I don't care where he is, I want to meet him. I want to see what he looks like."

"Wait!" Hoover held up his hands. "And how will you explain that you know he is your father? Does he even know you exist? Think about this."

Now Marco looked confused. "So what do I do? If he is my father I want to see him. I want him to see me."

Father Hoover folded his hands on top of his desk. "This is what I suggest, Marco. I realize that you are not close to your mother. However, she is your only legitimate link to this man. I would suggest that you speak with your mother and tell her that you think you know the name of your father. Ask her about him. I suspect that she will recall that name if he is indeed your father. Do not reveal to her the source of your information but ask her if he is indeed your father. If she confirms that, then she will be the source of your information, not someone else, not me."

Marco nodded slowly. "I see, I understand. I will not betray your confidence sir."

Hoover spread his hands. "I have put myself in an awkward position, Marco. But I trust you to use this information carefully. I do trust you Marco."

Marco nodded again. "Yes sir. I can't tell you what this means to me Father. Thank you very much."

"Do you know why he is in prison?" I asked.

Hoover handed Marco the papers. "It is all in here. He is doing life without parole for first-degree murder although I don't know the specific circumstances. He has been in prison for over 12 years now. It is in here."

Marco took the papers and held them in his hands. "Thank you," he said again. He folded the papers and put them in his pocket without further inspection.

Father Hoover sat back and sighed. "I think that is all I have for you. You realize that I am acting a bit outside my usual role as your priest. Of course you understand that this conversation never happened."

"Of course sir," Marco stood as if to leave.

We shook hands all around and our priest indicated that he would expect to see us in church on Sunday morning. We concluded the interview as if this were a perfectly normal conversation.

On the way back home Marco took the folded papers out of his pocket and studied them. "I found my father," he said as if disbelieving what was in his hands.

"Now you have to decide about talking to your mother," I reminded him.

"Not today," he said. "I will have to think about this."

When we got home, Marco withdrew to the bedroom and stretched out to look at what he had been given. I left him alone to his thoughts. I was there for him, but gave him some space. I did not bring up the subject, preferring that he initiated that conversation. We spoke of it no more for a time. I observed that he seemed to be spending more time than usual sitting and looking at his Indian, meditating, praying, whatever it was he did. I left him to it.

We returned to our usual routine of school and work. Marco was doing well with his classes and occasionally brought home increasingly fine watercolors. His latent talent was developing rapidly. We began to tape some of them onto the wall over the sofa for us both to consider.

Then a few weeks later something amazing happened. Marco came home and told me very solemnly that his mother had called him on his cell phone.

"She called you?" I asked.

"Yes. She called me, and she sounded very sober." he told me.

"What did she say?"

Marco shook his head as if in disbelief. "She has joined AA. You know, Alcoholics Anonymous? She said she is trying to stay sober."

"What happened?" I asked in surprise.

"I'm not sure," he said. "She was pretty emotional. She just said she couldn't stand herself any longer. I guess something happened, but she didn't go into any detail. She was sober Marty. She said she was sorry for being such a shitty mother and asked me to forgive her."

"Wow. That is a switch. What did you tell her?"

"I hardly knew what to say. I think I told her I was glad she was sober. I was kind of shocked really."

"Do you think she will stay with it?"

"I don't know. She said she's going to some kind of a program to help her and that she will talk to me later. She didn't say much really, but she sounded serious."

"How do you feel about that?" I asked him.

"I think that's great if she will stay with it. I don't want to get my hopes up I guess."

"That's good news Marco. It could change a lot of things."

Marco was looking at his Indian. "I have been thinking about that a lot, you know, how I was going to talk to her and all."

"Did your Indian friend say anything to you?"

"Well, it's not like I hear voices or anything. But I just kept thinking that I should wait. I should be patient. I didn't really expect this to happen though."

I shook my head. "God works in mysterious ways I guess."

"No kidding," he replied.

We decided to go out for dinner and spent a quiet evening. That night we showered and made love in a sweet way. Marco was very gentle. It was very tender.

A week later he heard from his mother again. She had completed her program and wanted to see him. He was nervous about it and asked me if I would go with him.

"Are you sure you want me to be with you? She might not want to see me," I suggested.

"You are part of my life. She has to know you."

