The ugliest truth, a friend once told Myron, is still better
than the prettiest of lies.
Myron thought about that now as he looked down at his father in
the hospital bed. He flashed back sixteen years, to the last time
he had lied to his father, the lie that caused so much heartbreak
and devastation, a lie that started a tragic ripple that, finally,
disastrously, would end here.
His father's eyes remained closed, his breathing raspy and
uneven. Tubes seemed to snake out from everywhere. Myron stared
down at his father's forearm. He remembered as a child visiting his
dad in that Newark warehouse, the way his father sat at his
oversized desk, his sleeves rolled up. The forearm had been
powerful enough back then to strain the fabric, making the cuff
work tourniquet- like against the muscle. Now the muscle looked
spongy, deflated by age. The barrel chest that had made Myron feel
so safe was still there, but it had grown brittle, as though a hand
pressing down could snap the rib cage like dried twigs. His
father's unshaven face had gray splotches instead of his customary
five o'clock shadow, the skin around his chin loose, sagging down
like a cloak one size too big.
Myron's mother --- Al Bolitar's wife for the past forty- three
years --- sat next to the bed. Her hand, shaking with Parkinson's,
held his. She too looked shockingly frail. In her youth, his mother
had been an early feminist, burning her bra with Gloria Steinem,
wearing T-shirts that read stuff like "A Woman's Place Is in the
House . . . and Senate." Now, here they both were, Ellen and Al
Bolitar ("We're El- Al," Mom always joked, "like the Israeli
airline") ravaged by age, hanging on, luckier by far than the vast
majority of aging lovers --- and yet this was what luck looked like
in the end.
God has some sense of humor.
"So," Mom said to Myron in a low voice. "We agree?"
Myron did not reply. The prettiest of lies versus the ugliest
truth. Myron should have learned his lesson back then, sixteen
years ago, with that last lie to this great man he loved like no
other. But, no, it wasn't so simple. The ugliest truth could be
devastating. It could rock a world.
Or even kill.
So as his father's eyes fluttered open, as this man Myron
treasured like no other looked up at his oldest son with pleading,
almost childlike confusion, Myron looked at his mother and slowly
nodded. Then he bit back the tears and prepared to tell his father
one final lie.
Excerpted from LIVE WIRE © Copyright 2011 by Harlan Coben.
Reprinted with permission by Dutton Adult. All rights reserved.