snarling at the camera, clad in a wife beater t-shirt to best display his prison tattoos, platinum chain, and air-brushed muscles.
The only organized area was the computer desk. A desktop PC, a large, flat screen display, and a laser printer occupied the smooth plane of cherry wood.
“Have a seat,” Reuben said. He slapped a bag of pork rinds off a nearby chair, clearing the cushion, and settled into his swivel chair in front of the desk, long legs sprawled in front of him.
Anthony took the seat. “I called here a short while ago, but no one answered.”
“My bad, man, guess I didn’t hear the phone ring. Been listening to my music.” He bobbed his head in sync with the muted beat.
“Where’s your mom? I’ve been trying to reach her for hours.”
Reuben shrugged. “Probably hangin’ with some dude, you know.”
Anthony knew. Danielle often disappeared for days on end, leaving Reuben at home to fend for himself. Occasionally, the kid would stay with Anthony and Lisa when Danielle was out of pocket, but if Danielle found out she took offense, ranting that she could raise her kid on her own and didn’t need his help.
She needed help from someone, because Reuben was headed down a troubling path. He was an intensely bright kid, a quick study, but his grades were marginal, and he’d been suspended numerous times for tardiness, or ditching class altogether. He had no interest in athletics, extracurricular activities, or working a summer job. His friends, if you could call them that, were similarly apathetic, concerned only with impressing girls and appearing cool.
In Anthony’s view, the root of most of the issues was Reuben’s lacking a father figure. Reuben had never met his biological father—some loser who had vanished before Reuben was born and had never resurfaced—and Danielle had yet to marry or form a lasting significant relationship, and if her track record of choosing worthless men was any indicator, she never would.
Anthony tried to do his part to be there for the kid, as a positive male influence. They sometimes went to Hawks games, played hoops at the local park, and went head-to-head on X-Box. But as Reuben had gotten older, he’d grown less interested in hanging out with Anthony, as if being in the presence of an adult branded him as completely uncool.
Anthony didn’t know what to do about the boy, or if he could do anything at all that would help. Hell, every day he wrestled with his own emotional issues. How was he fit to be Reuben’s surrogate dad and keep him on the straight and narrow?
And Lisa wondered why he didn’t want children.
“I was stopping by to see if she wanted to go to the cemetery with me,” Anthony said. “Did she say anything to you about that earlier?”
Figures . “Do you know what today is?”
Reuben scratched his head. “Friday the twelfth, right?”
Anthony stared at him. Was he serious?
“It’s the anniversary of your grandfather’s death, Reuben.”
“Oh, snap.” Reuben cupped his hand over his mouth. “Sorry, Unc.”
“I’m going to visit his grave, and your grandmother’s grave, too. You’re welcome to come along if you’d like.”
“Nah, that’s all right. I’m kinda busy here, you know.”
What in the hell can be more important than paying your respects to your grandparents? Anthony wanted to shout at him.
But he kept his mouth shut. The kid didn’t know any