Tap, tap, tap . . .
“Is this thing on? Ha! Just kidding folks.”
The newsman with the microphone grins and winks at me.
Mom, Dad, and I are perched on high stools across from him, my legs
dangling in the air. The cameraman does this thing with his fingers
where he counts down silently from five to . . . live.
“Goooood day, America! It’s a beautiful sunny day in
Times Square this morning. I’m Josh Harmon, and I’m
here with the Gellers. Now if you haven’t heard of Allan and
Sarah Geller you’ve been living under a rock. Sarah was a
top fashion model for many years, gracing runways from Paris to
Milan with her tremendous beauty. She’s been a Vogue cover
model, a spokesperson for Shinefree makeup, featured in ad campaigns
too numerous to name, and in her latest incarnation she’s
the proprietor of the Style Boutique in Westchester, NY. Welcome
Mom smiles and nods. Her eyes glow, and I think she is the most
beautiful mother in the world.
“Allan Geller,” says the interviewer, turning to my
Dad, “rose from humble beginnings to become the CEO of MoneyVision,
which as you all know is one of the most successful businesses in
the United States. I think it’s safe to say that this man
is a financial genius, and if you’d like to learn more about
him you can pick up this month’s issue of Business Today since
he’s being honored as their Man of the Year. Congratulations,
Dad beams, then nods humbly. I stare at him, thinking how cool he
“And this . . .” The interviewer turns to me. “This
is their son Liam who is now . . . how old are you, Liam?”
The interviewer smiles like we’re good buddies.
“You look exactly like your mom,” he says. “I
bet people tell you that all the time, right?”
I nod and remember to smile. The interviewer grins back, but then
he turns slyly, like he’s telling a joke.
“But are you good at math?”
Mom and Dad laugh, but I don’t get what’s so funny.
I shake my head no, and the interviewer straightens in mock surprise.
“You mean you haven’t inherited the math genius gene
from your father?”
I’m not sure exactly what this means, but when I look at Dad
his smile is so fake I can see the corner of his mouth twitch slightly.
I slide a little farther back on my stool, but the interviewer presses
“Do you like school?” he asks. “Maybe there’s
a subject you’re particularly good at?”
I’ve just gotten my report card so the memory of it is fresh
in my mind. I think about what the media specialist said this morning,
“The reporter won’t ask you any hard questions, Liam.
Just be yourself and give them truthful answers that are short and
to the point. And don’t forget to smile.
So I smile and say, “My grades are all very bad, and Dad yells
at me a lot.”
Mom coughs loudly and has to take a drink of the water that sits
by her chair. Dad shoots me a look that is so quick, I’m barely
sure I’ve seen it. There’s loud laughter from the adults,
but I know I’ve said the wrong thing.
The reporter can’t suppress his grin.
“I bet a lot of parents can relate to that,” he says,
like he’s trying to be nice, but I can tell there’s
something different about him now. It’s as if he was our friend
before, happy to meet us, thanking us for doing this interview,
but now he’s a shark that smells blood.
“It must be tough being parents with such busy schedules,”
he says to Mom and Dad, only he doesn’t give them time to
answer. “Do you miss seeing your parents when they’re
busy?” he asks me.
This wasn’t a question the media specialist prepped me for.
“No,” I say. Then I think maybe that sounds bad, so
I change my answer. “I mean yes.” Then I say, “I
see Mom a lot, just not Dad because he’s always working.”
“Ooohhh,” says the interviewer.
Dad reaches out and takes my hand, squeezing hard.
“It’s true I don’t get to spend as much time with
Liam as I’d like,” he says. “Running an international
business -- which by the way, is one of the leading philanthropic
businesses in the country -- is a lot of hard work, but Liam and
I have fun together. We like to go swimming and we play ball whenever
This isn’t true. I stare at Dad, wondering why he’s
lying on national television. Why would he say we play ball together
when we don’t?
“And even though Liam hasn’t inherited my natural aptitude
for math,” Dad continues, “he’s very . . . uh
. . . very . . .”
Dad sputters. I’ve seen him do a million interviews and he
has never sputtered even once. It’s like he’s lost his
train of thought, and there’s a silence that stretches on
Then Dad clears his throat.
“Liam is very social,” he says at last. “He’s
Mr. Popularity. His mother and I always say, ‘just wait until
he reaches high school. He’ll be giving us a run for our money
If you didn’t know Dad you’d think he’d said something
nice, but if you know him, you’d recognize the tone he uses
for people who are less than worthy. The name echoes in my ears.
My face falls. I glance towards the door of the studio even though
I know I shouldn’t, but the reporter turns to me . . . again.
His eyes sparkle.
“Do you think you’ll grow up to be like your Dad or
like your Mom?” he asks.
I look at mom sitting straight and tall with her long legs, blonde
hair, and blue eyes. Then I look at Dad with his dark hair and short,
compact body. His craggy face looks nothing like mine. Even though
I’ve been told every day since birth that I look like my mother,
now I think it like it’s a brand new thought. “I look
just like my mother. Only like my mother”.
I think about my report card and the question about math, and my
heart starts to pound. There’s something behind this question,
and I’m surprised to realize that I now know what it is. It’s
like I’ve gotten a decoder ring to the adult world and in
the last few minutes I’ve figured out how to use it.
I bite my lip and clench my nine year old fists.
“My dad,” I say, defiantly. “Because even though
I don’t look like him and I’m not smart like him, he’s
still my dad.”
For a single second, my father’s chest swells. His eyes go
from hard to soft. But then, before I have time to savor the moment,
I screw up. And it’s not just any screw up. It’s the
mother of all screw-ups.
“I know,” I tell the interviewer on national TV, “because
they got the patermally test and everything. I heard Mom say it
to my Nana. She said, if we hadn’t got the patermally test
she never would have believed it.”
here for CHAPTER 2