"If you are sure. How do you want to do this?"

"I think I would like for us to meet her for dinner. You know, in some neutral place. What do you think?" he asked.

"That might be a good idea. Why don't you talk to her again and tell me what you decide. This is your deal."

"Where do you think we should go? I am not real sure how to do this," he admitted.

I thought a minute. "How about the Village Inn on Harvard. We could get a corner booth and have kind of a quiet place to talk," I suggested.

Marco nodded and went into the bedroom to return her call. After about 20 minutes he came back in.

"She said OK. Is Saturday night good for us?" he asked. "I can get off work."

"Sure. How did she sound?"

"Very sober. It didn't sound like my mother," he replied with a trace of a smile.

The days leading up to our meeting with Marco's mother went by slowly. I could tell he was nervous. I was too, to tell the truth. On Saturday morning he disappeared and came back with a fresh haircut. He had left it long but it looked neater and less shaggy. He spent a long time getting ready, trying on different shirts and obviously wanting to look presentable.

"You weren't this nervous at our wedding," I teased him.

"Well, this is a big deal for me. Do I look OK?"

"You look great. How about me? Am I OK? You know I have never met your mother before," I reminded him.

He looked at me. "Oh yeah, you look fine. You always look fine."

We arrived about 10 minutes early and camped out in one of the round corner booths. Marco positioned himself so he could see his mother when she came in, and told the waitress that we were expecting a lady to join us. She was a few minutes late and Marco looked like he almost didn't recognize her. When she walked in and looked around he stood and waved at her.

She approached us looking nervous. "Hi Mom, this is my partner Marty. Marty this is my mother Margaret.

She hesitated and nervously held out her hand to me. I shook it and said, "How do you do? It's very nice to meet you Margaret."

She was not what I expected. She was a little plump, but very neat in appearance. Her hair was brushed and she was wearing a little makeup – not too much. She looked nice. I wondered if she had spent as much time getting ready for this as had Marco.

"It's nice to meet you Marty," she said then looked nervously at Marco. "How are you honey? It's been a long time."

"Yes it has, too long," he told her. "You look great Mom. It's really nice to see you."

"I don't know what to say Marco. You must hate me. I have been a lousy mother. I'm sorry," she blurted out.

Marco looked very concerned. "I don't hate you Mom. I'm just glad to see you looking so good. How was your, er, your school?"

"I was in rehab Marco. You can say it. I was trying to get sober. I haven't had a drink for 48 days."

"That's great Mom. I'm really proud of you," Marco said very sincerely.

"That's the longest I've been sober in, I don't know how long, a long time," she glanced at me.

I nodded and tried to smile. "That's great. Congratulations."

She looked back and forth at both of us. "So you two are, are married?"

"Yes," Marco spoke firmly. We are a married couple. I love Marty very much and he makes me very happy." He hesitated a moment. "We would like to have you be a part of our life."

She looked distressed. "I'm surprised you still want me. I said some awful things to you honey. I'm so sorry."

Marco spoke gently to her. "If you are sober Mom, that changes a lot of things," he blinked at a tear, "You are still my mother. I hope things are better now."

"I'm trying, really I am. I really want to change. I have a job now," she said hopefully.

"Great!" Marco said. "Where are you working?"

"Oh it's just at the Walmart, but it's a job," she explained.

"Hey, there's nothing wrong with the Walmart. Which one?" he asked.

"It's the one over on Peoria. I'm just stocking right now, but I might get to be a checker."

"That's really great Mom. I am so proud of you. Keep it up."

I thought they were both going to cry. I pretended to be invisible and just let them talk. She described what she called her 'bottom' when she was so sick and drunk that she thought she was going to die, wanted to die. She told him about the program she went through at her rehabilitation facility. It was a sad story, but filled with hope.

"I'm going to meetings everyday now," she explained. "Ninety meetings in 90 days is what they want me to do. I get somebody to sign my sheet every time to prove I have been doing it right. I went to a meeting this morning. You know they have meetings all over Tulsa at all times of day."

She was nervous now and trying to explain herself, making up for lost time. She had the zeal of a recent convert. Marco listened carefully, nodding with approval as she chattered away.

The waitress sensed that our conversation was private and had stood back waiting for what seemed a good time to take our order. She stepped up, handed us three menus and asked about drinks. We ordered our usual plain tea.

