The lady who worked with Melden’s Pa grew curious. Said she’d known a couple like that – the kid was fine throughout Mid Ed but all of a sudden didn’t have the Exists to get into Higher Ed. Parents may have had to bribe someone, or get a BMW; she couldn’t recall.
His colleague stared back at him. Er, Black Market Wares. Hehe, sorry. Anyhow – after all that there were problems with banks – especially ones in the city. All kinds of screw-ups with potential employers too.
Melden’s Pa wanted to know what had become of the boy but his workmate didn’t know. She’d said she’d try and find out though. Friend of a friend’s kid. Meantime, she could come over and take a look at some of their wares, if they’d like.
Melden’s Pa was very thankful. And yes, he would like to know what happened to the other kid. Only, he’d cautioned, don’t mention this other kid when you’re over, ‘kay?
When he’d gotten home that evening he’d found his wife sitting in front of a surfer in the living room. She looked like she might’ve been crying.
What happened, he’d wanted to know.
The bank is auditing us, she’d said, flatly. They want to know about Melden’s trust fund. They’re saying it’s a fake account.
Aw, that’s bloody ridiculous, he’d replied. This whole thing is beginning to smell more like identity theft than anything else.
No, it’s not, she’d said, not even moving to greet him. Go into Melden’s room if you like. Go and look around.
What are you talking about, he’d wanted to know. You’re scaring me. What’s wrong with his room?
She got up suddenly then, marched right past him at a brisk pace, down the corridor in the small apartment toward Melden’s room. She held Melden’s door open and turned to stare at Melden’s Pa.
Melden’s Pa approached with some foreboding. When he got to the door he peeked gingerly inside. There was nothing untoward: Melden was back from school and was playing with his best friend, Garth. They had turned the bunk bed into some kind of secret spy base. Half-eaten jam sandwiches were left on the little blue table where Melden sat to do his homework. There were shoes and socks flung on the brightly coloured rug.
You can’t see it, can you, she’d said sternly. Her eyes stung at him. Where’s the old stuff? From when he was born?
What old stuff, he’d risked, rifling through his memories to see if he could save himself first.
His eyes widened.
Melden’s Ma had looked like she was going to cry again, just then. She’d looked like she had felt him feel it. She did it again:
Where was Melden born?
His mind spun. Woah.
Meldon. Was. Born, she repeated.
Stop it, he’d pleaded.
No, she said. We’ve got to. I had it happen to me when the Bank started asking questions. I’m going to try some more: Melden. Yesterday.
Clear as crystal, he’d replied, sounding mildy relieved. What about you?
Fine, she’d said. I can remember everything except the birth year. Christ. I’m the one who went through all the real birth rigmarole and I can’t even remember any of it.
Since when, Melden’s Pa wanted to know.
Since… today! Since today – this is… crazy.