The man and boy’s mother had chemistry, you see.
They met when she was engineering an end to her marriage. Details aren’t important but it is worth noting that when Halloweens fall on Friday nights and the moon is its waning gibbous phase, men and women of reproductive age turn giddy.
During meetings at his apartment, she and the recently divorced man discovered they came from the same corner of society and had eyes on the same things. Even though Elizabeth felt strongly that one child was enough and both to them were still too raw to consider matrimony, they were hungry for something together.
The two-year-old Robby suddenly had two men in his life. A father and a stranger named Cal who had his mother wearing pretty clothes again.
Cal was a man you wanted to be on the floor with. Just when you thought he was a horse (he made real good horse sounds), he would turn himself in a motorcycle and without fail you would end up in a head-on with an 18-wheeler. “Kiss your ass goodbye!” Cal would yell and then throw you on the couch to save you from certain death.
Elizabeth started a full-time job the day Robby turned old enough for daycare. When she went in on weekends Cal would take the boy for the day. A walk to the library maybe, a trip to the zoo, places that served catsup.
Playgrounds in those years had a hard durability about them. Swings were built on iron poles set deep in reinforced concrete. There were swings with safety bars to hold children in place but a design flaw allowed even toddlers to slide the bar up and down.
Cal heard it happen. When he turned Robby was face down on the concrete.
He tried Elizabeth’s office and then her apartment from the payphone in the parking lot. He considered the emergency room but there would be questions.
He managed to get the bleeding boy into Elizabeth’s apartment without being seen and was relieved when the child went to sleep (later as a parent he would know better).
Elizabeth accepted Cal’s explanation of what happened, without question. She told everyone she was responsible for the appearance of her son’s face.
The child had been an unexpected gift in Elizabeth’s young life but he created complications that, not matter how hard she and Cal tried, were impossible to unravel.
Decades later social media poked Cal to look at a jpg of a 43-year-old man. The age, the name and the smile were right. The man had his mother’s face. Cal looked closely at his left cheek and his forehead.