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Chapter 8

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Ted parked his car in a surface lot across fromthe Fox Theatre. Jake and his father gotout and made the short walk along Woodward Avenue to the Little Caesars Arena,the new home of the Red Wings. To their right, a twenty-foot cement feline with one giant paw raised to the sky guarded the entrance to Tiger Stadium. Behind that, Jake knew was Ford Field where the Lions would play in the fall. Detroit had made quite a turnaround since the recession, and Jake was glad to. His hometown needed it. A city with such a rich history shouldn't wallow in despair.

A stream of people headed towards the game, and Jake and Ted joined them. At the overpass for I-75, they were stopped by the light. A uniformed policeman held up a hand to assist in stopping the throng. On their immediate right, a gothic stone church complete with gargoyles loomed over them as they waited.

Jake pointed at the masonry. "Beautiful."

Ted nodded. "Hard to believe a place like this still exists."

"The city council wouldn't dare let it be bulldozed for another restaurant or parking lot."

"Don't bet on it. The university did it to that temple on campus, and they blew up Hudson building. My parents used to take me shopping there when I was a kid."

Jake said, "At least they're doing something with the old train station."

"Ain't that the truth," Ted agreed.

The light changed, and they stepped out onto the crosswalk with the rest of the crowd. Once over the freeway, they cut across Woodward Avenue. A promenade of restaurants, one of them owned by Kid Rock, offered food and alcohol for the fans though all Jake really wanted was a hot dog and some nachos from inside the stadium, so they got in line to enter the stadium.

"Where are our seats?" Jake asked.

"Lower bowl. Center ice."

Jake whistled. "Sweet."

"If we were going to do it, I wanted to do it right."

Jake assumed Ted had purchased the tickets with Nancy's money, but he let it pass. His mother continued to defend and protect him, even after he'd tormented herself and Jake in alcoholic rages before going to prison for tax evasion, bribery, and extortion. Love was truly blind.

Inside, they got their snacks and found their seats. As promised, Ted's tickets were less than twenty rows up from the ice. Jake was really impressed with the new stadium, but it didn't have the same nostalgia as the Joe, or the same decade-old smells crazed fans. They settled in and watched the teams finish their warm-ups. The Wings were playing the Blackhawks, an Original Six grudge match which should have driven the ticket prices even higher.

Jake tried to ignore the estimated cost of this night to his mother as he bit into his hot dog covered in ketchup and mustard. The nachos were balanced precariously on his leg.

Ted elbowed Jake in the side. "Remember when I took you to a game when you were eight? I think they were playing the Maple Leafs."

The nachos teetered on Jake's thigh but remained upright. "No."

"Sure you do. It was before the Wings got good and the tickets got expensive. There were so many fights, they could barely fit all the players in the penalty box."

Jake took a sip of his soda and searched his memory. In the dark recesses of his mind where he tried to hide it away embarrassing events with his father, he recalled a humiliating evening where his dad was drunk, nearly got in a fight of his own with a fellow fan, spilled his beer all over Jake. They didn't even make it to the second period before they were escorted from the arena.

"I think I remember. Were our seats so high up in the nosebleeds that we had a better view on the Jumbotron?"

"Sounds about right."

"And you were drunk that we got ejected. People threw popcorn at us."

"I don't remember that."

Jake shook his head. "You probably wouldn't."

"I'm sorry." Ted grimaced. "I must've sucked for you?"

Jake could still evoke the feeling of the cold beer as it ran off his hair and puddled down the back of his shirt. He was soaking wet and smelled the whole ride home as his dad angrily weaved in and out of traffic so that he could get to his whiskey bottle in the kitchen cupboard.

Trying not to sound like a little boy, Jake said, "It really did. I hated you so much for nights like that."

Ted closed his eyes and nodded his head slowly. "Well, I can promise you that I won't do that tonight."

"Still not drinking?"

"Nope. I'm clean. Prison kind of forced that on me, but I've kept up my sobriety since I've been out."

Jake was not convinced. "So if I went out to the concourse right now and bought you an ice-cold beer, you wouldn't drink it."

"Nope. You'd have to drink it yourself."

Jake shook his head. "Like you, I make bad decisions when I drink, so I don't. You kind of forced that on me with your bad genetics."

Ted shrugged. "It could be worse. I could have passed on obesity and male pattern baldness."

"I might prefer that to being an asshole with no impulse control."

"I don't think you're impulsive or an asshole, Jake."

Luckily, it was well before game time and the seats around them were empty because Jake couldn't hold his tongue any longer. "How would you know? You haven't been around most of my life, and you weren't sober for the parts that you were."

"I deserve all of that. Is there anything else that you want to tell me? Let's get it all out."

"Fuck you. I'm not letting you off that easy."

"Easy?" Ted said. "You think I've had it easy. I never got to see my only granddaughter."

Jake pointed a finger at Ted. "You leave her out of this."

"Fine. But I wasn't invited to your wedding either."

"No one was invited to my first wedding. We eloped to Vegas so that her father couldn't stop us. You couldn't have gone anyway, you were locked away."

"I'm not talking about that one. I'm talking about the one next weekend to Mary."

"Oh, that one. Sorry." Jake set down his half-eaten hot dog. He was no longer hungry. "We are trying to keep it small."

Ted put a hand on Jake's shoulder. "You can punish me all you want, but I'm not going to give up. I'm a changed man. You'll see."

Jake shifted in his seat so that Ted's hand fell to the armrest.

"You're making this tough on your mother too. She found it in her heart to take me back. Don't you trust her judgment?"

The fact was that Jake didn't. Before he could answer, Ted's phone buzzed in his pocket. He pulled it out and tried to angle it so that Jake couldn't see the screen. Jake leaned over to read it anyway. It was a text message. The sender was listed by the name of Audrey. Along with Ted's drinking problem, he had been a notorious adulterer.

"Who's that?" Jake asked.

Ted focused on his phone, avoiding Jake's question.

"Is it mom?"

"No," Ted said, putting the phone back in his pocket without responding to the text. "It is my business partner."

It took all of Jake's will power not to punch him in his lying mouth. Ted was barely back together with Jake's mom, and he already had a side chick.

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