"Oh, coffee for me. I don't drink anything stronger than coffee," Margaret gushed.

We took a break from the conversation to look at the menu. We all decided on some sort of sandwich and pushed the menus aside.

"So how are you Marco? Are you still going to school?" she asked.

"Yes. I am going to TCC right now to get some basics out of the way. I will start at OSU next semester."

"Oh Marco. You were always so good in school. I am real happy for you."

The conversation went on like this. Marco and his mother both trying to make nice, trying to put things right. It occurred to me that this was part of making amends. I stayed out of the conversation other than to smile and nod occasionally.

We ate our sandwiches until the conversation eventually ran out of gas. We wrapped things up and Marco and his mother agreed to meet again soon.

"It was nice to be able to share a meal together," Marco told her.

"Yes it was," she looked over at me. "I am not much of a cook, I guess Marco told you that. I like to eat in restaurants. This is a nice place."

"This worked out great Mom. I'm really happy that you are doing so well," Marco assured her. "Maybe we can get together again soon. I imagine there are some things we need to talk about."

"Oh sure honey. I want to do that. We need to make up for lost time," she tried to smile and look casual.

When we parted and Marco and I started back to the apartment, he was shaking his head.

"She was trying really hard to be nice," he said. "She looked a lot different."

"Well, I never met her before so this was my first impression."

Marco shook his head. "Be glad you didn't meet her before she got sobered up. I hardly knew her today."

"Do you think she can stay with it?"

"I don't know. She is sure fired up right now. I hope so. Maybe now I can ask her about my father – ask her if she remembers Billy Cusco."

I looked over at him. "I thought you were very gracious to her. I know you must have a lot of resentment towards her, but you called her 'Mom'. I never heard you say that before. It was always 'my mother', not Mom. You were trying hard too."

Marco looked out the car window. "I try not to hold grudges. That doesn't do anybody any good. And she is my mother, my Mom. What else can I do?"

He paused as we pulled up to the apartment. "I'm glad she is doing better, I really am. Maybe it sounds cold, but I don't know that I want to try and make her a regular part of our lives," he admitted.

"Why not? I mean if she can stay sober, maybe she might be OK."

He sighed. "I don't trust her Marty. Maybe if she stays sober a long time, a year maybe. But you and I have a good life and I don't want anything to mess that up, you know?"

"I understand. This is all your call, Marco. I will support anything you want to do, but this is your deal."

Marco smiled at me. "You were great in there. You played that just right. I was glad you were with me."

We went inside and locked up. It had been a stressful evening and we were both tired. Marco fixed himself a soda and sat down on the sofa.

I nodded at his Indian. "Does he have anything to tell you tonight?"

"Yeah," he grinned. "He thinks we need to shower."

The next Saturday, Marco made a date to meet his mother for lunch at the Village Inn. I declined his suggestion that I come along.

"It might be easier for her to talk to you if it is just the two of you," I suggested.

Marco nodded in agreement and left by himself. I waited nervously and sat on the sofa staring at his painting of the Indian and the swan. I wondered if he would speak to me. I was not good with prayer, but tried to send out positive thoughts. After several hours Marco returned.

"Hey, how did it go?" I asked.

Marco sat down next to me. "It was good. She remembered Billy Cusco."

"Really? What did she say?"

"She was sort of embarrassed, but admitted that he was probably my father. I guess she was pretty hazy about that time in her life. She said she was drinking and drugging a lot and it was hard to remember. To tell the truth, I was amazed at how honest she was about all this."

"Did she want to know how you knew who he was?"

"Yes, but I just told her I had figured it out and she let it go at that. She was pretty emotional. I told her about the scholarship and how I needed to be able to prove I was Seminole. I think she got that part."

"Did she know he was in prison?" I wondered.

Marco shrugged. "I don't think so but I didn't volunteer that information. She said she had not heard from him in a long time, not since I was born. Probably he doesn't even know he had a kid with her."

"How do you feel?" I asked him.

He shrugged. "I don't know, kind of relieved I guess. It's nice to know where I came from. God, she was so different today, he shook his head. "Maybe I never saw her sober before."

"Is that all? What else did she talk about?"

Marco shook his head. "She said a lot of things. She was kind of spilling her guts I think. She said she got pregnant again after I was born but had an abortion. I really didn't want to know that," he looked at me with a sad expression.

We sat quietly for awhile and stared at Marco's Indian.

"Could she tell you anything about your father?" I asked softly.

"I asked her about him. She was pretty fuzzy but said he was smart and good looking, very dark complexioned. She said he was funny."


"Yeah, he made her laugh. I think she liked him."

"But she didn't try to stay with him or anything?" I wondered.

"No. I guess he was sort of one among many at the time. They were both drugging a lot from what she said. I guess he just sort of passed though her life. She did remember him though."

"If that was the case, how was she sure he was your father?"

"Well shit, look at me Marty. It is pretty obvious that I'm Indian," he pointed out.

"Right, that was kind of a stupid question," I laughed at myself. "So I guess this was a difficult conversation for both of you"

Marco sat shaking his head. "Yeah, it was kind of rough. I think it was good to get that out in the open though. Maybe more for her than for me."

After he grew silent I asked him, "So now what? Where do you go from here?"

He sighed. "I want to pursue the scholarship thing. But what I want to do most is to meet this guy. I want to try and go visit him. That's what I want to do first, but I don't know how to do it. I don't think I can just show up and ask to see him."

"No, probably not. I have no idea how to arrange that sort of thing. I know who might though."

Marco looked at me. "Father Hoover?"

"You might ask him if he knows how that works," I suggested.

Marco nodded, then stood up. "I will do that, but right now I have to get ready for work."

Marco changed clothes and left for Luigi's. I sat for a long time staring at the painting of Marco's Indian, and wondered if he was really listening to all this. I had to reflect on how strong Marco was. I had no idea how I would deal with some of the things that Marco was coping with right now. He was very tough in his gentle way. I had no doubt that he would work though this somehow.

We went to the late service on Sunday morning. After church Marco caught Father Hoover at the coffee hour and they disappeared into his office.

As we drove home I asked Marco, "What did you guys talk about?"

Marco took a deep breath and then blew it out. "I told him about Mom, that she is trying to get sober and remembers Billy Cusco. I told him I wanted to see him but didn't know how to do that. I didn't have time to go into a lot of detail."

"Did he have any suggestions?"

Marco smiled. "Hoover knows everything and everybody. He said he knows the chaplain at the prison and would talk to him. I bet he'll come up with something. He was real pleased about my talking with Mom and her sobriety."

"Father Hoover is a good man to have in your corner," I suggested.

"Yep," Marco agreed.

During the next week Marco talked on the phone with both Father Hoover and Mr. Blankenship. He was very upbeat when he talked to me about their conversations.

"Things are coming along," he said. "Father Hoover talked to the chaplain at the prison and says that Billy will have to put me on his list of approved visitors before I can get in to see him."

"But will he do that? I mean, he doesn't even know that he's your father," I cautioned.

"Hoover said the chaplain was going to talk to him. I don't know how this will happen, but I am thinking that it will."

"Is this a faith thing?"

"Yep. I think so. I heard from Mr. Blankenship too."

"What did he have to say?"

Marco smiled. "He said that if I can verify my Seminole blood that he will help me apply for a scholarship through the tribe."

"There are a lot of 'ifs' in all this," I pointed out.

"I know. Maybe none of this will happen, but it won't be because I didn't try," he assured me.

"No, I have never seen you as a quitter," I admitted.

Marco stretched back on the sofa and looked at his Indian. "The real problem is that this semester is almost over. I won't be able to start at OSU this summer. But that just means that I can ride for Mercer and save up some money. I can use the money anyway."

"So you will go back to being a bicycle courier again?"

"Sure. It's kind of fun. Besides, I'm getting kind of flabby. I can use the exercise."

"So you are satisfied that things will work out for you either way?"

"Yep. I have to have faith and be patient. I am pretty stubborn, Marty. I will get there one way or another," he assured me.

It was two weeks later when Father Hoover called Marco again.

"The chaplain talked to Billy Cusco," he told me.

"How did that go?"

"He didn't have a clue that I exist. But he said if he had a son, he wanted to meet me. He is going to put me on his visitor's list, and the chaplain will approve it," Marco said with a look of astonishment.

"I am going to get to meet my father."

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